I was sifting through the Sunday Times sport section this week being, frankly, highly critical. This is an easy stance to take when it comes to newspapers and sport – there is barely any coverage at all of women in sport on their pages, with females accounting for, on average, anywhere from 0% to 5% of content.
So, you can imagine my surprise when, in The Sunday Times, after the usual pages of sport by men, men, men, there was showcased a specific section on women. Okay, I thought, taken aback. I’d rather women in sport weren’t segregated to a separate area, integrated as female sport truly should be into male domains so the join is seamless, but hey, at least it was something, so I read on.
The paper was celebrating the Sports Woman of the Year Awards and one of the articles was about world taekwondo champion, Bianca Walkden. It talked about her achievements, her successes, a big picture of her in her sport kit adorning the bulk of the page. But then there was another photo of her, a shot of her smiling in a black party dress. Huh, I thought, they don’t do those type of shots with the men’s sport articles, but, ever the optimist, I gave the paper the benefit of the doubt until I got to the byline underneath the main shot. It read, and I quote:
“Wonder Woman: Bianca Walkdean is not to be messed with when it comes to taekwondo, at which she is champion, but she is just as happy to look the part for a night out, inset.”
I almost dropped the paper, I swear. What? I mean, what? I had to read this three times before I could believe it was real and not a seedy line in a red top newspaper or some lads mag. Just as happy to look the part on a night out? What is this? Hey, Sunday Times! The 1950s called an they want their era back. Here we have all these amazing sports women who have achieved so much, and, instead of sticking to celebrating this, the Sunday Times choose to reduce Bianca Walkden’s success to how she’s willing to get dolled up. You never, ever see this with men in sport, so why with women?
Here’s the bottom line: women play sport and it has nothing, NOTHING to do with our looks. What we wear on a night out should have no bearing at all to the coverage these amazing, accomplished sports women receive. So, sports editors, when writing about women in sport, ask yourselves, before you publish a piece: Would we treat the men like this? If the answer’s no, then don’t do it. It’s a question the Sunday Times Sports section should have asked itself. It’s a question all media outlets should ask themselves. And maybe then will desperately needed progress finally be made.
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