Battle of the Sexes.
Sport is always banging on about its responsibility in providing good role models for children and young people. Why then, does it set the very worst example by perpetuating the notion of gender inequality in so many sports where the internal/external location of a competitor’s genitalia is an absolute irrelevance?
There may be many sports where a division of the sexes has some merit in providing an equal playing field in so far as the physicality of the competitors is concerned. Where those affected by that division – the competitors themselves – agree it should be so, I have no beef in thinking anybody should impose change.
But without doubt there are a huge number of sports where it makes absolutely no sense at all.
The Genitalia Location
This occurred to me recently when a winter weather day found me watching darts. The ability to throw an object weighing a few grams into a target 1.73 metres away is a feat that even the staunchest anti-feminist would have difficulty arguing as a skill requiring a penis to achieve the highest possible level of performance. I’ll come back to darts later.
The issue came back into mind today when I caught some curling ‘action’. The Winter Olympics have curling competitions for Men, Women, and Mixed. Why? Why should there be anything other than just ‘curling’? How should our daughters interpret the message that though they can aspire to be engineers and should they choose they have equal right to work at the pit-face, but when it comes to the ability to shout at a bit of polished granite and do some frantic sweeping, they had better understand their role as a separate and unequal, often implied inferior, gender?
It seems sport has been forcing itself, though often reluctantly, to address the issue of the inferiority of female sports in so far as prize money is concerned. The BBC census of disparity in Sports between the sexes shows that of 20 sports who now offer equal prize money for men and women, none did so in the 1970s.
Tennis was the first sport to pay equal prize money when the US Open started doing so in 1973 after campaigning from Billie Jean King and eight other female tennis players. By 2017 Athletics, bowls, skating, marathons, shooting, volleyball, squash, surfing, and world championship cycling all pay equal prize money.
That is fine and dandy as far as it goes, but is it really what is required? It feels like an exercise in the observation of political correctness. It feels like it, because it is just that. The implied nature of the Male sport superiority is still displayed in the typical scheduling of the male final being after the female final, the men’s 100m is the track blue ribbon event, and the women are left doing their best, bless ‘em, and looking sweetly pretty in the process. When it comes down to it we’ve all seen a poster of a pretty tennis player scratching her bum, but I can’t recall one of Usain Bolt clutching his cock through his shorts.
To achieve real equality and so provide the correct role model for our children, surely it should be a case of wherever possible removing the division between the sexes altogether? Why not let women drive a Formula One car if they want to do so? Why not let women play in the Premier League?
Some will argue nonsense about dressing room ‘facilities’ or special treatment. Chances are they will be the same people who would have argued against black players, disabled access etc., and as this is getting a long piece and they will be dead soon anyway, I can’t be bothered to ridicule the weakness of their argument in depth, but suffice it to say that if they don’t want women or gay men in the dressing room they must be pretty threatened in their own anally retentive sexuality.
Some people will say there is no point as they are not good enough. WTF? We let Celtic play in the Champion’s league and I can imagine a few of their faithful would have something to say if FIFA announced they were no longer allowed to compete because they weren’t good enough – with apologies to my many Celtic friends, I couldn’t resist ?, but you take the point?
Anyway, Celtic jibes apart, in many sports we have no idea whether women could compete equally with men because they have never had the equal playing field in terms of opportunities and training resources to compare their relative merits.
National Sport (No Girls Allowed)
In football, girls and boys play alongside until they are 8. There is absolutely no difference between them in ability at that age, and from the split all attention goes to the boys. Whatever the level of skill a girl possesses in playing the most popular sport in our culture, she is told unequivocally at age 8 – girls are not as good as boys, you can’t play with them anymore. That seems fundamentally wrong, and doubly so in a sphere of our lives constantly pontificating about itself as a pure and positive pastime, the thing youngsters should aspire to.
From that young age, in football at least, Bob has the potential of world fame and riches at the top of his game, but if Roberta excels she can look forward to being branded a lesbian and 1,000th of his wage. Patrick will get the best medical attention money can buy, Patricia will get dropped off at A&E. Only after a minimum of one full generation of equality in opportunity, training resources and all importantly aspiration, can we really test the argument of whether they are indeed ‘good enough’ – and as per Celtic (sorry), even if it is discovered they are not, it should not preclude them from being able to compete.
Whatever the arguments against removing the gender division, I think the arguments for removal are stronger.
In some sports there may be insurmountable obstacles in the gender physiology, but in a huge amount there are not. Wherever there are no such obstacles, but the sporting powers persist in dividing the sexes, we must ask why? Perhaps it will be a reluctance of the sport’s officials to risk losing their power in a merger of the separate gender structures, or some ludicrously archaic notion of women needing protection as ‘the fairer sex’. Or perhaps, and in my humble opinion this will be more often the case, it is the fear of men being embarrassed by being beaten by women. Prove me wrong – if not scared of them, why not compete against them?
Beer Belly Role Models
And that brings me back, as I said I would return, to darts. You would be forgiven for thinking that this article and similar diatribes are the unresearched and rambling opinions of someone with more to say than facts on which to base it. Perish the thought.
Having maligned darts, I did think it my responsibility to check my facts. It seems that the sport known by most for its beer and bellies stereotype is at the forefront of gender inclusiveness. Under very recent changes women can now enter the WDC alongside the men, as is also the case in Snooker, another traditionally exclusively male preserve in its upper echelons. Well done them.
If a woman wants to compete alongside the men, let her try – surely that is the very essence of what sport is? The ability to try, to compete, on equal terms.
And where the sport involves a gender division on something as ridiculous as the ability to shout at polished granite, let it be gone. Let our daughters show they have broken free of their domestic subjugation by, er, showing they can use a broom to sweep up just as well as a man.