IIHF’s “Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend”: A Chance to Reflect on Barriers and Opportunities for Women in Hockey Culture
October 7, 2014 1 Comment
The International Ice Hockey Federation is celebrating its fourth annual Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend this coming weekend. The event is designed to raise the profile of women’s hockey globally and to offer participation opportunities for girls, especially those who have never played. From the IIHF:
The World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend is a global opportunity for girls to try out hockey as a new sport. Thousands of participants took part in the editions in 2011, 2012 and 2013. . . . It is an opportunity for girls of all ages to try ice hockey. We are looking for hosts all around the world to bring girls from their community together on the ice.
This certainly seems like a noble initiative by the IIHF, although it is certainly debatable to what extent such efforts will close the very significant gender gap that exists between men and women when it comes to their experience as hockey players, fans, or even media members. One way in which this may prove to be a positive initiative is that it provides a prominent and public platform through which to foster dialogue about the opportunities for, barriers against, and experiences of women in hockey.
One of the fantastic consequences of the widespread adoption of new media technologies has been the democratiziation of media production – and, in the case of hockey media, this has meant the emergence of new voices that have challenged traditional narratives, entrenched members of the mainstream media, and long-held ways of understanding the sport. It has also meant that hundreds of women, who were barely represented in hockey media, have had a public platform to demonstrate their brilliant insights about the sport, celebrate their fandom, and – perhaps most importantly – to highlight the many ways in which women continue to be marginalized, excluded, and ignored in various facets of hockey culture. There are too many pieces to link, but highlights include insights into to learning to play hockey in a physically aggressive manner, commentary on the lack of opportunity for elite women players, strong critique of CBC’s disastrous “While the Men Watch” broadcast in 2012 (here, here, and here), and criticism of gimmicky attempts to market the sport to women fans. The work of these bloggers has, I believe, helped create space for male allies to criticize sexism and misogyny in hockey culture and to call on all actors – including fans, media, teams, and leagues – to do better when it comes to gender equality.
It is in this spirit that, with the IIHF’s Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend upcoming, Hockey in Society will be running two pieces this week to offer diverse perspectives on women’s hockey in Canada and around the world. This blog has made women’s hockey a major area of focus since its inception, and is currently in the process of recruiting more female writers to broaden the diversity of voices represented on the site. Later in the week, we will run a new Hockey in Society Roundtable featuring insights from female bloggers, academics, and players about women’s and girls’ hockey. Meanwhile, in this initial post I have collected together some of the many pieces about women’s hockey and the role of women in hockey culture that have been posted here since Hockey in Society launched three years ago. If you missed them the first time around, I encourage you to check out some of the past pieces on these topics.