Friday, November 09, 2007

Indian sportswomen "second class"

The Hindustan Times has a good article about the utter lack of support for women's sports and female athletes in India. In describing the conditions--lack of quality equipment, poor facilities, no media coverage, and pitiful compensation--I began to think about what state women's sports in the US would be in were it not for Title IX. While Title IX applies only to athletic opportunities within educational institutions and not national teams like those referenced in the article, we all know that colleges and universities provide a training and recruiting ground for national teams in many cases.
Of course sometimes the differences are not so exaggerated. Women's sports in the US get very little media coverage and when they are the coverage is often problematic due the sexualiation, infantilization, and general lack of respect for female athletes.
And the issue of compensation is also a good one. We all know that athletes on women's professional team sports earn far less than their male counterparts. The article discusses the amount of money the national, championship-winning field hockey teams--both men's and women's--earned. You can probably guess who earned significantly less.
But this happens at the national team level in the US as well. I heard a very interesting story from sportswriter Dave Zirin in Pittsburgh last week.
In 1996 the US women's national soccer team protested the disparity in their compensation as compared to the men's national team and threatened not to play the Olympics. USA Soccer attempted to call their bluff and brought in a B team of scabs. But it became apparent that this team was not going to cut it in Atlanta and would look bad that the host country in the first year of women's soccer as an Olympic event had sent a second-rate team. So they brought back the A team but kept a few of the line-crossers around to keep everyone in line, I suppose. One of those was Brandi Chastain. Slight digression from the topic but interesting piece of trivia.
Anyway, the article out of India gives me some hope that things will change there. It is a clear call for Indian sports administrators to pay more attention to women's sports and in a sense shames them by noting that other countries like new Zealand and Australia are providing more equitable treatment. Nothing like a little guilt and playing on a competitive nature to get things changed.

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