The focus of discussion about women in sport — specifically the discrimination they face, the lack of support and promotion, the disinterest from the media and the huge pay differences between female and male athletes — has overwhelmingly been on the elite or national level.
Recently the women’s cricket team, the Southern Stars, outshone the Australian men’s cricket team when they won the Women Ashes against the English team. But like the other national women's teams that have enjoyed significant success — the Hockeyroos and Matildas — they only get a small proportion of the support and attention their male equivalents get. And usually they only get attention when they are successful.
On the other hand, we hear about all the dramas — good and bad, frequently in minute detail — of male sports stars across many fields.
But it seems the situation for women's sport at the local community level could be even worse.
The Leader community newspapers in Victoria reported that their investigation in the Bayside area of Melbourne revealed that “of the 2200 registered netball players in that area, 190 women have received a forced ‘bye’ each week because there are not enough courts to play on. And Bayside has 27 sports pavilions, but only one female change room.”
It added that “across Melbourne women and girls are expected to play on sub-standard pitches and courts, or they drop sport altogether because the community doesn’t value women’s sport”.
There are many implications from this situation; that there is a lack of opportunity for women and girls to maintain or improve their physical health and their emotional and mental well-being, including boosting their self-esteem through physical activity; that it sends a message about which gender we value; and that it reinforces a passive female stereotype.
This is what a rich capitalist society has to offer half the population. The Leader’s revelations are a sad admission that, as far as women and girls are concerned, we still have a long way to go before we can say we have equal opportunities. And this reality is certainly not limited to sport.
There is hope in the fact that such discrimination is being exposed and discussed. It is time we moved on to action to change it.