Historically sports have been a gendered domain where men would show their skills and prowess. Within time, cis men of various gender identities were allowed to take part albeit with stigma from both the sports authorities as well as the audience and spectators. Men were always encouraged to participate in competitive organised sports while women remained mere spectators.
Sports have been associated with masculinity like physical prowess, aggression, dominance, and competitiveness; all are categorised as male traits that only men can achieve and only men can watch for amusement and satisfaction. This masculinity of sports renders women and other genders as inferior chartering them as meek, fragile, weak etc, not fit to partake in something competitive and aggressive.
The spectatorship of sports is also mainly men and women often watch the sports through the male gaze. Organised sports though have been reconstructed over the years with women showing skills and talents in predominantly ‘muscular,’ and ‘masculine,’ sports like cricket, wrestling, soccer, etc, however, with the patriarchal notions and social stigma associated with women in sports, not much has changed.
Women and other genders face various challenges and biases even if they carve a place in organised sports, they face, a lack of viewership, lack of sponsorships and encouragement, and worse, sexism and harassment as men are mostly at the helm of organised sports. Recent women wrestlers’ protest in New Delhi, illustrates how, women in sports are maltreated, shunned, and harassed when they speak about workplace harassment, abuse and injustices.
Sexism, misogyny and abuse in sports are persistent issues which are rarely addressed and policies governing rarely amended. There are many reasons for this, one goes back to the gendering of sports and women not being taken seriously and the other could be that women hold very few authoritative positions in sports. Unfortunately with male politicians in nexus with the male authorities in organised sports in India and globally, women remain underrepresented, unheard and discouraged.
Various gender minorities, including trans communities, have time and again been under the radar of hetronormative devices in sports with the question arising of whether trans women be placed in the same category as cis women. This debate has been going on and on for decades with conservatives protesting to not include trans women in the cis women category. Last year World Athletics banned trans women from taking part in the women’s events in spots, which led to some trans women quitting the sports altogether.
Casteism is a social issue and injustice, particularly operating to sports in India. Many times, women from Dalit, Adivasis and other caste minorities are discouraged and not given any chance in sports as the caste creeps into all the institutions and systems in the country. While addressing gender in sports, ethnicities, caste and class, cannot be ignored as all of these intersect in sports.
Gender bias, sexism, workplace harassment and casteism in sports offer women and other gender minorities who are already marginalised and underrepresented, less to no opportunities. Masculine imagery associated with sports is only harming the women and gender minorities to take part in sports even though when organised sports claim to have been constructed and reconstrued over the years. Issues like these need to be addressed, and policies and revaluation of values and ethics of sports need to be taken into account. Often values and systems in sports stem from patriarchy and that need to be questioned.
To create discourse and bring to light the inequalities, biases, and prejudices in sports, against women and other gender minorities of various ethnicities, castes etc, FII is inviting submissions on Gender And Sports throughout January 2024.
Here are a few broad pointers that may help you write your articles on the topic:
- Women in sports
- Transgender communities and sports
- Women, caste, and sports
- Workplace harassment in sports
- Male gaze in sports
- Gender-based violence in sports
- Biases based on race, religion, language and ethnicity
- Mental health and sports
This list is not exhaustive. Please write on other topics within the theme that we may have missed listing here. Some of these topics are extremely personal, and if you wish to maintain anonymity concerning the publication of such pieces, kindly mention them in your email.
We look forward to your drafts and hope you enjoy writing them
Featured Illustration: Ritika Banerjee for Feminism In India