Homepage › Forums › SWUP exchange of practices › 2. Enhancing gender equity in outdoor sports – is it desirable to (also) organize women-only places/activities or should all places/activities be open for all genders?
Mihaela OnofrasKeymaster8 November 2018 at 15:45Post count: 13
“When you do learn these things, when you understand what inclusion is, then we can accomplish greater things together” – Aldis Hodge
Sports and public spaces are both societal domains, traditionally constructed for and dominated by men. Despite large developments in women’s participation in (outdoors) sports and recreational physical activities, women experience more barriers compared to men, and these barriers are partly gender specific. In general, compared to men, women are less socialized in outdoor sports, experience more time constraints due to higher child care responsibilities and higher unsafety in public (green) spaces.
To realize more gender equality by increasing women’s opportunities in outdoor sport/physical activity participation can be realized by different strategies. Better incorporation of partly gender specific needs in general city planning and in the development of outdoor facilities and/or activities is important to enhance gender equity. However, such measures alone may not be enough to realize change and specific treatment may be required as well for creating more gender equity. Whereas ‘direct sex discrimination’, or the unfavorable treatment on grounds of sex is prohibited in all European countries, simultaneously, positive action measures that provide advantages for the disadvantaged groups (mostly women) are often allowed as well to counteract historically grown gender inequalities. This would for example suggest that women-only groups or public spaces (e.g. swimming areas) may be created as well to further enhance women’s participation and experienced safety in outdoor sport/physical activities .
Although, many girls and women may not need women-only provisions to become or remain active, as long as the mixed gender facilities are inclusive enough for women, for others (temporarily) women-only spaces and activities may be a necessity to become active. This may be especially the case for specific, often less privileged, groups of women (e.g. pregnant women, migrant women, elderly women). Although specific measures may sometime be more effective to enhance women’s outdoor sport participation, women’s only spaces/groups are more likely to face resistance, especially when such measures are paid with public money and directed to include religious minorities, like muslim women.
Please provide examples of public or private women-only outdoor sport/physical activity spaces or activities in your city:
- Why was chosen for women-only? (e.g. enhance participation, experienced safety);
- What is the main target group and/or groups of consumers? (e.g. age, religion, ethnicity);
- Was/is there resistance against the initiative? (e.g. by whom/what kind of resistance);
Please provide more arguments pro /contra women-only outdoor sport spaces or activities, possibly based on an inventory among different groups of women.Caterina DadaMember13 November 2018 at 11:08Post count: 42
1. Examples of public or private women-only outdoor sport/physical activity spaces or activities in your city:
Female participation and popularity in sports increased dramatically in the twentieth century, especially in the last quarter-century, reflecting changes in modern societies that emphasized gender parity. Although the level of participation and performance still varies greatly by country and by sport.
In France mainly sport courses and gym can be found in relation to women-only sport activity.
In Strasbourg, the municipality has developed “Sports au Feminine”, a series of courses that promote physical as well as mental wellbeing, such as yoga, pilates, trekking, qi gong.
Only-for-women gyms have started to appear, especially in Paris, such as Curves, or Lady Fitness. Curves is an American chain that has around 30 gyms in France. Its slogan is « No mirror, no make-up, no men”. Lady Fitness offers women conceived machineries, protect women from men gaze and is not open during the weekend, on the belief that women have different needs than men concerning sport. Similarly, it is also possible to run into only-for-women bootcamps, that target only woman and offer occasions of exercises totally protected from male gaze.
Always in Paris a very innovative offer is Pinky Parkour, an association that organizes only-for women-classes of Parkour, a method of physical training that develops one’s ability to overcome obstacles (both physical and mental) mainly practiced by a male audience. The course is attended mainly by women between 20 and 30 years and is strongly devoted to the empowerment of girls. The teachers are young girls that give customized advices, encourage the participants to trust in themselves and develop their agility. An atmosphere of mutual help and non-judgement is promoted rather than competition and performance.
