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SPORTY SPICE, Who? By Adithi Hulyalkar

The only time we fleetingly think about women in sport is when, despite all their struggle, they emerge victoriously and smash patriarchy, plus whatever is left of their competition. (Remember Dipa Karmakar?) Then, like a really rusty spring, we return to our original configuration having learned nothing new from the experiences of sportswomen across the globe. Once women get past towering hurdles such as inaccessible sanitary products and societal mindsets; they have miles of other muck to navigate through. Those who do journey through the road less taken end up sucked into the vortexes of one of the many reasons listed below. 

Women And Sports In India

As the median household income reduces, the participation in sports dwindles too. This coupled with backward societal norms like early marriage and childbearing weigh heavy on girls who have an intention to take up any sport.

Our Facilities

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you would know that the rampant mismanagement of facilities is an unfortunate fact. The Indian education system itself fails aspiring sportspersons as its importance towards co-curricular activities is mostly next to NIL. Even when a sport is valued, male sportspersons are prioritized over female ones; often giving the former a chance to try a wider variety of sports. Let’s not forget the subpar facilities available for training. How many articles about barefoot athletes and injured players must we read?

Coaching

Coaches are key to any sportspersons success. The flip side is that women coaches are stigmatized within the field just as sportswomen are. The lack of opportunity and prevalent conservative mindsets play a huge role in discouraging women coaches. The only ones who bear the brunt? The sportswomen of course.

This skewed treatment of female sportspersons and coaches reflects in the magnitude of them excelling. Fewer sportswomen make it to the top rung, and when they do, their training is almost not at par with those globally.

It’s A Sports“Man’s” World

OK, forget sport for a moment. Women are not even at par with men when it comes to being born. The average sex ratio in the country is around 914:1000. “Male-dominated” is attached to every arena in India be it education, workplace, and opportunities for women are far too few.

The instance of sexual assault is not rare when it comes to female athletes. Late last year, a national level swimmer said she preferred staying at home than going for practice and getting catcalled or stared at. Assault has taken such a horrendous form that an athlete committed suicide in May 2015, which is just one of many examples.

Side Chicks

Once women have established themselves as something in the industry, it’s usually as the distant, neglected cousins of the all-star men’s teams. Take for example the Indian women’s cricket, hockey or any other team for that matter. Neither the prize money nor the coverage equal that of men’s leagues.

Even as cheerleaders or journalists, they are treated as fluff pieces. IPL’s broadcasting partner’s business head was quoted as saying that the female presenters are replaced to be “younger and fresher” as the focus is on entertainment. Boy, oh boy. IPL season 10 is one of the first seasons of league cricket where there are women on the commentating panel. So you see, sportswomen in India have taken on the role of perennial side chicks.

She Throws Like A Girl! Pay Her Less

Let’s not pretend that the pay gap does not exist. As recently as last year, India was paying sportswomen half or lesser for winning the same position within the same sport!

Stop, before you say viewership, television rights, men play more sets; think about the sportsmanship. How would you quantify the effort and preparation that goes into the making of any winner? There’s no way to quantify it. Whatever reason you may cite, it is crucial to motivating women to participate without the worry of juggling multiple jobs to support themselves or their families. Especially when they aren’t even starting at the same level as men.

But a win at the same tournament should be quantified by the prize money – regardless of gender. Does it take too long for you to come to this conclusion? You should try reading some more here.

I mean, did Billie Jean King defeat Bobby Riggs for nothing? I don’t think so.

The author of the article is Adithi Hulyalkar.

Pic Credits: Hercampus.com and NYtimes
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