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Disappearing in the rear-view mirror maybe, but still here


Here on the Rust, where free-thinking and free speech are not just tolerated but encouraged, we sometimes tease our sports department columnists when they expound upon the supposedly irrational and counter-intuitive arguments deployed by those demanding ‘equality of everything’ for elite sportswomen when compared to their male counterparts.

Nevertheless, overnight I began reflecting upon some of those arguments as they conflict with some of the inalienable facts of life as they exist in the real world.

I guess the headline theme of my thesis of the day, which goes way beyond the confines of sport, is concerned with the do-gooders’ assumption that the pursuit of ‘equality’ (or equal opportunity) is de facto such a desired end goal that – wherever physical, mental or practical issues prevent any female of the species from ‘having her cake and eat it’ – measures must necessarily be put in place not least by legislation and taxpayers’ funding to enable her to consume as much cake as she chooses or likes.

A complex accompanying issue is that of whose definition of equality and/or equal opportunity we are discussing at any particular time because at every turn there are participants (and campaigners) prepared to espouse opposite ends of every argument with equal zeal.

To those who say elite female sportswomen should be paid as much as their male equivalents – and/or, as recently happened, rant against the fact that there are no females (or was it ‘very few’?) in the list of 100 biggest earning sports stars in the world – one could ‘push back’ with the argument that the commercial realities of life – starting with spectator appeal – ought to be a factor in it.

Okay, the winner of the Ladies Singles title at Wimbledon gets the same prize-money as the winner of the Men’s but what is ‘equal’ about that when there are so many more men playing top flight tennis than women, plus women only play the ‘best of three sets’?

And what about the argument that, taken to its logical extension, ‘true equality’ between men and women will only be achieved when women’s sport is banished forever and both genders simply complete in the same events and tournaments?

Furthermore, when considering equal opportunities for women and other minority groups in a wider context such as those mentally or physically disabled (if women will allow themselves to be lumped together with anyone defined as ‘disabled’), there’s the issue of whether the ‘better’ route to true equality is via specialist competition or taking measures to assist such minorities to compete with their able-bodied and able-minded equivalents.

Sarah Storey

Take the Paralympics for example. Some might argue this festival, piggy-backing on the back of the Olympics, has been an unqualified global success huge step forward for those qualified to compete in terms of general public acceptance and support in every sense. And they’d probably be right.

And yet there have been instances – and I confess here I cannot reel off a list of examples as I type but GB cyclist Sarah Storey springs to mind – of Paralympians also competing in fully-abled competitions, e.g. in cycling and track & field. I guess it’s a matter of choice – if you asked a Paralympian whether they’d rather win a Paralympic gold medal or alternatively reach the quarter-finals of the Olympics 100 metres event (if these were mutually-exclusive possibilities), I don’t know, but I’d bet that a significant proportion would opt for the latter.

These issues are not straightforward. Here’s a link to an article by Sean Ingle on the subject of women athletes competing in the decathlon which highlights some of the complexities that appears today upon the website of – THE GUARDIAN

I’m finding myself pointing both ways now. When you read of how ninety-odd years ago women were banned from running the Olympic 800 metres and how recently they were allowed to compete in a marathon, the pole vault and even the steeplechase, one has to admit that it all sounds so ridiculous and old-fashioned as to be laughable. And yet – as Mr Ingle’s piece points out – there are shrewd veterans in the field of sports science and training who are vehemently opposed to women doing the decathlon.

Just where is the ‘meat’ in this sandwich?

I’ve read elsewhere that – given the physiology of the female body as regards endurance – it is quite possible that one day the female world record for the marathon will be faster than that of the men’s.

So what will happen then – will there still be different men’s and women’s events? Or will both sexes simply compete together?

Another cause célèbre that hit social media and the airwaves yesterday was ex-Chelsea footballer Jason Cundy’s statement on GMTV that he preferred male football commentaries to women’s because of the ‘heavier’ tone of the men’s voices – see here for a link to a piece on Cundy’s spat with Piers Morgan, as reported by Natalie Corner on the website of the – DAILY MAIL

This necessarily brings together two conflicting arguments, viz. why shouldn’t women commentate upon men’s soccer matches if they’re good enough? [Personally I don’t see why not?] … and another very important principle, the matter of freedom of personal choice [Here I’m still reactionary and unashamed enough to admit that I personally prefer the sound of a male commentator].

My ‘lone voice in the wilderness’ here would be make my point of protest against the general usurping of the mainstream sports airwaves and television channels by feminist and ‘equal opportunity’ campaigners in their attempt to gain equal importance for female sport.

BBC World Cup commentator Vicki Sparks

Here it is.

There are already many different sports commentaries that can be accessed via TV, radio and the internet. If Fulham are playing Spurs, for example, I don’t doubt that you could listen to some form of ‘Spurs fan’s commentary’ and indeed also a Fulham equivalent if you wished.

If someone somewhere was to decree that – for every male sporting event – besides any other example of ‘specialist’ commentary already available, there would also be a ‘female commentator’ channel established (I could be wrong, of course, but) I’d be content to bet my bottom dollar that it would not attract more than 10% of the viewing/listening audience, except perhaps via brief visits made almost exclusively for the novelty value of the experience before switching back to a male commentary. That would be the viewers’ choice, of course.

Which ought to count for something.

(Oh, wait a moment … not that it does in these ‘right on’, 21st Century, politically-correct days …)



About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts