What is a ‘woman’s’ sport?

This article was originally published by Grocott’s Mail, in their print edition, on Friday 14 September, and then published online…

The media recently has been filled with talk of Serena Williams, and many believe that her being a woman was part of the reason she was penalised so harshly. This has opened up the conversation yet again about how women are not treated equally or fairly in sport.

“She is not the first player to bang her racket on the ground, male players do that all the time, they also yell at officials all the time,” said Annelisa Fani, Sport co-ordinator at Nompucuko Comprehensive School, and manager of Young Ideas ladies’ soccer team in Marselle.

This discrepancy in sport isn’t just with her though, but rather a worldwide issue where women are paid less, supported less and less televised.

Abenathi Nqweniso, a young soccer player for Grahamstown’s (Makhanda’s) African Connection said that if she could change the face of sport, she would take away the idea of  “a man’s sport” and sports like cricket and rugby would be played by all. She believes that South African women who play sport are not promoted like the men are. “If the government officials would put more focus on sport then that would encourage [women]to be interested in playing sport.”

“There’s a difference between the amount of people and fans who come and watch men play compared to watching women play soccer.” Nqweniso said, and Sanel Sobahle, the sports officer at Rhodes University Sports Admin at agrees.

“Women are not watching sport,” said Sobahle. “There’s an issue with that in that we don’t even support ourselves.” She went to watch a netball match in Port Elizabeth where “the seats were empty. It was a televised match … The coverage was there, but the support was not.”

To Sobahle, the issue is deeper than simply sports players. “If you look at the federations, very few females are sitting in those federations.” She said, adding that there are very few people there advocating for women’s rights in sport.

Sobahle believes that this issue of gender in sport exists across the country, but at Rhodes “I’m not sure that I feel this whole gender divide. It is there in and across the country.” She said, adding that this discrepancy is not “in the same level” at Rhodes University.

Karabo Mavuso, the Chairperson of Rhodes Soccer Committee disagrees with Sobahle however, saying “Sports Admin will always see “Rhodes Soccer” as the men’s team, not us.”

“There’s a history of sportswomen not getting the applause and recognition that they need when they represent the university.” Mavuso said.

Ongezwa Magopeni, a netball player and student at Khutlisto Daniels believes this too, saying that female dominated sports such as netball are seen as “lesser” and that more male-dominated sports are televised. She says she wants to see a more equal representation of women in sport being publicised.

Grocott’s Mail hopes to continue this conversation about women in sport, and welcomes further engagement from readers on the topic. Anyone wishing to become part of the conversation my do so by emailing sport@grocotts.co.za, or contacting 046 603 7111.

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