October 19th, 2017

FAME: Sports sets the stage for gender equity


By Medicine Hat News on January 18, 2017.

Women are closing the gap in gender equality in so many different facets of our society. We see women running for political office. They take a stand against wage discrepancies. They challenge traditional family roles in order to fulfill career aspirations. And now women are shining on the stage of high level athletics.

If we look closely at our own community we see the landscape of sports and physical activity changing right in front of us. We celebrate local Olympic athletes like Sage Watson who inspire girls to never give up on their dreams. We support female activity and empowerment in our community with committees like FAME providing programs such as Get Benched and Girls on the Move for young girls to stay active. We celebrate local athletes who inspire girls to follow their dreams. We have sport organizations like ringette, track, roller derby, martial arts, swim club, speed skating, soccer, softball and Zumba that bring young female athletes together every day to teach them strength, endurance, coordination, dedication, confidence, healthy life skills and positive body image. And we are paving the way for future generations by being active females in sport as adults, by leading by example, by mentoring, and by coaching.

Women are now breaking the stereotypes and embracing concepts such as throw like a girl, strong is sexy, and muscle doesn’t make you bulky or manly. Women are dominating in sports that were previously male dominant. An analysis of CrossFit demographics from 2011 show that male versus female participation is nearly 50/50. The 2016 Olympic Games in Rio boasted the highest number of female athletes to date at 45 per cent. And in the 100 per cent Raw Federation of Powerlifting from 2007 to 2016 we see female participation rise from 18 to 43 per cent at their annual world championships.

As a powerlifting athlete and coach myself, I have seen the sport explode with new female athletes coming out of every corner to improve and challenge their strength capabilities. We have many local athletes preparing for a Medicine Hat meet coming up this February, a few of them brand new to the sport and working very hard to bring their A game to this competition. When asked what they love about the sport or how they got into it we often hear responses like this:

“I am not only stronger, I feel better, and I don’t have the aches and pains I used to.”

“I had plateaued (stopped seeing results) in my other activities and a friend welcomed me into it. I am getting stronger quickly and without injury and I enjoy the positive and encouraging environment.”

“I have lost weight, I have toned, I have built muscle.”

“It feels really good to know you are strong enough to take care of yourself. I don’t need help when I am moving furniture or carrying the groceries in. It gives you a sense of empowerment.”

“I love how it makes me feel!”

This type of language doesn’t just apply to powerlifting, it is echoing throughout the sport community. These positive associations with exercise, sport and physical activity are exactly what we need to set up our own children for a life of movement and health. We need to stop talking about exercise as a form of suffering or punishment but rather a privilege that we have to be able to use our healthy bodies to move and play. Encourage them to get out of their comfort zone and try something new or different even if it is an activity that girls don’t typically play. Teach our young girls that the world is at their fingertips and they can be or do anything they set their minds to.

Ally DeWolfe is the owner of Back Alley Fitness and Karate-Do Academy, a powerlifter and self-described ninja. She’s also a member of Females in Action Moving and Empowering. She can be reached at famemedicinehat@gmail.com.


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