Last year at Wimbledon, a journalist confidently announced in a press conference that Sam Querry was the first American tennis player to reach a semi-final of a Grand Slam since 2009. It was left to Andy Murray to point out the fact that he was the first male player to do this and that both Serena and Venus Williams have achieved this feat numerous times since 2009. This is just one of the many examples of inequality and “casual sexism” in sport. For example, up until very recently, Serena Williams was paid less than her male counterparts. Why? Because she doesn’t have a penis!
As a child, I always believed that what-ever profession I chose, I would earn equal amounts to the boys in my primary class. I was shocked to find out that this is not the case, and indeed is far from it. The pay gap goes back historically, not just in sports but in society. Before 1970, it was a normality for women to be on a lower rate of pay from their male colleagues even if they had contributed more or had a higher skill level. This supposedly changed in 1969, when the National Joint Action Campaign Committee for Women’s Equal Rights orchestrated a monumental equal pay demonstration. This rally ramped up the pressure on the government to make a change to the legislation and soon after the equal pay act of 1970 was brought into action. You would like to think that was the end of it, right? Surely, men and women should be paid equally now, regardless of their job. However, due to several factors impacting on this, inequality and the pay gap is an even bigger issue than it was forty years ago.
Despite the developments of women in sport and the way they are perceived in society, the portrayal of these inspirational individuals on social media has been nothing short of disgraceful. The abuse and objectification of these athletes for simply doing their job is appalling, vindictive and unfair. For example, Alex Scott MBE is a former female footballer who played for Arsenal WFC and the England lionesses. During her sixteen-year footballing career she captained Arsenal and made an astonishing 140 appearances for England. She even represented Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics. All of these achievements are beyond most people and she was awarded a fully deserved MBE in recognition. In the last couple of years Alex has pursued a career in presenting, including the 2018 World Cup and just recently she became the first female pundit on Monday Night Football. Despite her illustrious and successful career, Alex Scott receives abuse on social media every day for, again, simply doing her job. Trolls make comments such as ‘get back to the kitchen’ or ‘she’s a woman, she clearly knows nothing about football’. My point is that Alex Scott is a very experienced ex professional, and given the career she has had, she’s proven herself to pass comment on the men’s game as well as the women’s. Due to the experience she has in professional football, Alex can be considered an expert in her field. As such, she has as much right to present and give her opinion as men do. Alex has got as much right to present and give her opinion as her male counterparts. She reached the highest level she possibly could in football so there is no reason why she should be getting any sort of abuse. But the way these sexist trolls perceive women in sport almost creates a kind of mob mentality of uneducated people, criticising these athletes for no reason whatsoever. It’s a similar story with other forms of media, such as TV, where the problem continues through coverage of women’s sports.
Every day you see advertising for sports events on all social media platforms and TV, but how many of these adverts promote the female side of sports? Coverage of women’s sport in the UK especially is something I think needs drastically improved. Research carried out in the last 25 years showed that commentary on female sports is “sexist, dull and lacklustre”. Some might say that coverage of women’s sports lacks excitement and passion and maybe this is because there is a serious lack of funding in this particular area, and I think this is something that needs to change. For example, Scotland’s women have just qualified for their first World Cup and their crucial crunch game vs Albania was shown on live TV. On BBC Alba. Who don’t commentate in English. This is a prime example of the lack of coverage of female sport when a game which should be attracting national attention is not shown on mainstream media. If this was the men’s team, regardless of the game, it would be shown on one of the big companies and be promoted on all social media. Why should this be allowed? I think this speaks volumes for the BBC’s attitude towards female sport. They clearly do not value female sports and how many positives it brings to the table. If you have ever seen a women’s football game, from any level you will know that the game promotes fairness and this is shown in the way players play the game. Compared to the men’s game, there is literally no diving, or poor sporting etiquette and if the BBC were true to their word, they’d show more of these games on their mainstream channels.
It’s not just football that has succumbed to the world of the pay gap, because it has been reported that other sports have been subject to similar problems. One story that absolutely shocked me is from the sport of cricket. In March 2018, the Twenty20 series was held in India. Both men’s and women’s international teams were flying out to compete. All the men’s teams were fully funded and paid for to fly business class but the women’s teams were made to fly economy! This is a reflection on the way women are viewed in general and if we want to tackle inequality in sport, then we must first look at the wider problem of inequality in society. The reason that some people have grown to accept things like this happening is because we are brought up with a view that men deserve better when this should not be the case. We are all human. We should be treated as equal and until society does something about this then unfortunately there will always be inequality and a pay gap. As I said earlier, there is a legislation in place to combat this, so why haven’t things changed?
To conclude, I still firmly believe that women and men should be treated as equal in sports. From all my research, it is still clear to me that inequality is a big issue today despite the huge improvements in female sports. In my opinion the biggest factor impacting on this is the way women are perceived on social media and some of the comments directed towards women are disgusting, unfair and just plain malicious. Hopefully, if people are willing to take a different view in the next few years then equality in sports and in society can finally be achieved.