Canadian Women make the Sports Page

I wanted to post about two news stories in the last week that involve Canadian athletes (both about women, coincidentally) -- a bad news story and a good news story. So, I'd better do it now, while the news is still fresh.

The first article is about Mary Anne Arsenault, something of a star Canadian curler. She's the second on the Colleen Jones Nova Scotia rink (that means she throws the 3rd and 4th of the 8 team "rocks", for those non curling fans out there). Anyway, get these stats:












(from left: Colleen Jones, Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Arsenault, Nancy Delahunt)

SECOND: Mary-Anne Arsenault
OCCUPATION: Massage Therapist, Advanced Wellness Center
AGE: 37
HIGHLIGHTS: 1993, 99, 2001, ‘06 Provincial Women's Champion; 1999, 2001, ‘02, ‘03, ’04 Canadian Women's Champion; 2001,’04 World Champion
(Courtesy www.curling.ca)

Pretty impressive, no? I thought so.

Anyway, during this year's Canadian Curling Championship (the Scott Tournament of Hearts, which she's won 5 times with the Jones rink), she had to be taken to hospital during one of the games. It turns out that she had an allergic reaction to, of all things, somebody's perfume. She had to leave the game with respiratory difficulties, and the "fifth" (the spare player) had to play in her place for the remainer of the draw (game). Ms Arsenault made a full and quick recovery, thankfully. I had originally jumped to the conclusion that it was a fellow competitor whose perfume sparked this reaction, but then calmed myself down and considered that it could have been a fan (they do play quite close to the arena seating on the outide sheets (of ice)). I was wrong. It was a fellow player's perfume, and the tournament organizers had to instituted a "no perfume" policy for the remainder of the tournament. More on the story here.

This is a twofold embarrassment, in my mind. Is it not bad enough that curling gets a bad rap for not being "sporty" enough? Incidents like this also only help to portray the "girly-ness" of women's sport. I can hear the mockery now: "Oh, yeah..women's curling. Pretty rugged athletics there. Don't forget your makeup and perfume!" It's the same with sponsorship of other womens' sports. Whirlpool home appliances sponsoring women's golf? Give me a break! It's not like Viagra and Speed Stick are key-name sponsoring on the men's side. And if they were, would anyone mind? Would they notice?

Maybe sport has been so male-dominated for so long that I'm desensitized about the maleness of sponsors and what it means for our sense of gender equity. Maybe the beer and truck ads are just normal to me now. But I'm saddened that the Scott Tournament of Hearts had to implement the scent-free policy in the first place. Yeah, sure, curlers often try to look their best because they're in somewhat normal garb on national and international television, but something's just wrong here.

I've never been thought of as a feminist (I do get angry about obvious sexism, but I probably miss out on 50% of the inequalities that I see every day), but I get irked when women's sport seems to shoot itself in the foot time and time again. It's rough enough getting viewership, realistic TV time slots, and media attention in a "male sports are more exciting" world. Organizers have to consider so much more when starting out at such a disadvantage. I won't even get into the fact that the LPGA (Ladies' Pro Golf Association) has to be named what it is because the PGA is inherently "for men" in the first place, even though nobody's changing that to the MPGA (or freely inviting women to play).

There are good-news stories about women's sport -- the Women's NBA seems to be drawing good crowds and probably paying their players semi-realistic salaries. I wouldn't know much about it, since we don't get very many games shown on television up here. But yes, I'd certainly like to see better attention paid to women's sport, and hopefully not any more news stories where "womanly tendencies" like allergies to perfume are making headlines.

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And since this entry's gone on long enough, I'll be brief about the good news story. (isn't that always the way?)

It seems Canadian Speedskater Cindy Klassen is something of an international phenomenon. Cindy is Canada's winningest Olympian, having won five medals at Torino 2006. Yesterday, she won the 3,000 metre World Cup race in Heerenveen, Netherlands, eclipsing the silver medallist by 2.79 seconds to set a track record. The second place finisher was Claudia Pechstein of Germany who won silver in the 5,000 metre with Klassen takign the bronze and another Canadian, Clara Hughes, taking gold. But that's not the best part of the news story I heard this morning.


The story drew attention to the fact that speedskating in Canada is wildly popular ONLY during the Olympics (not surprising, considering most of our skating related television is men's hockey, or the NHL - see reference to the MPGA above!), and though Ms. Klassen was everybody's Olympic darling during the Torino games, she'll probably not stay on people's minds and lips for long. This is apparently very different from the attention she gets in Holland, where speedskating is a national pastime and is highly regarded.

After winning her race, Ms Klassen was cheered enthusiastically by the Dutch fans, and was showered with gifts and stuffed animals being thrown to the ice surface (think Figure Skating). She's a household name on the speedskating curcuit, no doubt, but also in the homes and hearts of the Dutch. How about that? She's better appreciated outside her home country, and for that, I feel sad. I can only hope that she doesn't hold it against us when the media all but forgets about her for three out of every four years.

So, Cindy.... I'm cheerin' for you. Nice work out there. If I had a stuffed animal to hurl out my office window, I'd be doing it right now.

Posted bythemikestand at 10:35 AM  

2 stepped up to the mike:

gingajoy said... 10:51 AM, March 07, 2006  

and if someone can compete at 37, it's got to be good. maybe i have two years to make my curling debut.

Geoff G. said... 12:11 AM, March 09, 2006  

Always happy to see female curlers represent.

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