Under the existing rules of the association’s evening mixed league, which has been in place since 1962, local clubs put forth 12 player teams consisting of eight men and four women. Throughout the competition season, there are three men’s doubles teams, two mixed doubles teams and one women’s doubles team. About five years ago some players started voicing their opposition to the format, but the league did not make any changes that would give women equal playing time as men.
Incel. Short for “involuntarily celibate,” a cyber clubhouse for those feeling rejected by women. Chads and Stacys. The much-resented men and women who get dates, couple, make lives together. Elliot Rodger. An American mass murderer and misogynist who killed himself after a shooting rampage in California in May, 2014. In that one bilious blurb can be found an extreme expression of a toxin coursing through modern culture. That is the inability of men to cope with a changing world and the arrival of women at a semblance of social and economic equality.
Some countries, including China and Mexico, have gone so far as to designate women-only subway cars decked out in pink and intended to provide female passengers greater safety on public transit. Julie Lalonde, director of the Ottawa chapter of anti-harassment group Hollaback, said many women feel gender-specific options do little to address the root causes of why women feel unsafe in their travels. She said some feminists also fear they exacerbate the risk that victims of assault may be blamed for their ordeal if they opt to take the mainstream option instead of the gender-specific alternative.
“It’s this new breed of sport that doesn’t have a ladies team, we don’t have to ride a different halfpipe or smaller jumps just because we’re women. We’re viewed pretty equal in that sense,” said two-time Olympic slopestyle snowboarder O’Brien. “In so many traditional sports, girls can’t hit from the same tee as men or they have to play shorter matches. It’s always been this girls are weaker and they need something easier.”
The significance of the schedule as a tool for gender equality may not be obvious to the casual sports fan, but it’s an important factor for many reasons. Events scheduled on weekends gain larger broadcast audiences. Relegating women’s events to weekdays and off-prime hours denies female athletes the same media exposure that their male counterparts have always enjoyed. If women are not given equal scheduling opportunities there is inevitably less media exposure. And less media exposure unfortunately suggests women’s sport is less important.
Twenty-two years ago, the Canadian government made a commitment — every piece of legislation, and all new policies and programs, would be treated to what is called a “gender-based analysis.” This bureaucratic procedure, while arcane, was meant to do something momentous: bring the experience of women to the nerve-centre of political decision-making. A government that does gender-based analyses is a government with gender equality on the brain.
What used to be one-off occurrences are now coming along frequently and with growing momentum, and this is happening not just in Canada but in the country of Shakespeare’s birth. A trilogy of Shakespeare plays (Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest) directed by Phyllida Lloyd and performed by an all-female ensemble at London’s Donmar Warehouse last winter was named “one of the most important theatrical events of the past 20 years” by the Observer’s critic, Susannah Clapp. This evolution in the approach to casting Shakespeare — across ability and ethnicity as well as gender — is surely connected to the rise of contemporary feminism, and heightened awareness and action around diversity and inclusion.