An Apology and a Pledge: Women’s Sport

There’s a section of feminism I have been thinking about for a while; something I’ve been super concerned about. And I’m concerned because I know I don’t support some of us ladies- so how can I expect other people to? Especially when I call myself a feminist and promote the awesome movement every single day. I don’t watch women’s sport. And, upsettingly, it isn’t just me who is quite so ignorant. And so I’m making a pledge. But more on that later.

I am a feminist; someone who supports EVERYONE. But I’m ashamed of not only my ignorance, but my completely happy ignorance with regards to female sport. The only sport I consistently keep up with is tennis. And that’s men’s tennis. Whether that’s watching as many men’s tennis matches during Wimbledon, catching a big men’s final in another tournament or keeping up with how men’s tennis is going through updates on the internet. And then when it comes to women’s tennis, I’ll “accidentally” watch a few women’s tennis matches during Wimbledon and catch the women’s final if I can (although I’d normally be at work- I would actually love to watch this).

I even used to (disgustingly) say, “I just don’t like women’s tennis in comparison to men’s.” (I am more than ashamed to admit that I literally decided it was okay to compare men to women, and ultimately put one gender above another.) When I actually went to Wimbledon last year, we stumbled upon some free tickets to centre court and ended up watching two incredible women’s matches. Finally, I was paying attention to us women dominating and excelling in sport, and it’s hard to ignore your own stupidity when you’re being proved wrong with every hit of a tennis ball. Like I claim in many other ways, these women are important. They produce intense, exciting, competitive and, of course, impressively athletic, strong and powerful sport. These women kicked tennis’s butt.

This issue came to the forefront of my mind when a couple of friends and I were discussing a lot of our ignorance with regards to women’s sport at university yesterday. We believe we’ve been moulded (and we should have been and should prove to be wiser) by society. A lot of it, we put down to how televised a sport is; how reported it is across media. Firstly, across sports, women’s sports could be considered an inconvenience to television. In comparison to the abundance of men’s rugby matches, football matches and all that’s in between, women’s sport isn’t broadcast even nearly on a similar scale. Society (and their historic desires in terms of what they do and don’t want to see on their TV screens) has evolved into (or, better put, remained comfortable in being) a sexist and noninclusive bunch of people who say “no chance, love” to women’s sport.

Wimbledon and tennis in general is actually one of the sports where women tennis players are greatly, greatly appreciated and acknowledged. And yet it is still not perfect. However, its inclusion of women does make my previous “meh” attitude towards women’s tennis even worse. Because I am so often given the opportunity to watch, admire and appreciate women’s tennis. All the same there are some problems; my main issue being this: The men’s final IS the “main event.” It’s the climax of the tournament and the part everyone’s waiting for. This isn’t okay and I think it should change. The female athletes shouldn’t have to prove themselves but my gosh, they are impressive, impressive sportswomen. They deserve to have the same respected spotlight as Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray.

The thing that shames me more is in terms of my interests, passions and dedications, is that, in some way, I am an athlete. My main thing is running. I insist and persist and encourage everyone to not automatically assume I’ll come second to a man. Yet I essentially adopt this attitude to professionals who shouldn’t be screaming for the general public’s approval. For 20 years before now I have been disrespecting, refusing to legitimise and choosing to devalue women’s sport- it’s been a second thought to me. Ignorantly and accidentally, but I still sucked. Being someone who loves sport as well as having the right to participate in it, I realised I must make a pledge.

I ultimately don’t watch a lot of sport, but I do watch a lot of Wimbledon. I also realised, being a runner, I’m more likely to pay attention to men’s athletic races in big events like Olympics rather than women’s. (I preach that guys shouldn’t assume they’ll be faster and fitter than me when I, too, turn a blind eye to the legitimacy of women’s athletics.) So my pledge is this:

  • This Wimbledon (and every Wimbledon afterwards) I will be watching as many women’s matches as I can possibly watch. I will understand the top players, the dark horses and match my knowledge for men’s tennis. I will have a bunch of favourite players and follow their journey.
  • I want to admire female athletics- not just the awesome Jessica Ennis-Hill. I want to put female athletes at the same level as my desire to watch men dominate in their field.
  • In a few weeks I’ll be going to Varsity (a student sporting event where Swansea students take on Cardiff students) where I will watch female student athletes do their thang.

How can we expect women to be equal to men if we don’t pay attention to the successes of both genders?

~ Kat ~

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