It's Only A Game
bother me at all if some of the guys come out to watch womens
tennis because they want to see a beautiful woman.... Still it is unfortunate
when others with a high skill factor dont win the endorsements.
Sure, the good-looking guys get more endorsement, but the difference
in mens sports is that the ugly ones get their share too.
Billie Jean King
There is little doubt that there is a double standard in the sporting
world such as that described above by Billie Jean King. Nor is there
little doubt that this double standard pervades all areas of the sporting
world from pay to sports commentating. I remember cringing at a presenter
at the Sydney Olympics talking about one of the female gymnast's bodies.
Given that most of the gymnasts look like prepubescent children, I felt
like I was listening in to some middle aged mans fantasies. And
I wont even begin on whats said about Anna Kournikova. This
is not what I expect in my sports coverage. Well, actually it is but
its not what I want. Ive never heard Hazel Irvine or Gabby
Yorath talk about a male players thighs. Language is important.
Female athletes, gymnasts and ice skaters are described with words like
graceful and determined and where men are described
as strong and athletic. Female athletes should
be described by how they play sport, not by how they look as they do
These double standards start at our earliest stages of life. To a large
extent, girls are not encouraged to take part in sports in the same
way as boys. Fathers talk about kicking a ball around with their sons
- why cant they just say with their child? Girls also drop out
of playing sport at a much higher rate than boys. Why is this? Is it
maybe because they are not given enough encouragement by PE teachers
or maybe because the wrong sports are promoted. At my school there was
a very limited choice - football and rugby for the males, hockey for
the females and athletics for both. Rugby results were always the ones
read out first at School Assemblies even if the hockey team had won
and the rugby team had lost. Having only one serious choice of sport
for girls must have alienated hundreds. I liked playing hockey but I
know of many who didnt but who may have enjoyed one of the other
many sports that there are around. I also remember being told that I
would get thick calves if I kept playing and become muscular and unattractive.
And, of course, the old chestnut about the sexuality of sporting women
cropped up occasionally.
look at one sport in particular. Football. One sport that definitely
operates a double standard. Not only do I think that the sheer amount
of what David Beckham and his ilk earn for kicking a ball around
a field is disgusting anyway but I also find it appalling that the
captain of the womens English football team gets nothing more
than her petrol costs. If the argument for paying David Beckham
is that he has special skills and is at the top of his field then
surely that is the case for Karen Walker too. In the States, where
they have the Title IX legislation which promotes, actually it insists
on, equality, women have the opportunity to earn millions from their
sport, including football. In fact, most of their national team
earn millions. Title IX promotes sport from school upwards, encouraging
females to take part and giving them equal opportunity for sports
scholarships and marketing. Not surprisingly a large number of women
who play for the English football team are undertaking their education
with scholarships in the States where they have the opportunity
to actually earn some money.
Lets look at some popular myths.
Sports that attract more spectators deserve to get paid more money?
What, are we on a sliding scale here? Isnt this just economic
discrimination under another name? If economic reasons can be used to
justify sex discrimination then surely we can use it for other forms
of discrimination too. And in practical terms this doesnt always
work out. In tennis, Ladies Doubles consistently draw more spectators
than Male Doubles but males still get paid the higher rate.
Male athletes have more skill than female athletes. Men are physically
more powerful than women. Girls will never be as good at sport as boys.
Em, no. Yes, male athletes are generally more powerful (ie. have great
speed and strength) but women tend to have better skill (ie. have greater
accuracy and coordination). And does it matter that men are stronger?
In most sports that I know of men are pitched against men and women
against women - not one against the other - so either way its
a match amongst equals and the winner is the one whos best. Wheres
I suppose there is hope out there. In the last Olympics Britain sent
almost as many women as men to Sydney - although given that there are
still a lot more mens events in the Olympics this is going to
have to change too before we see a more equal representation. More and
more women are playing football and as their fame spreads they may start
getting endorsements and maybe even some proper coverage. It seems to
me that boys just want to hang on to their toys and not share them with
the women. Stay out of our game is the loud and clear message,
particularly on the football field. Whats up boys? Scared that
we might actually win the World Cup? Oh, but thats right, it would
be the Womens World Cup so it wouldnt really count, would
© Hazel Marshall 2001
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