Playing It Forward: 50 Years of Women and Sport in Canada reveals the voices of many athletes, coaches, leaders and activists across the spectrum who contributed to systemic change in the world of sport. There were many powerful women in Canada seeking and making change using legal, social and activist methods. The women and sport movement included privileged women using their influence as well as school girls complaining about no space or opportunity to play. What they have in common is the courage to stick their necks out, take chances, make claims and serve as role models.
This book is also the story of the women’s movement in Canada between 1960 and 2010. Sport is an important part of women’s lives, calling up the experience of the body, control over image, engagement with competition, and the confronting of stereotypes about women’s strength, idealism and energy.
Many of the athletes in this volume reflect on their beginnings. Often alone and unconnected, they started small, competing in makeshift venues, training alone in imperfect locations with inadequate equipment. They reflect on the joy of movement, playing, teamwork and competition. Eventually, sisterhood developed among women in and around sport, as leaders emerged and the need for programs was identified. Organizations were formed, with overt feminist goals. This book tells the story of that organizing.
Much has changed in the past fifty years for women in sport in Canada. Starting with seeking equality in the 1960s – simply to get permission for girls and women to play – the challenge shifted to fighting for access to resources in the 1970s. By the 1980s equity in sport was the goal, a much more subtle and meaningful challenge for sport activists and female athletes alike. The 1990s saw the emergence of a very visible leadership in the women and sport arena, setting the stage for major changes in policy, programming and resource allocation for girls and women, and the shifting of power in key sport organizations. Not to mention a slew of great role models for a whole new generation of girls.
However, the last decade, post-millennium, has been a time of slippage and continued challenge for some time-honoured feminist ideals in sport. There have been marginal increases in women coaches for the national teams, but their representation is still miniscule. There have been increased numbers of events for women in the Olympics and Commonwealth Games, but there are still lots of hurdles to cross to really make the picture equitable.
Photo: Abby Hoffman, 1955