Outside French territory, “Women at Parc” project in Brussels is also worth to be mentioned. It aims at exploring how to make the parcs more accessible to women by organizing “women explorative walks” that engage women from the scratch in the planning of outdoor measures and infrastructures that correspond to their needs.Caterina DadaMember13 November 2018 at 11:10Post count: 42
Arguments pro/contra women-only outdoor sport spaces or activities, possibly based on an inventory among different groups of women.
Arguments pro women-only sport spaces/activities are very abundant.
Many of them derive by the benefits that women would gain in terms of physical, mental and social health by removing the barriers that prevent them from having an active lifestyle. As it can be found abundantly described in a UN report about women and sport, an active lifestyle can contribute to the prevention of cardiovascular diseases and it prolongs independency for old women; for girls, it can have a positive impact on childhood health, as well as reduce the risk of chronic diseases in later life. it can promote psychological well-being through building self-esteem, confidence and social integration, as well as help reduce stress, anxiety, loneliness and depression. In addition, outdoor only-for-women places would also provide women and girls with an alternative avenue for participation in the social and cultural life of their communities and promotes enjoyment of freedom of expression, interpersonal networks, new opportunities and increased self-esteem. As a participant to a “run into the wild” report, “relying on your body and push it its full potential can be a mind-blowing experience” . Outdoor only-for-women places and sports also encourage the development of a range of essential life skills, including communication, leadership, teamwork and negotiation. As this quote from the suffragist Susan B. Anthony, suffragist (1896) sum up, “Bicycling has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world”.
More specifically, only-for-women sport places help addressing the needs of specific categories of the population. They help to address the traditions of Islamic modesty in dress and the requirements for women’s sport to take place in a single-sex environment. They provide a double benefit to women with disabilities by providing affirmations of self-empowerment at both personal and collective levels. Designing spread sports places and short courses also help to address the short time that women can devote to themselves because of the time-consuming role they often play in the management of the family.
Only for women sport spaces also promote concentration and a distressed atmosphere of the sport activity. Since there is no competition anymore and the rules are created by women rather than passively received by man-oriented infrastructures, competition gives the floor to collaboration and the rhythm is much more balanced according to women’s body .
Finally, in addition to benefits for women and girls themselves, women’s increased involvement can promote positive evolution in sport by providing alternative norms, values, attitudes, knowledge, capabilities and experiences.
As for arguments against women-only sport places, only few can be found, probably because of the popularity that this new wave of only-for female outdoor spaces and sport are knowing and because of the practice not being yet so spread to be identified as a threat.
The first argument is that promoting only-for-women spaces would represent a step back in gender equality. It would perpetrate the idea of women as vulnerable people that need special treatments.
The second relates with the risk of spurring a further division between women that are already empowered enough to actually use those spaces, and those that, because of their religious or cultural norms, will not “dare” to do it. This could in turn lead to a further exclusion and cultural distance of marginalized women.
In addition, some highlights that “women’s only” is useful for introducing skills, but at a higher level gender mix is more beneficial. Once women have gained the basic skills, having men in the group is beneficial — it allows for complementary approaches and it “it tends to push everyone to a more advanced level” .SgoncalversMember19 November 2018 at 15:54Post count: 3
Hello, regarding this issue in my opinion the best practice is to have places/activities for all
Social integration is one of the primary factors of sport, the values that are the basis do not fit the divisions that often tend to create. Only with the integration, the realization of activities, the creation of integrated spaces if a real culture of sharing is involved. Whether in sport or in other activities.
Division creates problems and tends to be a non-solution in the future.
Sérgio GonçalvesAnonymous14 December 2018 at 9:59Post count: 1
Hello, with regard to the subject in question there are some aspects that awaken interest …
First of all, it says about to specific needs for the female gender and when it says about adapting spaces, facilities and even urban planning so that women can practice physical activity … I only think that this would be a reason to be In the case of people with special needs, it is also commented: specific groups with common objectives such as pregnant women, migrant women with very restricted cultures or groups of people, whether men or women, with a degree of disability.
If this is not the case, I don’t think there is reason to have to segregate people in order to promote and encourage physical activity and sport in the population.
