Football

Women in sport: Issues still unresolved

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When Jacqui Oatley joined Match of the Day as a commentator she was abused by football fans.

One of her colleges said: “You’ve played football, I’ve never kicked a ball in my life – and nobody has ever asked me!”

This quote is the one that shows that the abuse she got was sexist. She was picked out and abused online simply for being a woman. Whether she was also a bad commentator is beside the point, there are plenty of male journalists and commentators who make mistakes but they are allowed to slide, but Oatley was picked out and targeted by MOTD fans in 2007 simply because she was female.

Some people believe the BBC also act wrong on this subject as the lack of female journalists and commentators employed and the issue could have been avoided had big companies such as the BBC, ESPN and Sky Sports employed more females. However, whilst people criticise Jacqui Oatley for mistakes (including myself, as I do for example Mark Lawrenson), there seems to be little controversy around Gabby Logan or Rebecca Lowe, who are both very good at their jobs, and the many women employed at Sky.

The thing all these women have is, they're all rather skinny and the majority blonde. Which suggests that all women journalists and presenters are is 'eye-candy' and people in charge, just want or maybe even need to sexualise women.

And then you see comments from people in sport. Sepp Blatter has said that women footballers should wear "tight, more feminine clothing," like they do in volleyball. And he also once referred to a woman working in FIFA as "Good, good looking," which just suggests even more that women are sexualised in sport.

And there are plenty of other men in sport who have sexualised or insulted. 

John Inverdale's comments, for example: “Do you think Bartoli's dad told her when she was little 'You're never going to be a looker?"

Suggesting that more 'ugly' women have to work harder, whereas Maria Sharapova gets it handed to her, when in reality, both worked extremely hard.

In 2005, Manchester United made the decision to cut their women's team, the eve of the 2005 Women's European Championship. We return to Jacqui Oatley, who had a lot to say on this subject, but her opinions are basically irrelevant as she ignores the fact that United are/were in debt and only get by because they make a profit, something at the time of 2005, a women's team wouldn't have done.

She does, however, bring up a point of why that day, why on the eve of one of the biggest occasions for the women's game? United do still train girls up to the age of 16 and are now (2013) thinking of bringing their women's team back.

Looking at the pay gap between sportsmen and sportswomen it’s almost disgraceful, taking away the fact that people like Lionel Messi and Usain Bolt earns companies millions. Having said that, culture has made women think that sport is for men. Jessica Ennis is under constant media pressure for being “too fat” or some other insane claim. The fact of the matter is, men in general are payed more.

For example, in the WSL (Women's Super League in women's English football) clubs are allowed to pay no more than four players over £20k per year, for a full time job that’s a short career. Such rules in the men’s league would ruin the game. The average League 2 player is payed £50k per year (150% more). But the fact is, people would rather watch poor men’s football than the best of women’s football, for me it’s because having watched and judged the England Women’s National team to my local side, Hereford United are actually more entertaining, if I was a women it wouldn't be any different.

Another inequality is the divide in sports. Whilst stuff like netball and volleyball are female dominated sports at schools, colleges and Universities, sports with higher demand such as football, basketball and rugby are all male dominated at school level, so the inequalities ultimately come through the socialisation. It ultimately comes down to how you're brought up, there's no surprise Germany are always one of the best men's and women's teams, it's simply because of their upbringing, whereas in the USA football or 'soccer' is seen more of a women's sport, hence why they're one of the best women's teams, and an average national men's side.

To conclude: women's sport, in particular football, has come a long way, and it will probably never be as big as men's football, and of course, the journalism side is not all the people on top's fault, society tells women they're not to play football, but for how long will this continue, and does it bother other men, who want to have kids, and if they have a daughter, will they take them to watch football in the state it's in?

Hopefully it changes, not only in the women's game, and not only for women. Hopefully gay and straight men can travel the world playing the game we all love, hopefully a mixed-race team can travel to Russia and not be in danger of death and/or abuse, hopefully an 'ugly' woman can get ahead and start to be accepted in the media side of the game.

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This article has been written by a member of the GiveMeSport Writing Academy and does not represent the views of GiveMeSport.com or SportsNewMedia. The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author credited at the top of this article. GiveMeSport.com and SportsNewMedia do not take any responsibility for the content of its contributors.

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