Guest Blog Post
Since the beginning of dawn, there has been an argument between male and female species about who can do what better; fighting, hunting, cooking, and of course sports. Having done almost no research about sports, I still know that the Greek and Romans used their captured slaves and prisoners for amusement purposes like fighting one another, or against strange and powerful beasts. However, in all these stories, we rarely hear any women taking part in these strange sports. I believe women were present, but used for other important activities as well.
Over the years, more organized sports activities have come into existence, like boxing in 1681, baseball in 1846, basketball in 1891, football in 1863, and American football in 1920, (just to clarify for those in North America). Today, many other sports are into existence with the most common ones combined into the Olympics tournaments.
But what’s the position of women in sports? Again, as I use my search engine to answer these questions for me, I find out that women first got recognition in sports events in the 19th century, the main participants being the fancy women who enjoyed golf, tennis, horseback riding, and all the other fancy sports they could find. According to the International Olympics Committee (IOC), the first time female athletes were allowed to participate was during the second modern Olympic Games in 1900. Only 12 female athletes participated, and they competed in only two events which were golf and tennis. More would come afterwards.
I conclude my brief history lesson with research about professional sports. I found out that baseball was the first sport to pay its players around the 1830s and 1840s, and soon all types of sports were paying athletes to play. Sports teams became clubs, and fans began paying entrance fees and buying sports accessories for the love of the game. A number of sports activities have cemented their legacy in the world and almost everyone in the world has an idea about what is taking place just by looking at the sport. Other sports are popular according to nationality and region, so do not expect everyone to nod their heads or cheer when you talk about Hurling, or Biathlon, or even American football and Austrian football.
We hear the buzz, we hear the talk, tensions rising, crowds cheering, even before the games begin. In fact, this happens on a daily basis, weekly, and even for events that happen once in a year or every after two or four years. Fans pay to travel the whole world for their teams, their players, and sometimes just for the sake of meeting other fans. It is believed that sports unites people more than blood; it has bridged the racial gap more than expected, and it is still going beyond. It has provided wealth to the athletes, the media journalists and in some countries, it is regarded as one of the only options to escape poverty. But with all this hype and unimaginable amount of money being spent on these sports, another issue is almost silently being ignored. How do we bridge the gap between the male and female athletes’ earnings?
Like all sports, a certain amount of physical activity has to take place, mostly during preparation and during the time of real play; literally meaning that your heart must at least pump at an abnormal pace (that’s why chess is a sport). It is no wonder that the sports founding fathers were very strong minded about the involvement of women into sports activities, and with time, when women were involved in sports, they made sure that they could almost never have mixed teams. In fact, some sports like baseball, women’s baseball couldn’t get the attention it needed and so women simply continue to play softball as the close alternative. Sports such as netball is still widely recognized as a female sport, even though it’s also played by men.
With all the excitement, cheer, money blown, time taken, and the happiness, and disappointment afterwards from either team and fans, this is all greatly experienced by mainly (at a landslide comparison rate) male sports. With literally some female sports only getting fans who are either coaches and fellow teammates, or players’ parents, friends, sports scouts, pundits, and the stewards at the venue. A few tournaments take place with both the male and female teams playing at the same time and place, most common being the Olympics games and Tennis tournaments. For most of the other sports events, if you don’t follow sports news that much, you might not know that they even take place at all. In the end, all we could have achieved to do is just to get the women involved, and that’s all.
Should women sports athletes earn the same amount of money as the men’s sports athletes? This is a question that has been raised more often now than before. Of recent, we have heard and seen the American Women’s Soccer Team come out and request equal treatment like the Men’s team; from having the same locker room space, to earning the same or even more than the men’s team. So we go back and check how both teams have performed of late. According to the FIFA statistics, USA women’s team has been the highest performing women’s team since 2007, with multiple accolades, well as for the men’s team, they’ve tried to qualify for each and every World Cup tournament since the 1990s, excluding the one in Russia (of course). So according to these one sided statistics, should we conclude that the USA women’s soccer team is entitled to more wages than the men’s team? Should all the other female athletes performing better than the male athletes receive more money?
I believe the answer lies in the bookings. Without wasting time talking about how much prize money the teams get, I believe just like any other business, you can not invest in only the product, but also in the sales and marketing department. Why is the NBA popular and not the WNBA? Why are most male sports popular and not the female sports? I believe the answer lies in the way each sport brands itself. In fact, some sports like football go on to compete with each other according to their locations. For example, you can put a selected number of football pundits in the same room and tell them to agree on the best football league in Europe, and they might not agree even after Jesus comes back.
The reason why Premier League, LaLiga, Serie A, and Bundesliga are popular is the same reason why we all know the names; Ronaldinho, Messi, Maradona, Michael Jordan, Mohamed Ali, Usain bolt and many others. But I’m sure most of us cannot even name a single female athlete from their nationality. Some of the female athletes get the spotlight during major tournaments, especially those that participate in single events like tennis, swimming, athletics, while we can hardly name multiple players from a team sport. That is why you may know Serena Williams but cannot name the goalkeeper of the USA women’s soccer team.
So how do we solve this issue? In my own option just like this entire essay, I believe that women athletes should be branded like how we brand movies; When a three-year-old kid watches Frozen, they want to be like Elsa or Anna. These kids should love the game even before they understand it. Some kids understand DC comics and Marvel books and movies more than anything else. I have seen some movies about basketball, documentaries, even about single athletes like Beckham, Jack Robinson, Mike Tyson, and many others. I grew up reading a comic book named Supa Strikas, and I also loved watching an animation known as Street Football. These characters made me love football more than I even knew, and why can’t we do the same, but with female characters, for the women. You may ask; Can’t the same animations or books inspire women as well? I believe that kids recognize the difference between a male and female at a very early stage. We wouldn’t need Super Girl if we thought Clark Kent was bridging the gap. I would love to watch a movie about the USA women’s soccer team, or Serena Williams, or Laila Ali or our very own Dorcas Inzikuru. I would love to see some sports women on design labels, and not only on magazine covers; just like Air Jordan and CR7, we should also have more women team and player jerseys on the market, more female sports pundits, coaches, officials, more female sports adverts during any sporting match. Only then, when their stadiums are filled every match or game day, when you can recognize a female athlete without reading the name on their jersey, only then could we say that the women do not deserve equal pay with the men.
Written by Martin Romario Ntuwa he is a Resident of Nairobi but a Uganda national, Voice-Over Talent, Coder, Sound Technician, Transcriber/Translator, Founder and CEO of KrazyKidz, and we both went to Kyambogo College back in the days.
We are on the lookout for more Guests to talk about the question of women’s sports and the inclusion of all women of all genders in specific disciplines. Questioning the Question