feminism / politics

“Superwomen” and what’s wrong with sport


So the other day a friend of mine posted some coverage of his school which, while great for his school and all, got my blood absolutely boiling. I thought about replying and then thought, well I don’t want to be that person that turns something genial and nice into raging grimness, so no, let’s step away.

And I hadn’t thought about it again until this morning. When reading the Times, I spy and advert on the periphery of yet another article about political sniping for The 100 Richest Sportsmen. Let’s just re-read that a second. The 100 Richest SportsMEN. “Is there an equivalent 100 richest sportsWOMEN?” I don’t hear anyone cry. No. Actually. There is a ‘Wealthiest Young Sportsmen‘ list, just in case we weren’t sure which part of the sports industry this country likes to vomit money at. That would be Men and Young Men, then.

The article, by the way, that spawned this whole post was around a lack of ”accessible” role models for young girls in sport. I take a little issue with that, because I don’t feel that Jessica Ennis – being pretty much the only female sports persona we get to hear about once the Olympics has finished – is an ‘inaccessible’ role model, I just think she’s a bloody lonely one. Also, in terms of money, and despite having been a serious competitor in athletics since 2006…or even before if you count her teens, Jessica Ennis was reportedly only worth around £300,000 before her Olympic win meant a ‘potential explosion in commercial appeal’ and therefore more sponsorship deals. Funnily enough, I think I’ve seen less of her now after she pulled off an amazing victory than before. When she and Ellie Simmonds were like, pretty much the only women papers focused on in the run up to the Olympics. It’s not like we have many, many…many more making up Team GB or anything.

Frankly, screw condescending local paper articles about how female role models just aren’t accessible enough. Surely, SURELY you have to have some female role models in the public eye before we can even argue about how accessible they are. “The role models are the elite of the elite, almost superwomen, who may intimidate girls so they don’t even bother”, came the quote from Christine Ohuruogu (Olympic gold medalist, no less). I’d argue it’s not that we’re put off by Jess Ennis’ Heptathalon feats and demi-god abs, more that there’s just no choice. Personally, amongst the sports I love are (in no particular order) basketball, football, netball, rowing, horse riding, hockey, ice hockey, figure skating, gymnastics and tennis. I can think of one out of that list that I get to see televised female competitors (in a prime TV slot on an accessible channel) more than just once every four years at the Olympics. If we want more girls taking part in sport, it’s about time we started taking our women more seriously.

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