Things We Should Stop Giving A Bad Time

iv) Women’s Sport

Underexposed, underappreciated and underrepresented. While that sentence could refer to women in society, I think it underlines a huge issue within sporting circles.

The picture heading this post is quite deliberate. You can’t see the sex of the driver. And indeed, female drivers do appear with regularity at motorsport events, even if they are yet to truly break F1. But those steps along the path to equality are yet to be repeated in countless other sports.

I have my own opinions on the subject, but the first thing I did when planning this article was ask two of my male friends about theirs. Both of them admitted to not watching much. I pressed them for why, one was honest and said he wasn’t interested, the other said because it isn’t on television enough and that sport should be for both genders.

So already we have two fairly different opinions on the topic. And now to add mine. I love all sport, including women’s, and watch it whenever I can. I disagree with people who say that the quality declines, although female goalkeepers aren’t as good as male ones, and have always enjoyed the matches.

I’m well aware I’m treading on dodgy ground here. There’s always an element of mansplaining when a man talks about women’s issues, but I’ll continue regardless. Mainly because I believe I’m supportive and not condescending in the slightest, but also because the underrepresentation of women in sport isn’t a female issue at all, but a sporting one.

It depresses me when it is assumed that only men play football. When writing this, I was in the midst of planning a birthday party that involves football and the reaction from certain individuals has been shock when I’ve told them that the women are joining in. Sport is universal, surely that’s implicit? Literally anyone can play sport. It doesn’t matter if you play it well or not, that’s far from the point, anyone can kick a ball, or hit one.

Let’s get some stats. Sport England has found that 31.9% of women play sport once a week compared to 40.5% of men and that, as I would have assumed, participation declines with age.

For both of those numbers to be below 50% is an awful reflection on the way we treat sport in adult life, but that’s for another day. The thing to take from that fact is that not enough adult women are playing sport recreationally. The question remains, what can be changed to improve that?

Women can play sport, obviously. Some of them play it bloody well, in the same way that only some men are incredible at theirs. If the same amount of women played sport professionally as the amount of men who do, would the quality be the same? It’s possible. Having more numbers, at the end of the day, brings competition.

But we shouldn’t start there. Stop encouraging teenagers that women should be shopping or painting their nails or drawing on fake eyebrows all the time. Instead encourage them that being active is great, and sport is universal. Campaigns like This Girl Can are wonderful and are hitting exactly the spot that needs to be hit, but they need to go further. We need to install this mentality in young men too, because I know first hand just how awfully prejudiced teenage boys can be.

In my opinion, the lack of women in sport and the lack of televised events containing women is not a woman’s issue. It’s simply an issue. And it needs resolving. Believe me when I say I haven’t begun to scratch the surface on my dislike towards men who genuinely think women shouldn’t play sport, and the general reaction to women in sport.

Why, for example, can you only play as international teams for women on FIFA? Why in FM or Cricket Captain, are there no options to take over the ladies leagues? These would be great additions to changing opinions amongst young people.

Sport is universal, it is not masculine.

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