Serena Williams beat Spain’s Garbrine Muguruza in finals at the Wimbledon this year to lift the trophy for the sixth time. But amid the celebrations, the top female player found herself at the receiving end of sexist comments. When British writer JK Rowling congratulated Williams on Twitter by tweeting, “#SerenaSlam! I love her. What an athlete, what a role model, what a woman!” a user replied, “Ironic then that the main reason for her success is that she is built like a man.”
Although the writer slammed the user’s reply, the tweet reminded us of an ugly side of sport. And this wasn’t the first time. Following her French Open victory, Williams was subjected to racist and sexist remarks about her body and appearance.
Time and again, cases of sexism in sport have been reported. In early March, the Australian women’s football team was subject to sexist abuse by men at a football match. In June, during the Women’s World Cup, Andy Benoit, a writer at Sports Illustrated, tweeted, “Women are every bit as good as men in general, better in many aspects, their sports are just less entertaining.” The infamous tweet by FA to welcome the women’s football team, which led to an outcry, read: “Our #Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title—heroes.” And it did not stop there. After advising women to wear tighter shorts to add aesthetic value to the sport in 2014, FIFA president Sepp Blatter was quoted saying, “Football is too macho. It is difficult to accept women in governance.”
South African middle distance runner Caster Semenya has faced endless sexist comments on her looks. Danica Patrick, the most successful woman in professional top-tier racing, the IndyCar champ and Nascar driver has been at the receiving end as well. A Fox Sports anchor commented, “...she is sexy and she knows it,” further adding, “If she’d have been a male, nobody would ever know if she’d showed up at a racetrack.”
This culture of sexism and the notion that sport is a sphere meant only for men is not just restricted to voices of the administration or the media. In May, when EA Sports announced the inclusion of women’s teams in FIFA 16, Twitter exploded with sexist comments:
“FIFA 16 a player may have a bad game coz of her period.”
“They’re putting women in the next FIFA? Imagine that, playing career mode n one of your players are out for 2 days with a broken nail.”
“FIFA 16: your star striker is going to be out for 9 months due to pregnancy.”
The above comments echo the existence of gender stereotypes in sport. Is the world of sport only restricted to men?
Mainstream media, who do not cover women sports, is also to be blamed. The Women’s World Cup last year broke Twitter records, but you did not see it in the papers. The income generated through sponsorship further reflects the sexism that lurks in the deep, dark recesses of sports. While women’s sport receives only 0.5 percent of the total sponsorship income, men get 62.1 percent. Statistics also show the salary inequality.
Men have dominated the sports industry for far too long. It is time that women are appreciated for their talent. The society needs to recognise these inspirational and influential women, their achievements and commitment to the game. More participation in sports needs to be encouraged.
The gender gap needs to be eliminated by creating equal opportunities for women. In this day and age, when issues such as racism and homophobia are being dealt with, it is important to not neglect the issue of sexism that is widely seen but not acknowledged. Sporting achievements need to be recognised regardless of gender.