Four Awful Truths About Gender Inequality In Sport

A female rugby player tackles another


2014 was a massive year for women’s sport – but as Jess Connett explores, inequality, sexism and outrageous discrimination still reign supreme.

Lizzie Yarnold winning gold in the skeleton bob; Jenny Jones winning Britain’s first ever snowboarding medal; Jodie Stimpson clinching triathlon gold at the Commonwealth games, and Claudia Fragapane becoming the first British gymnast to win four gold medals for 84 years. Some of the most incredible sporting success stories of 2014 came from strong, talented women, who not only face down fierce competition from their rivals, but also deal with discrimination and sexism every day.

Women get paid less for doing the same job

In any other world, this equates to gender discrimination, and quite likely a lawsuit. In the world of professional sport, it’s depressingly commonplace. Female professional footballers’ pay has risen to the dizzying heights of £20,000 per annum – less than a trainee on a graduate scheme typically earns, and a tiny fraction of the crazy sums paid to male players. The England women’s rugby squad fare worse – they receive no salary whatsoever, and almost all the players support themselves with full-time jobs, which they juggle alongside training, family life and international travel to tournaments.

Being ATTRactive vs  Being Talented

Rebecca Addlington is Great Britain’s most successful swimmer ever. Two gold medals in Beijing secured her stardom – but as her fame rose, Addlington’s physical appearance became more widely discussed than her success. The Twitter trolls who plague her are probably the type who retweeted Frankie Boyle’s ‘joke’ about raping Victoria Pendleton, abused Beth Tweddle during a Sky Sports Q&A, or guffawed at Jessica Ennis-Hill being called ‘fat’ by a bloke with a desk job at UK Athletics, who presumably has a BMI marginally higher than an elite athlete.

Women AS the weaker sex

Do female marathon runners need a ten-mile shortcut because of their feeble legs? Of course not – endurance athletes achieve amazing things, like Paula Radcliffe’s marathon record standing for over ten years. So why is it that tennis continues to peddle the stereotype that women are the weaker sex by only playing three sets, compared with five in the men’s game? Men’s tennis has a complexity and competitiveness the women’s game often lacks – partly because of the longer games and more tactical play. This is the worst kind of Victorian-era throwback: one with absolutely no reason to still exist, but which hangs around like a bad smell in the Wimbledon locker room.

Women’s competitions receive less recognition

Did you hear we won the Rugby World Cup in 2014? Unlikely – there was no open-top bus tour like in 2003, no streets thronged with crowds and no roads closed in central London. The winning team was not held aloft for the media – mainly because the players needed to go back to their jobs and get on with life. All because they were a women’s team, and the event arbitrarily carried less prestige. The UK is clearly producing talented sports stars of both genders, who are fit to play on a world stage. So why is there such discrepancy between male and female competition?

Belittling, shaming or judging the average women in the street isn’t cool – we all know that. Outrageous comments like ‘women shouldn’t fight…they should leave it to the men’ (Amir Khan, Olympic boxer), or ‘pretty’ female footballers should ‘wear tighter shorts’ (Sepp Blatter, Head of FIFA) have no place in sport. As Pauline Cope, former England goalkeeper, so wisely and succinctly put it: ‘he doesn’t know what he’s talking about’.

Want to get involved with sport? Sport England has just launched This Girl Can – a campaign to inspire more women to get into sport at grass-roots level. Check out their inspiring video, and let us know what you think of inequality in sport via Twitter, Facebook and Vine.

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