I’m now going to pretend to know vaguely what I’m talking about regarding professional sport.
While to call myself a sports fan would be a gigglefest, you’d have to be living under a bush not to be aware that a percentage (small/large? I dunno) of the nation is all kinds of weepy about England losing miserably in the Rugby World Cup. Apparently we were hosting it and everything.
I, as much as anyone, would blinkin’ love it if England did good at stuff. But oh, hang on, we have done good at stuff. Turns out we’ve done crazy good at loads recently. You just might not know it judging by the media coverage.
Not only did the England men’s team win the Ashes but so did the women in 2014. We might have lost the men’s rugby World Cup but the women won it in 2014. Last year the men crashed out of the football World Cup. This year the women were placed third in the football World Cup – the best placing for an England team in like, ages. Cyclist Lizzie Armitstead rocked it in the recent women’s World Championship road race series; she won the bloody thing. I could go on.
Before you think I’m bashing the boys, I’m not. I love boys. I have lots of friends that are boys. The point I’m making here is that while men in sport are adorned with adulation, money and commiseration (more so commiseration), women’s recognition barely receives a mumble of appreciation.
It’s a curious thing. Why are women’s sporting achievements not validated in the same way as men’s sporting achievements? Is it because they don’t work as hard? Or is it not as hard to win as a woman? What a ridiculous load of shiz.
If anything, women have to work harder. They’re not lavished with the same level of support, financial or otherwise of their male counterparts, and still face a shitfest of sexism.
As for there not being the audience for women’s sport, well you chuff right off because, last November, the England women’s football team outsold the England men’s team at Wembley by 10,000 tickets for their friendly against Germany. The ladies walked out to an impressive 55,000 fans. Stick that in your sexist pipe and smoke it.
Nevertheless, we still have to talk about sexism in sport. In 2015.
For the feminists among you, whether you be female, male or otherwise, I urge you to give the film Half The Road a watch. A proper case in point of what female athletes face as they navigate the mucky, challenging world of professional sports. It might be about cycling but you don’t need to be a cycling fan to be drawn in. It’s a fascinating insight but, be warned, it will make you quake with rage at the prevalence of sexism still rife in our modern world.
Staying with cycling for a roly-mo, yesteryear cycling legend Beryl Burton achieved such feats in the cycling world that she slam-dunked males to levels which still stand today. And yet her acclaim is somewhat subdued.
It’s only recently that Beryl Burton is starting to get the attention she deserves (a mere two decades after she died, mind). Maxine Peake has written a brilliant play about her, Beryl: A Love Story On Two Wheels. It’s a wonderfully engaging tribute to an extraordinarily talented woman. Incidentally, the play has been so well received that it’s touring again and will be at The Lowry, Salford in November.
Thankfully, as women in sport continue to be more and more awesome, recognition of their achievements is sloooowly increasing. Not quite at the rate which is deserved but it’s heading in the right direction.
As much as it’s depressing to acknowledge how much sexism still prevails in our society, it’s also exciting to see a feminist revolution pelting into the mainstream. Feminism has always been here obv, incredible women throughout history have always fought for equal rights, but right now we’re in the midst of something ace. Feminism is changing from being a hushed term to something worth celebrating. With the likes of Hollywood women (and men) getting on the bandwagon and rightfully challenging sexism in their industry, feminism is becoming (dare I say it) trendy. And if it serves to empower women do great things across the board and challenges the idiots among us then hell-to-the-yeah.
With campaigns such as This Girl Can, women are becoming more empowered to embrace who they are, whatever their shape and size. This is only going to increase our output of wonderfully talented sportswomen of the future.
So let’s ride this awesome wave and take women in sport seriously, they do incredible things. It’s time to give them the high-fives that they deserve.
Images by Chris Payne