Women’s Sport: The inequality just won’t stop


Club women's cricket, Melbourne (photo: Davis Harrigan)

Club women’s cricket, Melbourne (photo: Davis Harrigan)

(opinion rant)

The gap between perception of men’s and women’s sport is becoming both alarming and appalling.  In addition, the coverage of women’s games and events, while better, continues to languish behind the men.  This must change.

I’ll start with the Women’s Cricket.  Two one day internationals for the Women’s Ashes series were recently held at the MCG, and patrons were admitted for free.  Attendance? Perhaps 500 in the second match – a day nighter – after some finished work.

Granted, it was great that there was a small crowd.  However, does the women’s game only seem the smallest bit attractive?  The answer, to a lot, is yes.  Performance quality in cricket is as good as, if not better, than some of the men’s game.  Never mind the women can’t hit it as far.

Money margins in some sports have catapulted to some extremes as well.  Tennis may well be the best example of equality; the 2007 Wimbledon Championships offered equal prize money to both genders, and since then all Grand Slams have followed the trend.  Again, like media coverage, some sports still have a way to go.

What burns me is social media treatment.  Everything becomes scrutinised on a public forum, and to use a recent example of a high-profile athlete, Sky Sports News this week had former British gymnast Beth Tweddle on to answer questions.  Huge thumbs up, considering the ratio/number of female-to-male athletes asked for an online Q & A is a bit large.

Like all discussions, a few narrow-minded – or, to be a bit stronger, vulgar – heads came out of the woodwork.  Here it is:

http://storify.com/EverydaySexism/sky-sports-news-live-q-and-a-with-beth-tweddle-twi?utm_content=bufferbb1d8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

One word: awful.  There were a few other questions that were of a “respectable” nature and had a focus about her recent retirement – but none that really related to gymnastics as a sport. Poor go, and even more aggravating was the “stirring of the pot” from Twitter users.

Here are three gripes:

  • This is a staggering statistic – just 5% of sports coverage goes to the women; and the ratio of articles written about men’s sport compared to women’s outnumbers the latter 53:1 (this is concerning – and it doesn’t include sports ie tennis)
  • Narrow-minded views.  In essence, people who say “women aren’t cut out for sport, stick to doing stuff at home” – just like the business area.  Sometimes (and cricket is a good example), sometimes the female game is better than the male game when it comes to technique and strategy.
  • Sexual innuendo – this has become something more recent and very noticeable in international coverage.  It is cringeworthy and even if subtle and unintended, seems to paint a bad image for women’s sport.

The buck stops with vague, little and stunted promotion.  Adding to the sexual innuendo above, using volleyball as an example – men wear shorts and either a sports singlet or t-shirt.  On the other hand, the women are wearing (usually) much tighter clothing. If you want an image, it’s in front of you.

Summary

Will the coverage women’s sport deserves finally make an appearance? The jury, and the correct management is out on that.  Slow growth is great, but is detrimental too.  I, for one, would like to see some media outlets (ie the Herald Sun, AFL etc) dedicate a section of their website, if even a small portion, to the popular women’s game(s) in Australia.  A new audience would see it.

Bring the inequality game to an end.

 

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3 thoughts on “Women’s Sport: The inequality just won’t stop

  1. I am shocked by the almost completely empty stadiums we’re seeing in the women’s Ashes. I read the other day that they want to do a women’s Big Bash league, but can’t see this happening if people can’t be persuaded to attend international women’s cricket.

    Women’s sport has always lagged behind men’s sport, if anything I think the gap is closing a little now that the web and social media make it easier for minority sports to get their message across. The gap in coverage is still unacceptable though, tennis has to be the model to look at, as it’s the only mainstream sport (other than the Olympics) where women get an almost equal billing with men.

    The obvious thing about tennis is that the women’s competitions run concurrently with the men, but not many major sporting events have lots of matches all running at the same time on one site. When the Women play T20s before the men it obviously gets bigger crowds, but also suggests that the women are merely a warm up event, rather than building a sporting identity in their own right.

    It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation, TV and sponsors don’t give much attention to women’s sport because they say there isn’t the demand for it, but the demand may not be there because there is so little coverage… I think small steps are being taken in the right direction, but I don’t think anybody has the power to change it overnight, when there is already an overload of men’s sport being shown on TV. In the UK we have 4 x Sky Sports channels, 2 x BT Sport channels and 2 x Eurosport channels all showing mainly men’s sport, and that’s without the sport we get on free to air channels, it’s a pretty crowded market to break into.

  2. As a random aside, you link to Wikipedia a number of times in your post and the level of inequality present in regards to women is also alarming high, and women’s sport is often ghettoized in the sense that men’s sport is the norm, and women are othered by having their sport genderized while men are not. There has been simmering tension within football/soccer over this that can be seen with the article “Australia national association football team” article (disclaimer: I am involved with that) where the current men’s football article writing cadre are pretty much opposed to in anyway gendering their sport because it demeans their game. (This continues with categories in many cases.) Female participants run into this wall at time and it is a massive turnoff. This is problematic because women are discouraged from participating and a number of them are harassed. Given how many people use Wikipedia as a source, addressing the imbalance where we can actually make a difference is important.

    • I use something called Zemanta, which automatically finds links – usually to player profiles etc. If I want the articles I hyperlink them from xyz source. And I agree re the gendering – and for example, when you see a regular writer for a men’s game do a women’s game, the tone is completely different.

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