On Monday evening a crowd 30 people were treated to an informative talk about women in sport, put together by the East London Fawcett.
Melanie Brown, a freelance multimedia journalist, had documented on the experience of women boxers in Afghanistan and her film, Fighting for Peace: Kabul’s Female Boxers, was the starting point of the night upon which she expressed the need for women in sport to be rejoiced.
“Women like them need to be celebrated,” said Brown “They face a lot of challenges, and some even face death threats.” Certainly her photo film seemed to be presenting a stronger message than that simply of women participating in sport.
The girls trained at the infamous Ghazi Stadium, Notorious for its effects on women who stepped out of line. The film focuses on the story of adversity of Sadaf, a female boxer representing Afghanistan at the London Olympics. After being named a ‘wildcard’ she did make it due to debated circumstances – an achievement in itself in a country that frowns upon female education. After the film a panel made up of US Olympic silver medalist, Kate Johnson, Thai Boxer, Lucy May and Head of Policy at the WSFF, Tim Woodhouse were led by Daily Mail sports writer, Laura Williamson.
“The club where I train more women are coming through the door,” said Lucy when asked if there was a rise in sport participation, “People saw women doing so well and started saying ‘I want to give that a go’ and are getting involved.”
Recently some sportswomen have been taking their kit off for magazines and are usually given far from positive comments when it comes to the image of their sport. Kate appears to feel differently. “If I could look like that that would be amazing and I would be showing my body off,” said Kate, “there’s the sexualisation and then there’s showing them as athletes and flaunting these gorgeous machines that they’ve created.”
Media coverage is something that needs to be addressed in order for women in sport to be fully celebrated and welcomed, but before that the matter of commercial advertisement for women sports needs to be re-evaluated after Tim confirmed only “0.5% of all commercial advertisement goes into women sports.”
Slowly, these figures may rise, and Newton’s sponsoring of the women’s Oxford & Cambridge boat race now means the women’s race aims to be on the same day and live on BBC in 2015.
When questioned as to how the UK can learn from the US, Kate was keen to point back to a federal law. “The US created a federal law in the 70’s called ‘Title XI’ which is far from even a sports law, it’s a general equity law,” said Kate and went onto state how America’s collegiate schemes at school and University level have changed the face of women sport. “In the states we have such a massive following of American football that pays for the entire athletic department. Women’s rowing may… be where it is today [because of] men’s American football.”
The Olympic games last year were labeled as ‘The Women’s Olympics’ by IOC President Jaques Rogge after history was made as every country had female athletes and the legacy from the games seems to be taking a steady climb for women’s sport.
“It takes time,” said Tim, and Rome took a longer that a day to build, however its now a global attraction that everyone talks about – One day women in sport may have that global attraction.
How does this growth in women’s sport contribute to gender equality in other fields?