Men and women are treated equally under the law, but isn’t it always the men who are at the receiving end regarding rights and privileges? Similar is the case in sports. How much we term ourselves as the supreme creation, as the most intelligent beings, we always end up in our narrow mindedness, questioning a woman’s ability based on her gender.
A women’s physical strength has always been considered inferior to men. Although steps are being taken to reduce this gender gap, there lies a lot of social barriers that being a female one has to overcome.
The root cause starts from our families. Gender discrimination begins at home initiated by parents’ unwillingness to let their girl child participate in sports. There exists a line of difference in the upbringing of a girl child and a boy child.
We are taught that girls are not supposed to play in the fields; in the open, girls are delicate, vulnerable, and might get hurt. Be it kabaddi, weightlifting or wrestling, it’s the boys’ sports. The gift boxes containing racing cars, football or cricket bat are solely for our brothers.
Also, sports news and sports channels are mainly watched by the male members of the family because that’s what we grow up listening to, “sports is a field of male activity and interest”. Even one glance at our educational institutes would give us a similar picture. In most schools, sports isn’t a part of the curriculum. Our report cards are what matters. Sports should be made an integral part of the curriculum.
Sports aren’t what we observe as a day once a year, but they should be done dedicatedly and passionately. Even the schools that have sports teams for several games mainly constitute boy’s team. A handful of schools have separate boys and girls team.
Gender isn’t to be blamed; society should be questioned. Why are we taught outdoors sports are not for girls? And when one tries to break away from these traditions, she becomes unacceptable to the society till she achieves something because she is questioned who will marry you with such a physique once you start with sports! Winning in sports for women is an achievement and a step forward to combat society’s stereotypical thoughts.
Women are objectified and commented at, leading to further male dominance in the sports industry. The biggest struggle for female athletes is the inequality of pay. The Global Sports Salaries Survey 2017 identifies that the gender pay gap issue in sports is more than in any other professional fields.
Even attaining the first rank in the women’s final, they are not given equal payment, which their male counterparts receive. This is an example of peoples’ sheer disbelief that female athletes can perform with all their might and reach the audience’s expectations.
Still, no one wants to invest or sponsor a women’s team or a women’s league because they might never reach the popularity which a men’s team does. The Forbes 2018 Highest Paid Athletes report does not mention a single sportswoman within its top hundred.
The fan following for men’s sport is beyond imagination, epitomizing sports as a male’s activity. Hence money generation, including merchandising, ticket sales, advertisers etc., are inclined to the male sports category. It is considered “less manly” when the same is done for the women.
BCCI’s 2018 contracts clearly show the pay gap difference, where an A-grade women cricketer received fifty lakhs, which is half the amount received by a C-grade men cricketer, whose earning is one crore. The worst-hit sport in case of the pay gap is football, though even hockey being India’s national sport experiences a severe wage gap ratio.
Questions can arise on women’s physical capabilities, but sports as a discipline is a matter of daily exercise and practice with focus and determination. Research says women’s bodies have better flexibility and balance, thereby providing them with greater endurance. This gender ideology prevents women from getting the financial support and resources for their participation in sports.
There also exists a lack of media coverage on women’s sports. Also, women’s sports do not receive the same viewership ratings as men’s sports. Neither there is equal investment in sports brands for men and women. UNESCO reports say keeping aside the major festivals, women sports receive only 4% of all media coverage. Similar is the case with crowd turnouts.
It isn’t necessary or important to cheer for the women’s team as much as it’s done for the men’s team. From 1896 till 2016, the graph for the number of men’s event in the Summer Olympics showed values more than 150 while that of women didn’t even touch the same. Another factor is that a women’s attainment of success, excluding the great personalities, is hardly ever portrayed. Also, it’s high time we give equal importance to all sports genres and not only the pinnacle sports such as cricket, football and hockey.
However, over thirty-five years of research on gender and sports, scholars believe that there have been significant changes in the sports industry in order to resist and reduce the male-female controversies. Several Olympic Movement stakeholders have also tried hard in implementing rules and regulations for the same around the world.
In the past decade, women teams have been incorporated in almost all genres. There is government’s participation and NGOs are working to promote women in sports. A BBC report says a total of 83% of sports now awards men and women equal prize money. It’s not only about financial support but also the lack of encouragement that hinders women from participating in sports.
The tag of “one has no future in sports”, the profession’s uncertainty needs to be removed, and media can play an essential role in bringing more women athletes into this sports field. It’s not about competitiveness but equal recognition that female athletes strive for.
Mithali Raj is known as the “second Sachin Tendulkar” for her current status of being the all-time leading run-scorer in all formats, but the society is to be questioned why isn’t she called the first Mithali Raj? Why she has to bear someone else’s recognition in order to be termed successful? If we genuinely want to bring a change, it needs to be done from the root levels. It’s time that we address the cause, seek solutions and execute the plan. Talents shouldn’t go unappreciated, hard work shouldn’t go unnoticed, and success needs to be recognized, only then can women compete on equal grounds.