Should we be happy with the strides women’s sport has made or are we still accepting crumbs from the table?
It was Women’s Sports Week last week and the internet, print and broadcast media was awash with positive images of sportswomen and women in sport, messages exhorting women young and old to participate in sport and those both qualified and not so qualified are telling us that we all have a role to play.
I make no apologies, but this piece will ask a lot of questions and not necessarily provide the answers.
I don’t want to be a killjoy as undoubtedly we are better off than we have ever been and progress is being made all the time, but I personally feel all women who aspire to any role in sport will still have to wade through treacle to get there.
I know it’s my “thing”, but I maintain that those of us who have any kind of role in women’s sport are in a “bubble”. We see the positive news; in fact we surround ourselves with it, with the increased profile and progress of women’s sport and so it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that everyone thinks like we do, but actually, who, outside the bubble, does?
Amongst all the fabulous stories this week, we have had West Ham Ladies shambles and the Czech footballers telling their female referee to “get back to the stove” to counterbalance it. On Sunday I listened to BBC’s TMS coverage of the first One Day International between West Indies and England. At the end of the first innings on TMS there’s usually forty minutes of discussion of hot cricketing topics, interviews, etc. What did we get on Sunday? We got the music the disc jockey was playing at the stadium just so that the listener knew they were still broadcasting; basically the radio equivalent of the potter’s wheel (no, I’m not old enough to remember it, I’ve seen it on those clip shows).
So what is the view outside the bubble; should women still be in the kitchen or do we have a role on the pitch, the touchline, in the studio, press box, the boardroom? It is apathy, or even more worrying, antipathy?
The positive soundbites issuing from the people in positions of power in sport (obviously mainly men) have tripped off the tongue this week, but are they just paying lip service to the idea of women in sport (I don’t say equality, because that’s not even on the agenda)? Or do they really believe in what they’re saying? Will they follow up on their words with constructive action?
And you can’t and shouldn’t just say, “Who cares? We’ll get there on our own!” Everyone has to buy into this, not just women.
At this point, I’m going to pause, because I know plenty of men who care deeply about women’s sport, love it, watch it, write about it and promote it. There is some truly fantastic work going on out there and I would never lump all people together.
But when do we get to the point where women’s sport is just “sport”? When will a woman in the press box or boardroom be not even worthy of comment? When do we stop having to have a Women’s Sports Week? No time soon, I’m afraid.
There are now some great pathways opening up, some brilliant role models and some initiatives that should make it so much easier for those coming after us to forge a career in sport. But patience is not my strong point; we’re inching closer, but the sooner we realise that it is “inching”, the better.