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Sexism in sport

You have probably watched a football game in your life, and I can almost guarantee that it was a men’s football game. Massive stadium, tv coverage, a buzzing atmosphere all around. Women’s football however, is nothing like that.

I’ve been lucky enough to see both men and women’s football close in real life. A men’s arsenal game in a huge stadium full of drunk old men chanting and yelling at the players, and a women’s football game, in a much smaller stadium, and with the crowd being supportive and generally good people. When the players would fall over, they would pick themselves up again and carry on, rather than rolling around pitifully on the floor, crying for attention.

As someone who used to play football (and rather enjoyed it), it got very repetitive telling people you play football and getting rude remarks about how women’s football is ‘boring’ and not as fun to watch as the men’s football. In fact, for two years I played in a mixed team, so anyone could play together. Not only was I the only girl in my team and club, I was the only girl in the entire league. That meant that photographers were always running to take photos of my team. Not because we were good at the game, not because we won the match, but because we had a girl, and our team was diverse.

The actual playing experience was less than enjoyable. Never being passed the ball, because I was a girl, so I must have been weak; spending most games on the side-line so I wouldn’t mess everything up; getting pushed around and shoved by the other team more than anyone else, because I was a frail and weak little girl and God forbid, I get the ball for once.

But football isn’t the only sport. Recently, I’ve started playing squash more, and I have become quite committed to it. While I’m not the greatest player, I still represent my county and try hard in training. In one lesson, my coach (we’ll call him Chad) said he needed some people to film a video for him. Just us doing a simple drill to record our progress. He picked two boys and me to be in the video - note that I was the only girl in a group of ten kids. As everyone walked off, Chad stopped me and said ‘you know, I only picked you because you’re a girl. We need to show diversity and I don’t want to leave you out’. The sad part is this isn’t the first time something like this has happened. Chad is constantly joking about how he always picks me to play so I don’t feel left out, because I’m "the only girl in the group."

Unfortunately, I’m not the only person who has had to experience this type of discriminatory behaviour. Things like this are a common occurrence for female athletes at all levels.

There are lots of other problems that are built into different sports as well. For example, in tennis, men play 5 sets, whereas women only play 3. The reason for this it that it is assumed women are weaker than men, and thus won’t be able to play the full five sets. There’s also the problem of women getting paid far less than men who do the same sport at the same professional level, and to the same standard.

This is due to an enormous number of factors which I won’t go into now for fear of boring you, but one factor is the difference in media coverage between men and women’s sport. Women’s sport is often not broadcast to as wide a scale as men’s, causing there to be less excitement surrounding it, which has a knock-on effect that means women don’t get paid nearly as much as their male counterparts.

So, what’s the lesson to take from this article? First, I would like to make all misogynists aware that – as a blanket statement - women are not weaker than men and are just as able to compete in sports as men. Additionally, some people need to accept that women in sport exist, always have and always will. Letting out your repressed misogynistic feelings on women within sports will get you nowhere.

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