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This Sporting Life

Once you realise how much sexism there is in sport, it’s impossible to look away, it is everywhere.

Women athletes are subject to the same bullshit misogyny as the rest of us but ramped up to 11. They are judged on their looks more than their skills; remember Flo-Jo’s nails, The Sun called Jessica Ennis “The Body” earlier this year, type “Serena Williams Fashion Disaster” into Google and you get 85,700 hits. The International Olympic Committee’s charter states “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, sex or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.” and yet Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei have yet to send female athletes and are yet to be banned. They get less funding, less sponsorship and less coverage. There is a perception that if you don’t look good, you won’t get any attention at all. As mentioned in a previous blog, lady footballers were encouraged to wear tighter shorts to get more attention. Fuck you Blatter!

Last Sunday I did a little non-scientific research of ITV’s Euro coverage (no need to call in Ben Goldacre, hands up, it wasn’t expertly done) in order to see what the representation of sports women would be like – I was expecting sporty adverts, it being the football and that. Over two matches and way too many advert breaks we saw male athletes, being identified by their sportiness; advertising cars (lots of cars), chocolate, beer, tyres, Nivea, The Sun, logistics and betting sites. Lots of “manly” and “non-manly” things that couldn’t possibly be represented by a female athlete… During all of those hours of adverts, we had two incidences of sports women; a lady fencer for UPS (who doesn’t really do any fencing) and some lady tennis for Magners but that’s being played in the dark so as not to offend. A nod of appreciation to Morrisons who seem prepared to accept that women watch football, not play football obviously, that would be silly. The ad for the Kia falls into a similar category, pretty lady drives to football stadium but she’s there to sing – know your place pretty lady.

Of course the most offensive football related advert is for WKD in which a pub hilariously goes silent while a man pretends to his partner that he’s working late, the helpful barman adding sound effects to make the call sound authentic. You know, because ladies won’t understand you having a night out with the boys and would lock you in the house using their ovarian tubing if they suspected you might want to socialise rather than hunter-gathering or husbanding. Also, lest we forget, girls don’t like football and therefore it’s better to lie than let on you are watching it. As Springbreak (@sayrahtonin) said, “I hope the fictional girl in the wkd ad who’s being lied to by her pathetic bf about being in the pub is fucking someone else while he’s out”.

So here’s a bit of everyday heroics for give us all a bit of faith…

A few weeks ago I went with my little sister to watch a local charity basketball game. On the team was one girl, let’s call her Becky, because I’m fairly certain that was her name. Becky didn’t even have a real kit; she had a home-made t-shirt. When Becky was knocked on her arse by a giant man, Becky offered a forgiving high-five that the giant begrudgingly accepted. However, Becky had the most amazing talent that none of the other players seem to possess, Becky was invisible. Neither her own team nor the opposition could see her. She could get herself into wide open spaces because none of the defenders saw her, but then no one would pass to her because her own team couldn’t see her either. Everyone watching could clearly see her and some of us were getting very frustrated by the lack of play she was getting. When we mentioned this super-power to Becky she shrugged and said that it had always been the same, whenever she plays with men and she’s been doing this for 10 years. Becky was invisible, because she is a woman. I don’t know Becky, so I can’t tell you why she carried on playing on a team that was trying its best to ignore her. But I can tell you that she was awesome.

My little sister is a huge basketball fan and I hope, for her, Becky was visible. Becky is a fucking hero, an everyday crusader.

If you’ve been affected by any of the themes in this blog, try Stylist Magazine’s Fair Play campaign (you can read it here

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