Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

From the early female football pioneers to the female face of e-sports — Chapter 2

Posted on 8 March 2019 by Rachael Mathewson

This is the second in a series on women in sport. Chapter 1 explored the early days of the Olympic Games.

Chapter 2: The ‘Lesbian Stereotype’ in sports

We live in a society where female athletes may be subject to stereotypes depending on the sport they play. As stated in ‘The International Journal of Sport and Society’ female athletes can be stereotyped for either playing a ‘masculine sport’ or having a ‘masculine body.’

Whether it’s fear of discrimination or recognition in their community, the stereotype surrounding females in sports may make it difficult for them to be accepted on and off the pitch.

In sports, it shouldn’t matter what one’s sexuality is, but it tends to be something that impacts females athletes’ psychology. Tennis players like Martina Navratilova have spoken about their sexuality and how it impacted them as an athlete.

Embed from Getty Images

On Good Morning Britain, Navratilova revealed how coming out made her a better athlete.

She said: “Maybe some of it was because I felt free, I didn’t have to pretend, or not say, or speak about who I was. Maybe that’s when I became a better tennis player, the freedom that comes with that.”

To gain a better understanding of the types of homophobia that lesbians face, the international study ‘Out on the Fields,’ — conducted by Repucom in 2016 — reported that the top three countries for lesbian athletes over the age of 22 to most likely to not come out are Ireland (48%), New Zealand (40%) and the UK (39%) because they were afraid to be bullied or because they “didn’t feel the need to [come out].”

In 2013, four members of the University of Connecticut Women’s basketball team joined together to stand up against sexual orientation discrimination in a campaign called ‘Br{ache the Silence.’

The campaign was started around 2011 by Colleen McCaffrey and Nevin Caple, two former Division One college basketball players. According to the article, ‘UConn Women’s Basketball Players Record Message of Tolerance,’ Stefanie Dolson told NBC Connecticut: “I think there is definitely a stigma or a stereotype in women’s basketball and other women’s sports, like softball and hockey, of women being gay just because they play a sport.”

This stereotype of female athletes have held women back in fear of not being accepted because they play a certain sport.

As Dolson notes, the lesbian stereotype goes beyond basketball and softball into football too. In 2014, BBC Sport reported that former England women’s captain Casey Stoney came out officially as a lesbian.

Embed from Getty Images

In the article, ‘Casey Stoney: England captain reveals her sexuality for first time,’ she said: “For the last ten years, I’ve always cared too much what other people think. I was frightened of the stereotypes, frightened of being judged, frightened of what other people might say, especially the abuse you can get through social media.”

With media advancing, it makes it easier for female athletes to not only speak out about this stereotype, but gives them a platform to try to change the view of female athletes.

Featured photograph/joshjdss/Wikipedia Commons

Previous: Chapter 1: History of Women’s Sports

Next: Chapter 3: Women in the Media