Sunday, 11 December 2011

women and sport

I am catching up a bit here - there has been plenty of comment on this over the past week - but I can't let this one pass. An all-male shortlist for BBC Sports Personnality of the Year. How can that be?

I am not a fan of 'sports'. I like exercise, I like being outdoors but I pretty much avoid all organised sports and certainly what is on the box. Apart from Wimbledon when I become obsessed with tennis for two weeks and Andy Murray's biggest fan.

But even I have heard of Rebecca Adlington, Keri-Anne Payne, Chrissie Wellington, Sarah Stevenson and our own Katherine Grainger. And perhaps people like me would be more into sports if it wasn't so dominated by men.

It doesn't seem to matter that our women's football teams fare as well as, if not better, than the men's - our sports coverage is dominated by the male. Football, cricket, rugby.

Several of the women above have won gold. Now, as mentioned, I am a big fan of Murray, but he hasn't won a grand slam this year that I am aware of.

Even Richard Morris of the New Stateman can see the issue here. Not least that all of the people making nominations were themselves men. A bit of groupthink going on?

There are of course those who argue you shouldn't include a woman on any list 'just for the sake of it'. Yes, I did see Matt Gatward's comments in the Indie. First, it only seems that women can fall prey to the 'just for the sake of it' line. You don't hear that one being used for blokes. Also, there is no 'for the sake of it'. These sportspeople are top in their chosen fields. It isn't a wooden spoon to recognise their achievements.

What could be argued is that - as the Indie stated - they are successful in less high profile sports. In other words, in sports that don't have the financial clout of football or the 'audience' of rugby etc. But then, the two elements of money and sport are male dominated. A perfect storm.

The BBC has announced they will review the list whilst defending the current system as independent and fair. Yes, about as independent and fair as everything else is for women - that's why we still get paid 18% less than men, will be worse off under Cameron's cuts and lose our jobs when we have children. Because all of the systems that cause these outcomes are gender neutral. And having Nuts and Zoo magazines represented on the shortlisting panel ensures a balanced approach [publications where the content and understanding of that content by their readers can barely be distinguished from the viewpoints and opinions of convicted rapists].

On the run up to the London Olympics the message of support and acknowledgement of women's achievements in sport is clear. We don't dislike it when you win - but don't expect merit, that old chestnut, to count when it comes to awards.