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Seen and Heard – It’s Time to Speak Up

Cyclists competiting in the Women's National Road Series. Photo: Kirsty Baxter Photography

Cyclists competiting in the Women’s National Road Series. Photo: Kirsty Baxter Photography

 

If you take advantage of women’s sports in a field of silent bystanders – did anything actually happen?

Making a noise can be difficult especially when you’re struggling to find a voice and recent hits to women’s sports have many wondering who’s speaking up on their behalf.

Women’s Cycling is the latest sport to feel the sharp budget cut blade with Cycling Australia controversially scrapping its women’s European road development program. The annual intensive program provides Australian female riders with a valuable pathway to the European circuit, helping them to be identified by the major teams overseas.

W-League won't be broadcast after budget cuts to the ABC

W-League won’t be broadcast after budget cuts to the ABC

The program cut comes at a time when women’s road cycling was finally feeling the wind in its hair after years pedalling without getting anywhere. The national women’s road series has grown and Australia’s professional team, Orica-AIS, has been established. There’s now a women’s Tour Down Under, while internationally, the sport has reached unprecedented heights. The inaugural Women’s Tour de France took place last year with enormous success, La Course (as it was known) as well as the Tour of Britain were also broadcast live across the globe.

Yet despite all this growth, Cycling Australia decided to cut a key component that would help continue the success of its female riders. Why? Because few will cry out when it happens, that’s why.

When the WNBL and W-League recently lost their broadcast contracts when financial cuts were being made to the ABC, where were the sports’ leaders? Where was FFA CEO David Gallop? Basketball CEO Anthony Moore? Why weren’t they taking a stand? Where have they been since? Where’s the fight for their women’s game?

Women’s sports often suffer a form of Stockholm Syndrome. They’re so used to being treated badly, it’s somewhat expected, and there’s acceptance of what higher powers say and do, while never questioning the motives, consequences nor alternative means.

Women’s sports need to stick up for themselves and not just when it comes to budget cuts.

A post match interview was reduced to a cringe worthy scene at the Australian Open when the on court interviewer asked Eugenie Bouchard to “give us a twirl” following her second round win. It was like watching the creepy uncle at a barbeque have a perve on his niece. The commentator reduced Eugenie to the role of a little girl, ignoring her professionalism, achievements and ability in a demeaning and inappropriate statement.

The look on Eugenie Bouchard's face after she was asked to 'twirl'

The look on Eugenie Bouchard’s face after she was asked to ‘twirl’

But you don’t have to put up with it.

Say no.

You don’t have to appease every request, especially one so belittling and irrelevant. Women’s sports have moved on from that, even if some commentators haven’t. It won’t hurt you nor your profile to call out a dumb and demeaning question when it’s asked. I can guarantee you’ll gain more supporters if you do.

But this isn’t just a message for professional sports, even at the grass roots level there is an existing gender gap. Does your local club provide equal prize money to the men and women competitions? Are the same opportunities, equipment and support offered to the women’s teams than the men’s? In many clubs that’s not the case. Say something about it, if ignored or dismissed, say something again, make noise, take a stand.

Nothing will change unless you speak up. Women in sport have a voice, let’s use it. Be seen and heard.

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