a push for women in sport – Palatinate
By Annie Belle
On July 31, the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 final thrilled the nation. Over 17 million of us tuned in to catch England’s triumph, making it the most-watched British televised event of the year so far and setting a new viewership record. Commentators Alex Scott and Ian White were quick to exclaim what a step forward this was for women’s sport and how embarrassed those stadiums should be that recently refused to host women’s championships. While this can be interpreted as a positive sign of women’s sport gaining recognition and popularity, it didn’t take long for the team to remind us that there is still a long way to go to promote women’s empowerment in sport .
In a letter to leadership candidates Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss, Lionesses emphasized the importance of a commitment to supporting girls’ empowerment and athletic aspirations in school, reminding them that only 63% of school girls are currently allowed to play soccer at all. What can be done to inspire young girls’ sporting ambitions and give them as many opportunities as their male peers? When will women’s sport be valued equally? It seems that something needs to be done to change the archaic discourse that sport is unfeminine and inappropriate for women.
It is important to note that there need not be a dispute between men’s and women’s sports. They don’t need to be pitted against each other in a popularity or dominance contest, nor does equality mean men’s sports are threatened or downplayed. We should work with men to change public perceptions of women’s sport. Still, in the name of justice, a shift in focus to women’s sport seems needed.
In order to tackle gender inequality in sport, I think more female athletes should be included in sport curricula. The students should not only get to know male athletes and be able to relate to them, but also be able to look up to successful female athletes in the same way. In this way, existing sporting successes of women would be recognized and existing prejudices would be dismantled at the same time. Posters should be put up in classrooms and biographies in libraries so that little girls with sporting dreams stop thinking their greatest achievement is emulating Ronaldo or Messi and instead strive to be the next Leah Williamson or Chloe Kelly.
In addition, schools must give equal recognition to the sporting achievements of students, regardless of gender. They must also ensure girls have a safe and supportive environment to further their sporting aspirations. Sometimes distancing oneself from male colleagues and the male gaze can be much less intimidating and more comfortable, and eliminate some fears of being watched or ridiculed. By making sports clubs and clubs a convivial place, a welcoming atmosphere is created. This gives girls the important ability to network and create an opportunity for woman’s empowerment by connecting and encouraging one another. It might be beneficial to set up a female mentoring system in schools to mentor young female athletes and provide them with crucial support and advice.
I also think that uniform freedom should be built in, at least at beginner level. Do female athletes really have to play in tight booty shorts or miniskirts? This can discourage girls from playing sports, especially when compared to the more practical and covering men’s sports uniforms. It is important not only to establish body positivity in students, which is particularly important for teenage girls and young women, but also to prevent the often observed hypersexualization of female athletes.
Isn’t it time we stopped labeling women’s sports as “different”? Why doesn’t the UEFA European Championship include the relevant gender in the title? We need to stop presenting the female version of sporting events as an alternative and the male version as the standard main event.
One thing that really struck me while watching the game was how palpable their passion for gaming was, an observation I sincerely doubt was unique to me. Instead of maintaining the somewhat obnoxious and smug vibe that many male footballers can have, the lionesses’ gratitude and joy seemed to shine through the screen. The triumphant event was proof beyond any doubt that women are just as interested in the sport as men and, in fact, have just as much talent at it. It’s time we honored that.
Pictured: Rosie Bromiley