Caterina was referring to some European cities where there are different sports offers only for women. In Granollers, more than 5 years ago, one of these facilities also arrived, specifically the CURVES gym. The format of this equipment I think is another option, neither better nor worse. An option for those women who haven’t much time and in a time not exceeding 30 minutes, it offers them a circuit to work the muscle toning of the all parts of body in a short period of time. As I said … an option more to the great amount of sport offer that we have in the city.
The only positive comment that I encounter when organizing activities for women only is to facilitate the dynamics of the activity. If the objectives of participants are same, this will facilitate the planning and execution of activities and increase satisfaction of participants. But in no case do I think that it is a question of gender but of common objectives.
Another argument that has suddenly come to me to read it was when Caterina was referring to the fact that spaces for women only promote “concentration” and “collaboration” between them as there is no “competition”. … And I ask … seriously, is the rivalry among women created by men? I have a very distant thought towards this conclusion.
Finally, I agree with comment that promoting spaces solely for women represents a step back in gender equality. In my opinion, we can not promote the idea that the female gender needs special treatment and even less to promote physical and sporting activity, which I think is one of the most powerful resources we have in our society to create great Communities, share passions and overcome obstacles!
Rosa Llorens. GranollersPaulaParticipant14 December 2018 at 18:20Post count: 8
This question implies a dual answer, because there is not a single truth, a single path. We repeat what we said at the Ramnicu Sarat meeting: to speak of gender equality we can not exclude the man (or woman) from the equation.
There are both positive and negativa aspects that we can consider:
* Women-only outdoor sport spaces/activities provide the comfort feeling (which they may not feel in situations of sport practice with men around);
* Women may feel more save from harassment or bullying situations;
* Women-only spaces may give a better response to women’s needs;
* It is easier to overcome socio-cultural barriers that still exist;Consequently, increasing the number of women to practice sport on a regular basis
*By creating women-only activities or spaces, we are reducing the sociocultural barriers that still exist and, in many cases, preventing women and men from sharing the same spaces and sports activities;
*By doing this “segregation”, we are assuming a gender gap, which is not justified;
*By creating exclusive activities for women, we can get the idea that all other sport activities are not for women (or other places), but for men only. Socially there will be a tendency to associate women to certain kind of activities or spaces.Is no sense.
* An exclusive practice will be contradictory to the concept of inclusive sport that is due in a modern society of the 21st century
Paula Nogueira, Tempo Livre, GuimarãesirsbolognaParticipant5 April 2019 at 15:13Post count: 5
Please provide arguments pro /contra women-only outdoor sport spaces or activities, possibly based on an inventory among different groups of women
In the outdoor sport field, where the gender gap is still relevant, the initiatives targeted to women only could represent an occasion to diminishing the initial embarrass, the fear of judgement and of stereotypes that prevent many women to practice outdoor physical activity. Indeed, women only events might feel less intimidating especially for beginners: it may be very daunting for beginners to take those first steps, to give running a try, to do something they’ve never done before, and get over the fear of looking stupid and out of place. However, at the same time, the ever-increasing number of “women-only” sport activities (such as, for example, races and or specific tournament) can send out the wrong message (i.e. that women need “special” races and/or tournaments) and can contribute to lose out one of the great positives of sport – that is, the fact that regardless of gender, of age, of pace, of background, we’re all in it together.
The experience of “Go-ALL” at “Mondiali Antirazzisti” teach us that differentiating between women and men in outdoor aport activities it is not always the best solution for the lack of participation of women in sports. “Mondiali Antirazzisti” is an event to promote sport as a peace driver among discriminations and stereotypes based on gender, nationality and culture. At the beginning, the festival provided separated football tournaments for male and female teams. It seemed to be a good strategy in order to increase overall participation. Despite the number of teams is been increasing year after year, the gap between the male and female participation in the two tournaments was always significant. In order to overcome this imbalance, the proposal was to gather the competitions in a major one, opened to both men and women. The “Go-ALL” mixed tournament, opened to male and female players, perfectly fits with the core values of the “Mondiali Antirazzisti”: equality, dignity and participation despite of gender, age, nationality or culture. The competition involves many different teams, both Italian and international, facing each other. It allows a great sharing of experiences and knowledges that cross the playing field. The promoters of the practice recognise the importance of giving space to the role of women in sport, especially in football.
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