The Gap Not Yet Bridged: Women’s Inequality in Sport

When watching the Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Conor McGregor UFC Championship, I was distracted from the match by one thing in particular. The matches for the event were set in a particular order: women’s match, men’s match, and so on, switching off. I thought this was done to reflect equality and fairness, to show that the women’s wrestling is comparable to men. I was overly-optimistic. I noticed that whenever the males match was on, the audience would be completely engrossed in the television screen. Yet, when the women’s match started, over 75% of the audience would go to the bar to get another drink or leave for a cigarette break.

I questioned those who left, why were they treating the women’s matches like a television advert? There answers were simple: they just didn’t care. This became a continuous cycle which made me wonder, why is female sport so unpopular?

Growing up with three older brothers, sports was never pressed upon me in the same way it was with my siblings. I was never encouraged to join the football team, never exposed to rugby, never expected to play a male dominated sport. Primary school was the same, gender constantly divided as the boys would lead the playground games, while the girls would sit on the side-lines, plaiting each other’s hair.

In secondary school, there were only two girls in the PE class of twenty.

University is the closest to equality, with women’s sports teams growing by the second, Women’s Lacrosse being the second biggest club at Kent.

Although UKC has many women in sport, the tables are still not balanced. An example of this is the men’s Rugby Union, which is favoured due to the team winning BUCS matches. Yet, in comparison to the female team who have one BUCS team, men’s rugby has four teams. The problem is not the success of the men’s rugby, but the lack of representation for the women’s team in comparison.

Many would blame women for lacking an interest in sport, consequently being underrepresented in this field. On campus, the lacrosse and hockey clubs, however, are at least twice as big as the men’s—women’s lacrosse boasting over one hundred members and men’s lacrosse only having sixty, in spite of limited advertisement for women’s sport societies.

Sport remains unequal around the globe. During the tennis match last month, where Serena Williams lost to Naomi Osaka in the US Open, the American felt the umpire was being unfair to her throughout the match due to her gender and race. She showed her anger by arguing against the Umpire, Carlos Ramos, and his controversial decisions and was criticised. In previous matches, however, Andy Murray showed signs of very similar behaviour and it was defended as passion. This suggests that due to Williams’s gender and how she failed to conform to the stereotype of females being passive, her actions were frowned upon.

Another area of the biggest global inequality is football. As a female Sports Editor, I am seen as abnormal when I ask, ‘did anyone watched the football match last night?’. It is similarly uncommon for women to be commentating on or presenting football in any form. Although people such as Clare Balding have smashed the stereotype, for every Balding there are still thirty Gary Linekers.

Looking at The World Cup, one of the biggest sporting events of all time, it is a huge example of inequality. The teams are filled by men. Where is the women’s World Cup? I guarantee that if you asked, most individuals would be completely unaware that there is even a Women’s World Cup, let alone have watched it. Why does the media choose to advertise men’s matches so much more than women’s?

The true reason for inequality still remains unknown. Who is to blame? The older generation, such as parents and teachers, for encouraging this divide from a young age? The media, for displaying stereotypes and broadcasting male sports more than women’s sports? Or each and every one of us, for assuming and accepting these gender roles? It doesn’t matter who is to blame. What matters is the mindset of those who still believe that ‘This Girl Can’t’.

To step attain equality, individuals need to change their mindset. No one should think that ‘This Girl Can’t’ and no one should believe that ‘That This Girl Shouldn’t’. It is not about disregarding the men’s achievements, but recognising the women’s as well. Women’s matches should be championed and women in sport should be taken seriously. This Girl Can be a sporting icon.

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