Mansplaining Women in Sport

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I look forward to the day where there’s no such thing as political correctness.

The day when people can speak their minds and not have to endure a backlash from people taking offence.

I look forward to the day when people won’t take offence.

The day when they won’t have to.

I’m not talking about letting bigotry, sexism and misogyny run riot…I’m talking about the day when generational change and societal transition will eliminate most of it. Because it’s still there, hiding behind political correctness.

It’s reared its ugly head over the past week before being silenced quickly by grovelling apologies and the residue dirt from an almighty hole that can’t be undug.

What shocked me the most about the recent comments from the Indian Wells CEO wasn’t just their shocking contents but the fact that they were said with such confidence, in front of a room of cameras, microphones and journalists. Raymond Moore was so sure what he was saying was what everyone obviously believed and knew, he didn’t water down or sugar coat his comments at all. Women’s tennis was inferior and didn’t deserve the same rights as men’s tennis. He said those comments without any fear nor alarm, he didn’t mean to be shocking, in his head this was the truth. He never thought in his mind it would cause the worldwide furor nor condemnation that it did. He didn’t think it would cost him his job.

While these may be year by year, decade by decade developments, changing people’s mindsets, well, this could take generations.

He later apologised in a hasty statement – one might assume he may have had an inkling then.

He said  “I made comments about the WTA that were in extremely poor taste and erroneous,”

“I am truly sorry for those remarks, and apologize to all the players and WTA as a whole. We had a women’s final today that reflects the strength of the players, especially Serena and Victoria, and the entire WTA.”

Well, that’s a little different to his remarks before. Contradictory is probably the right word.

Novak Djokovic also issued a facebook apology for his comments (again, confidently stated in a room of cameras, journos and microphones) questioning the equal pay awarded in tennis and for bumbling remarks about women’s “hormones” to which he laughed and others shook their heads.

In Australia, a respected journalist was commenting on the saga on a popular sports television program when he came out with this statement.

“The sad thing is, the essence of some of his argument was correct. I think every male, and every female should give thanks to those top five male players. They basically bank-role the sport.

“There are times when the women were more popular than the men, at the moment it’s the opposite, but man-oh-man, you couldn’t think of a worse choice of words – it was terrible.”

I’m sorry what? I had to rewind and listen to it again. The only female panellist posed the question I couldn’t through the TV set.

“So the top five men, and you think the men and the women’s draw are being carried by them…Serena’s won 21 Grand Slams.”

A couple of the other panel members then told him “to keep digging”

To which he tried;

“The majority of the television ratings from the game comes from that incredible, once in a lifetime generational rivalry between those five guys… I don’t agree with what he said…”

The female panellist again interjected.

“What was the most watched final from the Australian Open? The Women’s. Which final sold out faster at the US Open? The Men’s or the Women’s? The Women’s.”

This particular journalist is someone whom I respect, but his statement really had me perplexed, his initial reaction was that the women’s game was being propped up. That women, like Moore said, should thank the men’s game for the success of their sport. These comments despite Serena Williams being one of the greatest ever, once in a generation – possibly lifetime, players this sport will ever see.

The WTA’s success was built on powerful stands that players like founder Billy Jean King took. It was propelled by fierce rivalries like Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, and sustained through legends like Steffi Graf, Margaret Court, Monica Seles, Evonne Goolagong, Martina Hingis, Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova. The men didn’t do anything for the women’s game. Women did this for the women’s game.

they just told us something very important. Change takes time. Prejudices can’t be swiftly eliminated

But before these men could be quickly ushered behind the mask that is political correctness, clawing their way out of holes with apologies, they just told us something very important. Change takes time. Prejudices can’t be swiftly eliminated.

Bit by bit we’re seeing cracks in sport’s glass ceiling, with equal pay in tennis, widespread broadcast deals in women’s sports and the professionalism of female athletes. While these may be year by year, decade by decade developments, changing people’s mindsets, well, this could take generations.

Deep seeded prejudices are there a lot of the time because they’re a product of their environment and the result of what’s been deemed ‘normal’ for so long. These mindsets also seem to ignore challenging facts for believed truths. Initial reactions can be very revealing, before a person says what they should, they say what they really feel. Before hasty apologies can close the door on offensive statements, their first responses remind us there’s still so far to go. But for change to happen, women in sport must play on and, most importantly, find their voice, so the others can be drowned out.

For change to happen, people must stop hiding prejudices behind political correctness and instead embrace the future. Women in Sport are the future.

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