International Women’s Day and the World of Women’s Sport

iwd17Firstly, let me say Happy International Women’s Day to you all.

Secondly, why sport?  Why do I choose to write about sport on this day?  Well, those of you who read me regularly will know it’s what I do.  It’s not all I care about, however and I had to think long and hard before I decided to write this.  If I write about sport for 364 days a year, why not write about something different on this special day?

Or indeed, why not do both?

There is so much more than sport out there – so much more that affects women throughout the world and, in many cases these issues are a matter of life or death.  These following words can never do justice to what some women are going through every day of their lives, but it’s my offering on this International Women’s Day.

Millions of women worldwide are denied even basic healthcare.  And when it comes to services specifically for women; contraception, sexual health care or termination there is a very long list of countries that restrict, deny and even punish women for accessing such services and this now includes the recent developments in the USA.  Many women do not even have access to regular sanitary protection.

And millions of female children are denied access to schooling or education of any kind.  There is still the pervasive attitude of “why educate a girl when all she’s going to do is get married and have babies?”

And when women do work, they are paid less and are watched suspiciously for any sign that they are about to breed.  They are passed over for promotion, not listened to in meetings and just generally looked on as an irrelevance.  There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to suggest (see www.everydaysexism) that women are still routinely asked at interview about their intentions regarding relationships, marriage and childbearing.

But that’s small beer when there are pre-pubescent girls being sold off in marriage to much older men, again to settle debts, forge alliances or just to get the female child off the family’s hands.

And there are those women who are ostracised or even killed by relatives for the “shame” and “disgrace” they have brought on their family; perhaps they have been caught talking to the wrong boy, been seen in the wrong place, or just wanted a life of their own.

And there are those women who are not allowed to leave the house without a chaperone, aren’t allowed to drive, have a job or wear what they want.

And there are those women who suffer the unspeakable horror of female genital mutilation – a practice so alien and abhorrent, certainly in my little world, that I just boggle at the thought.

And there are those women who are the victims of abuse and violence at the hands of their partners.  The figure is still two women killed by a partner per week in the UK.

And then there is the “culture” surrounding rape and sexual assault; the hundreds and thousands of women abused and reluctant to report it for fear of being disbelieved or worse, being blamed.  The tabloid press (and I do mean you, Daily Mail) is full of hateful pieces about women “who deserved all they got” because they wore short skirts or high heels, had the audacity to go out on their own or had too much to drink.

So why do I still choose to write about sport when there are so many wrongs to right?  It’s because sport is the battle I have chosen to fight, yet another area in life where women are nowhere near equality, where there is still a shocking level of misogyny and sexism.

I write about sport today because we still live in a society where Serena Williams can be described as a “monster in a skirt”, where a Hearts FC fan thinks the decline in atmosphere at his club is due to “the make up of our support –too many women” and when the first comment in any (and there are still precious few) articles about women’s sport is usually “who cares?” or “women’s cricket/football/rugby [delete as appropriate] will never be any good because they are women”.

We still live in a society where to be a woman who dares to comment on men’s sport will bring untold abuse and/or threats.

And we live in a society where a mere 7% of all sports media coverage is about women’s sport, where the figure for women in top jobs in sport is DOWN by 6% since 2012 (thanks www.womeninsport.org).

And women’s prize money is less than men’s, where sportswomen are constantly judged on how they look, not how they perform on the field, and where we have to have a “Women’s Sports Week” to prove that we do, in fact, as a gender, love sport, watch it, play it, officiate, run it and write about it.

So while these inconsistencies, the abuse and sexism exist I will keep reporting on it and fighting my corner.

On this International Women’s Day I would like to thank all of those people out there (women and men) who are dealing with any of the injustices mentioned above.

A fairer society for women is a fairer society for everyone. 

 

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