How Cutting Olympic Women’s Ice Hockey Would Destroy Hope, Dreams, Equality

The eligibility of both women’s ski jumping and women’s hockey isn’t guaranteed for the 2014 Olympic games. So today Katy at Jezebel looks at the role sexism plays in determining Olympic Sports and we have tapped our in-house lesbian Canadian Hockey Expert for her perspective as well (more on this in a minute).

Katy explains that women’s ski jumping maybe under scrutinity due to a “patronizing concern for the weak female body.” Katy cites Ruth Gregory, who wrote in guest post for Sociological Images that the “rumor that ski jumping damaged women’s ovaries and could lead to infertility…floated in the background of the many conversations that I had with coaches, ski jumpers and parents over the three years I was a part of the ski jumping world.”

As for women’s hockey, Katy explains that North America’s dominance in this year’s games has led many to debate if women’s hockey should remain a sport, as it has been since 1998. When the US and Canada swiftly crushed the competition, the media reacted oddly:

Hockey writers are none too impressed by this display of dominance, with several writers calling it “unsportswomanlike.” Kevin Amerman bemoaned the “embarrassing” win and told the Canadian time to “take it easy.” “You won’t see this behavior from the men,” he argued.

Katy adds:

While no one is arguing that women’s hockey is damaging to the ovaries (at least, not yet), the continued debate over whether two teams are too good rings with a similar patronizing tone. And North American teams may be kicking ass, but part of the reason that they are able to do so comes from what CNN calls a “chauvinistic lack of funding” for women’s hockey players abroad.

We thought we’d ask Intern Emily what she thinks of all this — Emily is 19 and lives in Montreal, Canada, where she played hockey for fourteen years (this is her first year not playing), most recently on Dawson College’s Junior National Championship team (this is the highest level you can get to below the NWHL or Division I university).

Here’s what she had to say:

Ever since Women’s Hockey debuted in the Olympics in ’98, it’s become way more popular and honestly, the Olympics is the only time you hear about women’s hockey. Did you know that there is a National Women’s Hockey League? I bet you didn’t. Men get paid millions of dollars to play not only in a national league, but also in other European countries with different leagues (though they get paid less abroad). Women, on the other hand, have to pay to play in the league and also keep steady jobs.

It’s true that Canada and the US are way ahead of other countries in terms of talent. Obviously both countries have the money & means to support player development at a young age, but that doesn’t mean that other countries aren’t getting there.

Pulling Women’s Hockey from the Olympics would be going backwards. Making the Olympic Team is any women’s hockey player’s dream — because that’s the highest you can go. While men aim for the NHL, women train with the Olympic goal in mind. For men, the Olympics is secondary to winning the Stanley Cup (not to say that the men don’t care about representing their country –they do — but the Canadian team has been centralized and training together for over a year specifically for the Olympics  (also recruiting people since like the age of 12) whereas men have been training for the NHL season.)

A good example of this is the men’s game last night between Canada and the US. It’s disappointing for Canadians that the men lost, but theres’ a sense that it’s not over because almost everyone on both teams will return to the NHL and try for the Stanley Cup (also, because there are still finals). If that had been the Women’s Game (and it likely will be in the final), it would have been DEVASTATING.

There is NOTHING for women after the Olympics except the next Olympics. There’s of course the NWHL and University teams, but that hardly compares to competing at the National Level in front of thousands of people.

Men in the NHL compete in front of thousands of people every night — women in the NHWL compete in front of five fans if they’re lucky.

Pulling Women’s Hockey from the Olympics would be like giving up. It’s like “Oh, our world is so unequal, let’s just leave it that way.”

Although they use the word “podcast” how Alice did in Season Five of The L Word — VLOG! VLOG IT’S A VLOG! — here’s a sweet video about the Women of Hockey:

Also, skaters of all genders cry a lot, says The New York Times. (@nytimes)

Dr. Oz features transgender children who’s “sex on the outside” doesn’t match their “sex on the inside.” This has been lauded as a sensitive and respectful portrayl by trans advocates. Check it out:

In honor of tax season, The New York Times is doing a series with tax experts answering you questions on specialized areas of tax finance. In their second installment, they’re looking at same-sex couples and the unique issues they face. If you have questions for Tina Salandra, a certified public accountant who specializes in tax planning for gay and lesbian couples, ask her! (@nytimes)

Schools in the UK may no longer be able to force girls to wear skirts because uniforms discriminate against transsexuals — “requiring pupils to wear gender-specific clothes is potentially unlawful.” (@timesonline)

The copy reads –  “Butch it up Buttercup, These ain’t your grandma’s cupcakes. Our objective is simple. We’re men. Men who like cupcakes. Not the frilly pink frosted sprinkles and unicorns kind of cupcakes. We make manly cupcakes. For manly men.”

