Playing against stereotypes

LZHS students share experiences participating in sports against “gender norm”


Photo by and used with permission of Hannah Bourbon

Bourbon plays at a hockey game on her female hockey team.

Sports should be for everyone, despite their gender. Girls should be able to play football and boys should be able to do ballet without people judging them. For so long, so many sports have been stereotyped for certain genders, but as time moves on, society’s “expectations” change and people have more freedom with the sports they play. A few student-athletes at LZHS who participate in sports that go against the “gender norm” share their experiences and opinions on female and male dominated sports.


Women in male-dominated sports
‘It’s too masculine’. ‘You’ll get hurt’. ‘Girls shouldn’t play that [sport]’… are all things that women, especially young women hear constantly when they play a sport that is considered ‘only for boys’. According to an article titled Sexuality and gender perspectives on sports ethics, young women tend to drop out of non-feminine sports just because of the fact that the sports are masculine.

“[When I played hockey on a boys team], my parents used to say I had a target on my back. For example, I would get hit a lot more since I was the only girl on the rink,” Hannah Bourbon, senior, said.

Unlike a lot of girls who would have most likely dropped out of the sport, Bourbon decided to continue playing hockey. 

“My cousin plays hockey and the sport has just been a big part of my family ever since I was really little. And my parents always encouraged me to keep playing, so I just stuck with it,” Bourbon said.

Bourbon had to play on a boys team for her first couple years because there was no girls team available. According to an article titled Women treated differently in sports, many sports that are considered specifically for men or women usually lack opportunities for the opposite gender to play that sport. 

When Bourbon played on the boys hockey team, she still lacked some of the resources and opportunities that the boys on her team had.

“I was lucky enough to have a girls locker room in my home rink, but when I started traveling, it got a lot harder because I’d be in janitor closets or bathrooms, and they all smelt really bad,” Bourbon said. “It wasn’t till when I started playing with the girls team in middle school that I got my own locker room wherever I played.”

However, hockey is still seen in society as a traditionally masculine sport. So, even when Bourbon eventually joined a girls hockey team, she continued to experience instances where the girls would receive less opportunities than the boys team.

“I’ve seen a lot of instances where the owner of one organization prefers the guys team over the girls and the guys get all these like nice sponsorships whereas the girls would get whatever is left,” Bourbon said.

Even though Bourbon’s hockey team is skating in the shadows of the boys team, it doesn’t stop her from encouraging other girls to join male-dominated sports.

“We should encourage young girls to play more male dominated sports and to slowly get rid of the gender stereotypes in sports,” Bourbon said. “It’s just a game. There is no point in making a sport just for boys or just for girls.”


Men in female-dominated sports
Women are not the only ones who suffer from gender stereotypes in sports. According to an article titled Examination of gender equity, men who play ‘feminine’ sports are looked down upon because they aren’t embracing their ‘masculinity’. However, Dara Stuart, freshman, and Carter Conrad, sophomore, show that, like women, men can play any sport they want to.

Stuart, the only male on the LZHS cheer team, admits that before he first started cheering in 8th grade, he “didn’t even know it was an option for guys to cheer”. According to an article titled The female cheerleader, cheerleading has been a female dominated sport since the mid 1900s with about 97% of females making up high school cheer teams.

“When I tell people I cheer, it usually comes as a shock because it’s not that common [for males to cheer],” Stuart said. “But everyone is pretty supportive. I feel like a lot of people just think it’s brave to do it. And it’s different. So, I think people respect that when they see me or any other guy cheering.”

Cheerleading and gymnastics are both sports that are heavily female-dominated. Nearly 15.7% of high school cheerleaders are male and 9.2% of high school gymnasts are male, however the numbers are continuing to rise as gender stereotypes are beginning to diminish in sports, according to an article titled Gender and sport participation.

Lack of male participation in these sports result in less recognition for the male athletes and team because the smaller the team, the less important they seem.

“Men’s gymnastics isn’t given the same amount of attention as girl’s gymnastics,” Conrad said. “I’m the only male gymnast for this school. I don’t have a designated coach or anything. So, I feel like, since it’s only me, the sport doesn’t get as much attention.”

Much like Bourbon, Conrad is also experiencing lack of opportunities within his sport. According to Conrad, LZHS is determining whether to cut the boys gymnastics team from athletics because he is the only person on the team.

“[Men’s gymnastics is] a dying sport and the men’s gymnastics teams are usually very small. I think that’s one of the reasons why many highschools, including LZHS, are wanting to remove it from athletics. It’s just forgotten and kind of in the shadow of women’s gymnastics,” Conrad said.

According to Conrad, when most people hear of gymnastics, they usually think of women doing flips and stunts. Very rarely are people educated about men’s gymnastics and the differences between the two sports.

“People kind of ignore it just because it’s such a small thing. When I tell people I’m a gymnast, the first question is usually, ‘can you do a backflip?’, but other than that, they don’t know much about the sport,” Conrad said. “There’s a lack of awareness and people don’t really know too much about the sport.”

There is a lot more to men’s gymnastics than just flips. According to Conrad, men have different events in gymnastics than women such as males participate in an event called pommel horse rings.

Conrad has been working on trying to share awareness of the men’s gymnastics team at LZHS to get more men to join, however, according to Conrad, it is harder than it seems.

“It is frustrating, because I’ve been on LZHS’ men’s gymnastics team since freshman year and now they’re talking about getting rid of it,” Conrad said. “I’ve emailed the athletic director to ask to put up flyers or have an informational meeting. I’m just trying to increase the numbers to get more attention and keep the sport alive.”