Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sporting chance: a rant with no answers

There are many and varied things that tick me off, that I consider to be pet peeves, but there are very few I feel soapbox-ish about. I am more of a 'blurt-it-out-and-get-if-off-your-chest' type of person when it comes to these things.

Here's some blurts:
  • I hate when students plagiarise!
  • I hate it when students send me emails asking questions that I've already answered in class, online and in previous emails!
  • I hate when students don't do the weekly readings! (Can you tell I'm at work at the moment?)  
  • I can't stand Tony Abbott, the smarmy, slimy, reactionary naysayer; the fact he'll probably be our Prime Minister come September makes me want to spew!
  • I thinks it's a really dumb idea to take several billion dollars worth of funding away from universities to pay for Gonski Review changes at primary and secondary school level! Universities generally use that funding, not just for education but also for researching and inventing stuff like medical breakthroughs, technology, national security, etc. 
  • I think comparing gay couples raising children to the Stolen Generation is obscene!
  • I think Fred Nile is a horse's arse!
  • I think the Catholic Church (of which I am technically still a member) should be deeply ashamed of themselves for covering up and enabling sexual abuse and child abuse over its long history as well as using its sphere of power and influence to make police officials complicit in these crimes and to make investigations disappear!
  • I think most official religions are hypocritical in at least a few but generally many aspects of their official doctrine and "company policy"! I don't mind faith and belief but dogma gives me the shits!
Most of these blurts are followed with many more exclamation marks, hair-tearing or long strings of expletives that really aren't for public consumption.  

I already had my soapbox-ish stand on vaccinating so I'll try one on this longs-standing gripe instead: inequality in sport.

I am not a fan of any sports. I don't mind playing it occasionally or watching it in person or being an armchair expert during the Olympics but I am not a follower of any type or code. I don't have a 'team'. 

One of the reasons for this is sexism or just a general inequality. This comes in two forms:
  1. Sexist behaviour that is accepted and valourised as part of sporting 'culture'
  2. An inherent inequality in sport and sports broadcasting itself.
Sporting culture gives me the shits. I am, in theory, happy for sportsmen to be role models and the types of people that young kids adore. The problem lies when these same people are generally allowed to act like arseholes (and a generally given barrel loads of money for it) or when clannish or clubbish behaviour makes them think its okay to treat women like meat, and to treat them that way en masse. This kind of behaviour doesn't just leap right into gang-bang territory - it starts small. It starts on the amateur field when parents scream at the kids and their coaches and the umpires. It starts in the grandstands when fans yell and hurl abuse at the players, at each other. It starts when alcohol is so tightly embedded in 'watching the game' that drunken behaviour is usually overlooked. It starts with the highly charged competitive atmosphere on the field and off that overflows into the rest of world in verbal abuse and brawls. Okay, maybe golf fans aren't like this but golfers certainly aren't boy scouts. Of course there are exceptions to these stereotypes - there are deeply sensitive, family-oriented, homosexual, well-educated or articulate players in most of the football codes. I've met a couple. But these are usually not the ones that are put on the posters. These are not the ones with the sponsorship deals.

The professionalisation of sport also gives me the shits. On the Forbes highest paid athlete in the world list, Maria Sharipova is first woman at No 26. The next woman doesn't appear until No. 81 (Li Na - another tennis player). And that's it. Of 100 of the highest paid sports people, only two are women. How many sports can women play at a professional level with access to (almost) equitable pay/prizes and public broadcasting of games/bouts/matches/races? In Australia, the women I see in professional sport are playing tennis, playing golf or playing netball. I'm pretty sure in all of those, their pay and their prizes are less than what men receive. Okay, in tennis women play three sets (are they sets?) to the men's five, so they get paid less but they receive equally air-time when the Australian Open's on. The Williamses, the glamorous Sharipovas are just as much stars during those times as the Federers.  

I don't know if this issues starts at the amateur level, the social level or the professional level. I live across the road from a sporting oval where they play aged and graded cricket in the summer and AFL in the winter. There are never any girl/women cricketers and only once did I come across young girls playing in a mixed team. At some age, women are "un-mixed" and then forgotten. I don't know if this is because girls become interested in other things while boys hold onto to sport, or if they quit because the opportunities aren't there. Why would girls keep playing when they don't see a place for themselves as professional AFL players? If they never see role models that they can aspire to?  

Sure we have "women's" sports like netball that receive (minimal) airtime but does that go anywhere to redressing the balance? Yes, I understand that men and women have different physical abilities and capacities (on average) as well as different interests (on average). But what happens when women want to play? When they can play? Should they be allowed to play in the professional AFl or NRL ranks with the men if they are able?

Okay, rant over.

What do you think?


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