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I’m no expert, but …

This morning I am coming out of the closet – this after a long chat with my fellow Ruster Jane Shillingford at a social gathering hosted by a mutual friend – to declare myself resolutely behind our sports department’s campaign to eliminate unfair gender discrimination in sport by the straightforward but simple expedient of ending gender-specific competition altogether.

At the risk of identifying myself as a dinosaur male with old-fashioned opinions steeped in the 1950s in a 21st Century world in which every minority grouping imaginable is having its day in the sun whilst the rest of us are consigned to ‘sucking it up’ (as I think modern parlance would have it) and/or becoming irrelevant, this seems the obvious way to go.

As my text for today I would refer Rust readers to this report by Anya Alvarez which appears on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

I’m no sports nut – never have been, as a participant or viewer – but neither am I immune to the charm and compelling nature of Per Ardua Ad Astra (the Latin motto of several organisations including the RAF, translated variously as “Through hardship – alternatively “hard work” – to the stars”) in relation to the voluntary pursuit of sporting excellence and the watching thereof.

Providing that such endeavour doesn’t involve the use of performance-enhancing drugs, of course.

And, while we’re on tangental subjects, I’m still debating internally about the ‘voluntary’ aspect of such human sporting pastimes as harness (literally) the participation of non-human species whose ability to consent may at best be suspect to unknowable.

This is a complex subject when considering variants of equine and canine subsets – e.g. thoroughbreds and huskies – which almost certainly would never have been developed and/or exist today were it not for the benefit and delectation of Man.

Do horses, especially those bred to go National Hunt racing, have any option about their participation? Arguably, I suppose, it’s their entire reason for being and they race – in collaboration with their jockeys – because it’s what they do.

But I digress.

In our recent conversation La Shillingford cheerfully confessed to having had zero personal participatory interest in sport all her life and similar in watching any female-only elite variety.

Well, save perhaps during Wimbledon Fortnight when she openly admitted her main motivation for tuning in was fashion (rather than results) related.

This revelation brought home to me the fact that – for all the billions of pounds sterling spent over the years upon Big Brother governmental publicity and health campaigning designed to encourage active female involvement in sport – a sizeable majority of UK women aren’t remotely interested in it.

They’ve got innumerable other things going on in their lives that they regard as of superior importance and/or recreational interest and enjoyment.

I mention this as an adjunct to my own conviction that, frankly – with rare exceptions, and here I’d submit gymnastics, swimming and netball as three examples – generally, even at elite level, females applying themselves to what here might be described as traditional male sports aren’t actually very good at them.

Well, not to a degree that would ever attract more than a fraction of the crowd interest and/or viewing figures that elite male sport has always done.

And that’s one of the reasons that dinosaurs like me are resistant to the ‘positive action’ element of the ongoing campaigning overkill to raise the profile and rewards in female sport.

You know the sort of thing I’m referring to: lines such as  “If the Manchester United forward Alexis Sanchez is on a basic salary of £300,000 per week plus bonuses – purely in the cause of gender equality, of course, why isn’t his counterpart in the Manchester United women’s team entitled to be paid the same?”

My instinctive response to this is as follows:

Look – two points. Firstly, if the female equivalent of Alexis Sanchez was as good as Alexis Sanchez [and whilst I’m at it, inevitably, Sanchez probably isn’t the best example for me to be using as my example here considering he’s been consistently useless ever since he arrived at Old Trafford] then I’d be only too happy for her to be paid exactly his wages.

And secondly, but on the other hand, if she was indeed as good as Alexis Sanchez, then why hasn’t she been picked to play for the (male) Manchester United first team – and furthermore, if given the choice, wouldn’t she infinitely prefer to be playing for THE Manchester United … rather than the women’s version of it [record-ever crowd 4,835 in their home match against Reading in August 2018]?”

Er … I’ll get my coat …


About J S Bird

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