Friday, January 10, 2014

Caitlin Cahow is part of the US delegation to Sochi

I just thought I would put that out there. Many of the articles I have read and radio reports I have heard about this "protest delegation" state that President Obama is choosing to send openly out athletes including Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano. Cahow's name is frequently left off the list despite the fact that she has been an activist for gay rights and inclusionary practices and attitudes in sport. Boitano came out publicly a few weeks ago. Cahow, a hockey player, has been out and part of this conversation for years.
I imagine the rationale some might offer to the erasure of Cahow in the media is because she is not nearly as well-known among the American public as King and Boitano. And this would be true. But this "truth" speaks to the ongoing issues with the visibility of women's sports, especially sports that are viewed as more masculine, like ice hockey. But Cahow's resume is impressive.
When media reports of the delegation mention King and Boitano and leave Cahow out, the invisibility of women's contact sports is perpetuated. Cahow is not a household name in the same way as the other members of the delegation, but not mentioning her takes away the opportunity for people to learn more about her and about women's ice hockey. Unlike other winter sports, women's ice hockey is fairly accessible in the inter-Olympic years. Spectators can access Olympians very easily (and cheaply given the low cost of admission to women's intercollegiate games) playing at the college level every winter.
The erasure of Cahow from the international stage provides an interesting moment for us to consider how perceptions of gender and sexuality affect the popularity of women's sports and how media are implicated in this beyond just minutes of news coverage or lines of print.