Sportolysis for the Blank Noise Blogathon (2006)

More than 150 Indian Bloggers have joined The Blank Noise Project to highlight the harassment of women on Indian streets. Why should any one have to bear indignity because of the gender?

I have had my women friends speak on harassment, leering they have to go through. Not being a woman, I am not the right person to speak from personal experience on the issue. Only a woman can truly express how she feels on the issue.

I am all for equality though and in that vein, am strongly behind the intentions of the cause. I would like to highlight on the state of equality in sport in general taking this opportunity. Most sports have a far less following for the women’s game compared to the men’s game. Tennis, athletics apart how many games can you think of where you can recount names of women sports people? Do they try less or are the games less interesting to watch?

Why is there hardly a following for Women’s football, cricket, basketball, et all? Apart from the lack of general interest of people, the participation of women is also far behind because of society at large. Indian, Pakistani women are discouraged to play in the sun as it is apparently going to cause their skin to become darker, hence ugly. People don’t want to marry dark women. White skin is supposedly more beautiful. India does not have the WNBA but the Women’s Railways Basketball team has just as dedicated and sincere players.

Most of those who do manage to play the game have to retire way before they reach their prime. Pressure from parents and society to marry is too much to resist beyond a point. These problems are specifically worse in the subcontinent. When sports people sacrifice marriage, kids in many countries, in the subcontinent such bold decisions are looked down upon rather than being applauded.

I was watching a small segment on television which highlighted how young the current Pakistani Women’s cricket team is. A former captain might still have been captain if she had not married. If some one represents the country in sport, I would imagine that should be reason to be of. The husband should be supportive after marriage rather than rule out the woman following her passion.

If some one is able to defeat the social barriers, or is lucky not to encounter them, there is the financial barrier. There is hardly any money in most men’s sports. The situation is far worse where the women are concerned. Despite all this, an India has managed P.T.Usha, Sania Mirza. It is ironic that most women athletes in India come from poor back grounds. The higher the social strata, the bigger the taboo of a woman sports person.

The problem is global though much more in various countries and societies. The Aussie Women’s Football team got a lot of attention when they bared all for a nude calendar. An American woman’s footballer got attention when she opened her jersey in joy after scoring a goal. A Sharapova can gain attention for her grunts but not her game.

An Anna Kournikova will earn more than an Amelie Muaresmo just because Mauresmo a lesbian and not as attractive to the consumers and hence not as much in demand. Mauresmo will be number 1 in one of the follow two weeks with Clijsters likely to remain injured for the near future. But the market will not chase her. It tells more about the mind set of the consumers, the general sports fan than any thing else. Martina Navratilova (also a lesbian) has been a pioneer for the women’s tennis game in more ways than just in the tennis court but obviously, seeing as things stand, there is a long way to go still.

Sexual harassment does not even come into the picture when the women’s sports are hardly highlighted. It exists. There is hardly a doubt regading the same. Olympic 200 metre Bronze medalist in the 2000 Sydney games, Susantha Jayasinghe, tested positive for drugs in 1998. A drug test which Jayasinghe accused of being rigged because of her political beliefs. She even accused a Sri Lankan politician of sexual harassment. Jayasinghe was cleared of charges and was due to participate in Athens, 2004 before a leg injury.

Was Jayasinghe guilty? I do not and cannot know. What I do know is that there are far more barriers a woman has to over come than just those in the sporting arena. Sexual harassment is just one of the problems. It is a darker problem and hardly comes into public knowledge. Only a woman sports person might be able to say how bad the situation is.

I am proud of the women’s sportspersons, specially those the subcontinent manages to come up with despite all the issues. I hope you are prouder after reading the current piece.

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