Female athletes have long been regaled to second class citizens in the world of sports. That’s a fact, one that cannot be denied, argued, or otherwise debated. That progress has been made is also unquestionably clear, although the most memorable moment of the U.S. Olympic soccer team might well have been Brandi Chastain taking off her shirt in celebration and ESPNW is not exactly taking off.
The recent decision to include women’s boxing in the 2012 Olympics could be heralded as a step in the right direction (I bet female ski jumpers would be pretty enthusiastic were it their sport), but Herald Scotland’s Ruth Wishart isn’t taking it that way.
How noble is an art the point of which is to hurt an opponent? Does the dexterity with which the blow is aimed somehow cancel out the effect? How attractive is a sport where blows to the head are too often a short-cut to brain damage? Shaking a baby is illegal, but not using an adult brain as a punch bag.
One Scots trainer, having had a Damascene conversion to women taking up the sport, chooses to draw an analogy with the hostility once shown to female footballers [soccer, to us Americans], now replaced by an acceptance of their high skill levels. It hardly bears rational scrutiny.
Wishart goes on to pretty much dismiss the stratospheric rise of women’s soccer in America as the result of “soccer moms” finding a fun, active, fairly inexpensive sport for their daughters to entertain themselves with while their sons went on to greater glory not just on the soccer field but in sports like football and baseball.
And then predicts that women won’t wax enthusiastic about caravanning their girls around to a sport like boxing.
I can’t image the same enthusiasm being attached to their teenage girls heading down the gym to practise throwing punches. What did fire up the attention levels in America was the circus of Muhammed Ali’s daughter, Laila, being matched against Joe Frazier’s daughter, Jacqui, in a grotesque re-run of their fathers’ titanic bouts; more of a clash in the counting houses of sharp-eyed promoters.
While Wishart is absolutely right that women’s sports are seen as more of a hobby than a career, I can’t for the life of me understand why she’s so down on boxing. The support of any female sports venue (and inclusion in the Olympics is unquestionably support) seems to me like a winning proposition.
Wishart can (and does) cite specific slights in sports ranging from beach volleyball (eye candy for men), rugby (England’s team lost the World Cup final to New Zealand in a real nailbiter that would have gone down in history had it been American football), golf (men become multi-millionaires while women struggle for sponsorship), and tennis (which Wishart believes is “belittled”).
She also makes some excellent points about the media’s view of women sports.
Pundits intone that women’s sport is intrinsically less interesting; not enough people want to watch it. How would you know guys if you don’t give it enough screen time and exposure to whet viewing appetites?
Yeah, Ruth Wishart, you’re absolutely right … so why the hell would you crap all over an opportunity for female boxers to add their weight to the push against misogyny in athletics?