Every day we talk about women empowerment, how women are making it to the top of major brands, leading professional teams, and being independent in society. However, Sports is a dimension where women face extensive discrimination. On the surface one only visualises about giving them opportunities, let alone equal opportunities, but in the core lie various other factors. How many of us know which Indian Woman cricketer is in-form and scoring or taking the most wickets for her team? How many female footballers’ names do we have at our fingertips? The similarity prevails in every sport. You may know only a handful by name, not knowing the names of players sitting on the bench. Is it the same for male players?
Sports itself was not considered a professional career until recently, and it still is not one for women. After fighting the patriarchy, even when they make it to the top, the discrimination is to the extent that channels do not even broadcast their matches. Whereas for men, every district/state tournament is broadcasted live. The media representation of women starts and ends only at world-cup knock-out stages. Where all they get is a headline. Even if their struggles of the local tournaments are broadcasted, they never reach the limelight. Why does this happen? Mainly because women are seen as incompetent and do not get the identity of a ‘hero’ which male sportspersons get. Since they are the ones bringing laurels to their nation, giving all of their life to the sport. How can a woman be a hero, the word itself is pro-male, probably representing the patriarchal society? It is also about the perception of what women ought to be. No matter the modernity in our thoughts, women are not being empowered. The lower strata of the society still perceive a woman to be a wife, mother, or caregiver, nothing more. With sports having a western outlook, things get even worse for women.
Male football matches get millions of views, whereas women’s matches get considerably less. This is a vicious cycle of women not getting equal representation, making women’s sports ‘less interesting’ in the eyes of viewers and the non-prime time of broadcasting of matches makes it even more boring in the eyes of the audience. Women start being appreciated only when they qualify for the knock-out stage of any tournament. But does it not last long? they again are back to square one in the next match. While this is not the case with men.
Apart from this, major discrimination comes with the kind of resources provided to male versus women’s teams. Women’s teams often have low budgets due to obvious reasons, leading to them not having a support staff as good as the men. The discrimination happens also in terms of the pay they receive. The contract of Indian men’s team captain will always be much higher than that of the women’s captain, even though the job is the same. Even in brand endorsements a man always receives higher pay. Society has not let go of the taboos on a woman, which leads to everything that happens on the field.
Have you ever noticed how much money government authorities give as rewards for bringing in laurels for the country? When the Indian men’s team recently won the Australia series, they were rewarded with a cash prize of 5 crores by the government. However, when it comes to the women’s team, the reward price is much lesser. All of this adds up to the discrimination faced by them. Leading them to not having brand sponsorships as good as men. The excuse they have is that cricket is a masculine game and they need viewership for their brands which they do not receive when a woman athlete endorses it.
Though it is not deniable that there has been a lot of improvement through the years. The world is changing, but the change happening is not at the same pace for all genders. The men’s team is way ahead in the race, moving forward in whichever form with lightning speed. Every post that Virat Kohli endorses is worth in crores. Whereas the women’s team is like a snailcompeting with light. So, even if people say that the women’s team will soon reach the pedestal of the men’s team, it will not happen until society starts being less patriarchal.
Talking and convincing others about being a sports professional is difficult for a woman, and minus the comparative money, it seems to be a flop show. Until and unless we do not motivate women to follow their passion with dedication, and stand like a rock beside them, make people aware of how good she is and how excellent she can be, with the right training and support staff, getting women to the same pedestal as men will be tough, even impossible.
For all the women out there, self-belief is the key. Don’t let society hold you back. Sports are not just for men. It’s for all genders. Look above you, women who have made it to the top share the same struggles as you are facing right now. You have to make the right choice for yourself and choose between regretting not trying at all for the rest of your life or just trying.
Let us do the least that we can. Create awareness for all our female athletes out there, to make them feel supported, appreciated, and loved as they go through the ups and downs and give them hope so that they give their best without worrying about patriarchy and discrimination.