Feminsting reacts – “With that kind of name (and located in NYC) I half expected it to be a super gay bakery catering to Butch lesbians and gay men. I guessed wrong.”

Before you go! Autostraddle runs on the reader support of our AF+ Members. If this article meant something to you today — if it informed you or made you smile or feel seen, will you consider joining AF and supporting the people who make this queer media site possible?

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Emily Choo started as an intern with Autostraddle when she was 18 years old. She's now 10 years older and lives in Toronto with her partner and cat. The defining moment of her career was when Riese said this about her: " I think Emily Choo is a very bright, 'poetically inclined' girl who pays attention to everything and knows almost everything (the point of stuff, how to read, how beautiful things feel, how scary things feel, etc.) but doesn't believe/accept/realize yet that she knows almost everything." She still doesn't believe she knows anything, so, thank you, Riese, for that.

Emily has written 100 articles for us.


  1. Pingback: Все о фильмах » Архив сайта » Женщины – The Women DVD

  2. US women’s soccer dominated on the world scene for years before other countries started to catch up. Hockey will be the same way, and since (I assume) unlike soccer, the Olympics are the only big international competition, pulling it would be devastating.

  3. Emily, I agree with all of this.
    I’m making it a point to watch all of the women’s games on tv, because every little bit counts.
    ps: we just got a goal. :) yay Canada!

  4. Getting rid of women’s hockey would be LAME. Just like when they got rid of Softball for the summer olympics & I died a little on the inside. Emily is right, women don’t have the same professional opportunities in sports so the Olympics are what these girls are working their whole lives towards. And saying that certain teams are too dominant is a bullshit excuse, serious athletes are always gonna want to play at the highest level. Ew the sports world is lopsided and focused on men, it hurts my head.

      • same, it crushed my soul. i have not recovered.

        and my little brother hasn’t either, which is so sad/cute. he’s a softball umpire, and moved up the ranks quite quickly (he was the youngest level III in Canada when he got the certification, which is totally a big deal and yes i am super proud!), all with the dream of making it to the Olympics as an official one day. It was a super cute dream. He was probably sadder and more crushed about the decision than any other 18 year old boy on the planet.

  5. and North America doesn’t always dominate women’s hockey. granted it was an upset, Sweden won silver in Torino ’06! Gah!!

    • heja sverige!

      but also I mean, even if north american countries are dominating now it takes time for things to even out too, thats not a reason to kill it off. they’re just being lazy and sexist.

  6. i was looking up olympic events because i didn’t believe that trampoline was really an event and saw “modern pentathlon” and thought it said “modern penetration.”

    but it would be ridiculous and sad if they really did try to get rid of women’s hockey. the olympics needs their own little title ix.

  7. “Schools in the UK may no longer be able to force girls to wear skirts because uniforms discriminate against transsexuals.”

    But can they force boys to wear pants? Kind of odd how the article treats gender nonconformity like a one-way street.

  8. For some odd reason the U.S. female hockey team was the only thing i followed in the olympics. Hilary Knight is awesome by the way.

  9. Hey Emily, it is so cool that you played that level of hockey! Way to be like really Canadian.

    So if they remove women’s hockey from the olympics b/c the American/Canadian teams dominate will they next remove the Americans from the olympics because they dominate like the whole entire olympics? Or would that not be how sport/competition works?

    Really though, if this were an issue with a men’s sport these arguments would not be being made, obviously. Team USA dominates men’s basketball at the summer olympics and no one has considered cancelling that competition.

    Also, Tegan Quin’s twitter updates about the canadian women’s hockey team are so cute.

    • i try to be as canadian as possible!

      i don’t think it’s only americans who dominate in the olympics — in fact the united states hasn’t won the most medals in the winter games since 1932. they did win the most in beijing, but then it was really close with china and china won more gold. but if we go by that standard, then only like 5 countries would be able to compete in the olympics because everyone else is so far behind.

      let’s abolish sports and make a reading olympics.

      • I don’t think it’s a question of domination. Wait, I’m just taking a minute here to think about domination.

        Ok, I’m back. Anyway, it’s not about domination, it’s about global recognition. Sports like softball and ice hockey may have massive followings in north america, but elsewhere in the world it simply isn’t the case. Domination is merely a symptom of an underlying lack of general participation.

        And before anyone even thinks about this being something directed at sports that happen to be wildly popular in north america, it’s definitely not the case. Take, for example, cricket. This is by far the most popular sport in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and taking into account their combined populations, that’s a whopping amount of participation. Yet it only achieved the status of “recognised” olympic sport in 2007, which I interpret as meaning the IOC are having a bit of a think about it. As it stands, there are no medals for cricket.

