Most people are aware of the damaging effects that can be caused by mainstream media; however, not everyone considers what effect the media has on women in sports, specifically.
On Tuesday, Oct. 16, the University of Regina Women’s Centre, in conjunction with the First Nations University, organized a screening and discussion of the film Miss Representation.
The American-based documentary examines how stereotypes projected in mainstream media affect the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in society. Although the film covers a range of topics, the campus presentation focused on females’ representation in sports.
Hayley Wickenheiser – a renowned female hockey player and a U of R honorary Doctor of Laws degree holder – was on hand to facilitate a discussion after the screening of the film, and more specifically, to give her own perspectives of how the media affects the way women are treated in sports.
“We chose to focus the event on women and sport and we felt that Hayley Wickenheiser would be a great fit since she is an accomplished female athlete and she would be able to share her own experiences as a woman in a male-dominated field,” said Brittany Wolfe, a media spokesperson for the event. “The purpose of the event was to raise important questions and look for some solutions in our own community and we were confident that Hayley would be able to facilitate the discussion well.”
“You often see the athletes that are more skilled that may be less good looking as others don’t get the coverage or the endorsements that others do. We see that in sports all the time … The media certainly doesn’t help the cause.” – Hayley Wickenheiser
Playing hockey nearly all of her life, the three-time Olympic gold medalist is no stranger to the pressures that ensue when a female becomes heavily involved and successful in what many people consider to be a “man’s game”.
“In hockey, there is no question, I think there is just a general feeling that if you play hockey and you are female then you are masculine and you might not be as good as the guys,” said Wickenheiser in an interview with Sheila Coles before the event. “You often see the athletes that are more skilled that may be less good looking as others don’t get the coverage or the endorsements that others do. We see that in sports all the time … The media certainly doesn’t help the cause.”
The film, as well as the discussion, covered everything from sports to politics, and
organizers of the event are hoping that everyone in attendance was able to take something valuable away from the night.
“We hope that the audience was able to discover what stereotypes exist and how these stereotypes limit women,” Wolfe said. “That being said, we hope that Miss Representation and Hayley were able to encourage young women and girls to become whatever it is they choose. Of course the event was equally important to boys and men as the stereotypes that Miss Representation speaks to affect the way they conceptualize young women in their own life.”
After months of planning, The Women’s Centre, and everyone else who helped organize the incredible event were happy with how it turned out and feel that those in attendance were able to walk away with golden perspectives.
“As a planning committee, we were pleased with the outcome of the event,” Wolfe said. “Miss Representation is a great documentary that sparks important questions and we felt that the audience was receptive and inspired to make a change. Hayley also brought her gold medal and the audience was encouraged to take an up-close peak at it. It was a really nice touch."