P.E.I. poster campaign highlights barriers girls and women face in sports

·6 min read
The posters include athletes in both individual and team sports, including sprinter Bailey Smith.   (Sport P.E.I.  - image credit)
The posters include athletes in both individual and team sports, including sprinter Bailey Smith. (Sport P.E.I. - image credit)

Sport P.E.I. has launched a new poster campaign called She's Got It All, featuring five Island athletes talking about the barriers that girls and women face in sports.

The five posters have been released every Monday leading up to International Women's Day.

The athletes featured in the posters are wrestler Hannah Taylor, sprinter Bailey Smith, archer Kristen Arsenault, hockey goalie Ava Boutilier and curler Lauren Lenentine.

"It's different for many females in terms of their particular sport, and the barriers that may exist for that sport," said Gemma Koughan, executive director of Sport P.E.I.

"Based on a lot of the information and research that is out there, women and girls do face more barriers than boys and men. So the idea of the campaign is to try to highlight those barriers, and try to promote girls and women in sport."

Own message

Koughan said the athletes selected for the posters have been involved with other Sport P.E.I. programs promoting girls and women in sport.

The five posters have been released every Monday leading up to International Women’s Day.
The five posters have been released every Monday leading up to International Women’s Day. (Sport P.E.I. )

They wanted to involve athletes from both team and individual sports.

"What we did was identify a few of those typical barriers, and reach out to these athletes and ask them, did any of these resonate with them in terms of some of the things that they faced?" Koughan said.

"Invariably each of them had one that kind of sat with them, and that's why they gravitated each to their own messaging."

Ava Boutilier says her poster talks about the equal opportunities for women to make a viable career in the sport that they're playing.
Ava Boutilier says her poster talks about the equal opportunities for women to make a viable career in the sport that they're playing.(Sport P.E.I.)

Ava Boutilier, a goaltender at the University of New Hampshire, said she was excited to be part of the campaign.

"Being a female athlete in a sport, ice hockey, that's primarily dominated by men, there are some difficult barriers that we face, whether it's at the Division 1 level, at the minor hockey level, even at the professional level," Boutilier said.

"So I was really excited to get involved in something like this, and have my face attached to a message that I really believed in."

Boutilier says while there are professional leagues now for women's hockey, the top female players only make thousands of dollars a year and usually have to work another full-time job, as well as play hockey.
Boutilier says while there are professional leagues now for women's hockey, the top female players only make thousands of dollars a year and usually have to work another full-time job, as well as play hockey.(Submitted by Ava Boutilier)

Boutilier said her poster talks about the equal opportunities for women to make a viable career in the sport that they're playing.

She said while there are professional leagues now for women's ice hockey, the top female players only make thousands of dollars a year and usually have to work another full-time job, as well as play hockey.

"The main goal of the posters is just to kind of get that conversation started, opening people's eyes more to what exactly our female athletes are facing, what are these barriers that they have to overcome, and what can we do to help that," Boutilier said.

"I think the more that we can have these conversations, the more that we can try to design actionable plans to overcome some of these barriers, the better it will be for not only females in sport, but everybody in sport."

Double standard

Curler Lauren Lenentine said she wanted to focus on the different ways that male and female curlers are perceived.

"My poster is about emotion, showing emotion on the ice," Lenentine said.

"Male curlers are often seen as focused and intense, whereas as a woman, a female curler, we're seen as maybe cranky, or not having fun. So just bringing awareness to that barrier."

Curler Lauren Lenentine said she wanted to focus on the different ways that male and female curlers are perceived.
Curler Lauren Lenentine said she wanted to focus on the different ways that male and female curlers are perceived.(Sport P.E.I. )

Lenentine said she felt that double standard recently, at the national curling championship.

"I just played at the Scotties and I received so many messages telling me to just have fun, and to be sure that I smile, and I'm sure that male curlers aren't receiving those same messages whenever they're playing at the Brier," Lenentine said.

"I didn't take it too personally because we were focused and we wanted to be intense. We were out there to win. We didn't want to just have fun."

Lauren Lenentine says she wants it to be OK to look focused and intense when she is on the ice.
Lauren Lenentine says she wants it to be OK to look focused and intense when she is on the ice. (Katie Zacharias)

Seeing the other posters, Lenentine realized some female athletes face barriers that she doesn't.

"Curling is kind of different. We're really lucky, actually, that the male and female prizes are the same, we get the same TV coverage," Lenentine said.

"I just played at the Scotties and in a typical year, it is usually sold out. So I'm pretty lucky in the sport that I play."

Body image

Summerside wrestler Hannah Taylor said her poster focuses on body image, "how women are constantly faced with a bunch of negative messages — from the media, or from parents, coaches, friends, everyone around them — about their body image."

She imagines someone looking at her poster and thinking: "'OK, Hannah Taylor doesn't have the conventional standard of beauty for her body. She has big shoulders. She's a small girl. She's very muscular, pretty toned.'"

Hannah Taylor says this is one of her favorite wrestling pictures. She had just beaten the world champion at the Olympic trials in the semifinals.
Hannah Taylor says this is one of her favorite wrestling pictures. She had just beaten the world champion at the Olympic trials in the semifinals. (Sport P.E.I.)

Since that is not typically what you see in the media, "I hope women look up to me and be like, 'Wow, she's encouraging women to just live happy, and forget about body image, and don't let that hold them back.'"

Taylor said it was eye-opening to be part of the group of women featured in the campaign.

"It's pretty cool to see that there's so many different barriers in sport that affect each sport differently, and seeing how us women are overcoming them," Taylor said.

Taylor said it was eye-opening to be part of the group of women featured in the campaign.
Taylor said it was eye-opening to be part of the group of women featured in the campaign. (United World Wrestling)

Koughan said she is encouraged by the group of women who are featured in the campaign.

"Yes, it's a sport-driven message, but these are female leaders of the future, for our province and for our sports," Koughan said.

"I couldn't be more pleased with their their ability to articulate their experiences, and be role models for young girls. It's fantastic."

The poster campaign was funded through a partnership between Canadian Women & Sport, the province of P.E.I. and Sport P.E.I.

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