Monday, 12 February 2007

Sexism in sport

There is a truth universally accepted that a lot of people who enjoy rugby are rather sexist. Not everyone of course, but a lot. If you disagree with this - go to some of the rugby chatrooms and you'll see what I mean. Apparently, if you're a man you can pontificate on and on and on and on and people will listen. If you publish your thoughts with a woman's name on some of these threads, you will often be slagged off. I've posted the same comments with both male and female names. A male name is often entered into with debate. A female name usually brings a lot of sexist posturing and 'what would you know about rugby - you're probably a fat, hairy, ugly lezzer' type comment. Ironic really considering that a lot of these male armchair experts who are so quick to launch scathing attacks have probably never played the sport themselves. Or perhaps they did, for about a year at primary school.

Anyway - since coming back to New Zealand from the UK, I've noticed the sexism is even worse here. The media are backward. There are probably three good rugby writers in the whole of the country. The rest are biased, arrogant and extremely anti-English, (which in my opinion often borders on racism and is another topic in itself). Through this average coverage we're then fed crap rugby advertising. Cheerleaders welcome the Super 14 teams onto the field. Women in skimpy rugby outfits adorn the cover of the rugby magazines. And why if we are country obsessed with rugby - do we not have more representation of women in the commentating box? I mean, don't women make up half of this rugby mad population? I guess pigs will fly before Murray Mexted hands over his sweaty mike to someone like say, Anna Richards, a woman who has lead the Black Ferns to world cup victory three times. Three times more than any man in New Zealand has ever done.

Yes indeed, pigs will fly.


KLK said...

Can I marry Anna Richards? She was EVERYWHERE in that world cup final. If only I had had the funds to travel up to Canada ...*sigh*

John Birch said...

Totally agree with that.

It was the 100th anniversary of the first International Women's Day the other week with lotsof discussion about the advances of women in politics and the workplace and so on. My wife went to one of the conferences and I asked her about whether sport was covered. Answer - not at all.

Sport is the last great bastion of discrimination. It is the only area of modern life where not only neanderthals but even "educated" people feel that they can say that a girl of woman cannot do something just because they are female.

Most people today would never dream of saying that a given career is "not suitable for women", so why does it happen in sport? And what can be done about it?

There are any number of difficulties - women's sport is predomiently amatuer, and amatuer sport gets damn all air time because (by definition) there is no money in it. But sport is about participation - spectator sport is the tip of the icebreg, so the standard response that women's port is (allegedly) not as good to watch is irrelvent.

I will stop before I go on too long, because it pisses me off no end and is probably the main reason that - having been intriduced to women's sport by my wife - 20 years later I am still involved.

What can we do? Lots of things really - including minor things like entering into discussions about the world cup by saying "I thought that was last year when New Zealand won it? Oh the MEN'S world cup, why didn't you say?"

And actually in England at least it should be easy because the men are currently so crap while the women muller everyone.... other than New Zealand, obviously!

On the bright side women's cricket 15 years ago was like women's rugby today, and (in the UK at least) it is greadually getting the respect it deserves. Long way to go yet, but there is hope.

As for women commentators - former players of either sex often make dreadful commentators. Even with men for every Richie Benaud there are dozen of embarrassments. Let's make sure that the first women commentators are good at that, and not just given the job because they are women. Too often that does happen in the UK. Rachel Heyhoe-Flint's cricket commentries in the 80s and 90s must have set back the cause by a decade!