        Nevertheless, I find it exceedingly disheartening when any sport is removed from olympic contention, and it’s particularly galling when any discipline has representation in one gender but not another. The whole thing about ski jumping being bad for your ovaries is bunkum, but in other sports where there is genuine concern over lack of competition, the least they can do is issue an ultimatum which dictates that the sport’s international federation must improve the global participation within x years (where x is at least 10), to give them a fighting chance of surviving.

        I hope this made sense.

        Also, could reading olympics be extended to critical thinking olympics? Critical thought turns me on almost as much as first-rate google skills.

        • Maybe if cricket was an olympic sport it would gain more popularity in North America. As soon as you put something at a national level that the entire world is watching, at least some people are going to see it and say “hey, I want to try that.” Nothing is ever going to gain more attention if you hide it and try to persuade people that it’s not something worth pursuing.

          I think specifically removing women’s hockey from the olympics is regressive and is the worst kind of attitude I can think of.

          The gays lost in California, Maine, Washington, New York, New Jersey, and are losing in almost every single state in the US. Why bother fighting? What’s the point of trying? The thing is though, we’re changing hearts and minds. The more attention we get, the more people see that gays are normal.

          Maybe at one point gays got “clobbered 18-0”, but that doesn’t mean that we’re not moving in the right direction.

          It’s weird that I’m comparing that to hockey, but I think it works. To me it’s just really lame to pull hockey because two teams are better than the others. Equality doesn’t happen overnight. But as Roxy2 pointed out, Sweden beat the US in 2006 to advance to the finals. Even on the men’s side, in 2006 Switzerland beat Canada to leave Canada with a 6th place finish. Canada! THE hockey nation! Beaten by a tiny country better known for their banks!

          I would be extremely disappointed if women’s hockey was removed from the olympics. I think it would make little girls everywhere really sad — take away the olympics and you take away the spotlight from somebody’s hero.

          One final thing — some of these women are REALLY good at hockey. Example: Hayley Wickenheiser actually played with men in Europe (I think it was a German league) and I believe she was the first woman to make a men’s team at a professional level that didn’t play goaltender. Another example is Shannon Szabados who played in the Western Hockey League which is a junior league and she was the #1 goaltender until she lost her spot to Carey Price — who is now making millions of dollars in the NHL with the Montreal Canadiens.

          Okay, I realize I could talk about this forever and no one cares that much!

          • I totally care.

            It was 7th place in 2006 for the men, which was devastating.

            I think it is fair to say that the women competing in sports like hockey and softball in countries outside of North America need the international recognition even more so than the athletes playing within North America. Because the hockey teams that are losing to Canada 18-0 are from countries where there clearly is very little, if any, funding, support, or recognition, taking the Olympics out of their future would all but guarantee the end of that sport as an option for women in those countries.

            And they are still working their asses off to get to the Olympics, even if they lose by 18 goals. This isn’t grade 3 where you have the mercy rule and stop playing just because the other team isn’t at your level or because their fans don’t care as much as yours (which would be really sad, if it was grade 3), this is competitive international sporting and it is important and it means a lot to a lot of people even the athletes who aren’t winning, and the only way people/countries improve in sports like this is if we raise the level of competition not shrink away from it because we feel bad for the teams that are losing or because we don’t think the general public in their countries recognize or care as much about the sport as the general public in North America.

            That was a horrible run on sentence. I recognize that. I do think cricket should be an Olympic sport. It is embarrassing that it isn’t. And I also really want to submit my name for the reading Olympics. I just finished War & Peace for the 3rd time last month, so I think that’s like a silver medal or something isn’t it?

          • I completely agree with you and have to add that despite losing by so much, hockey players have a lot of fun doing what they do — or else they wouldn’t do it (especially not at such a high level).

            I think you win a gold medal. I have never even attempted War and Peace! Kudos!

          • i recommend it. seriously. i have a bit of a thing for russian literature. one of my cats is named after a character in a dostoevsky novel.

  10. I’m getting sick and tired of people wanting to throw women’s sports out because of the lack depth. Go back and look at the scores from the 30s,40s,50,60s men’s hockey games. It’s not pretty. Canada just throttled teams.

    It’s going to take time to develope players and the IIHF and IOC need to put pressure on countries who are dragging their feet. There is also a certain amount of bitching going on about women’s bobsleigh even though it’s only been and Olympic event for two Olympics. The biggest reason ski jumping didn’t get in was because the federations do not want to share funding.

    People who look down their nose at women’s hockey are the same people who if they had their way the only sport women would be participating in would be figure skating. It has all the elements their type love: half naked young girls and and men who present them.

    On another note what is it with referring to the women’s events as “ladies” this or that?? CTV is constantly referring to ALL women’s events{except hockey} as “ladies”.

  11. “hey women who play ice hockey. you are too talented, so you don’t get to play anymore.” how does this make sense. how.

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