1. Women make up just 9 per cent of all sports coverage in Australian TV news and current affairs – horseracing sits at 10 per cent
2. When the men’s cricket team lost the Ashes in January, there were 25,426 media reports. When the women won, there were 2,780
3. Organisers for the London Olympics have priced tickets to female events well below their male counterparts
4. At 10 years of age, 64.6 per cent of girls play organised sport; by age 35, it’s 12.8 per cent.
Why, in 2011, when gender equality is arguably at an all-time high, is recognition of women’s sport in the media so utterly appalling? Why is there still minimal representation of female leadership on Australian sporting bodies (women hold 83 spots out of 395)? Why don’t female sports receive equal funding? Why did only 12 out of the 53 sports on Federal Communications Minister Stephen Conroy’s TV anti-siphoning list (sports that must be shown on free to air) late last year involve women? Why aren’t women receiving greater sponsorship dollars? They deserve it as much as the next bloke.
Let me clear up one thing: this argument is not about fighting men for media space. Hell, I married a two-time premiership AFL captain – I love men’s sport – but there’s space for us all. We need to support and acknowledge our sportswomen at both professional and grassroots levels and give them the media coverage and recognition they deserve.
Who would you rather your daughter pin-up on her bedroom wall: Rihanna or Ellyse Perry? Do a quick straw poll of any Year 5 class and I bet 95 per cent of kids chirp “Rihannaaa!”. Oh that’s right, she was recently gallivanting around an Irish field with her boobs out – what a classy role model she is. In fact, do you even know who Ellyse is? What about Jessica Gallagher, Caroline Buchanan, Sarah Mycroft? These women should be household names. In order of mentioning: Ellyse, who studies economics at uni, is the youngest person to represent Australia in cricket and the youngest female to represent us in soccer, too. Jess was the first Australian woman to win a Paralympic winter medal; her event in Vancouver was slalom and she’s legally blind. Caroline is a four-time world champion in BMX and mountain biking and Sarah ran 14,772km around Australia last November – the first woman to do so. Meet these women, which I have, and you’ll be truly inspired by their stories, ambitions, values and character.
However, it’s not just about watching sport, women of all ages need to get involved. The list of health benefits – both physical and mental – from sport is as long as Julia Gillard’s carbon tax argument. Only way more exciting. The more women play it; the more we’ll watch it. Have you heard of goalball? Muni? Acro? Camogie? They’re all sports Aussie women are powering in.
When was the last time you watched women play sport on TV or live? We need to start conversations in the community that inspire you to grab your best mate – male or female – and watch your local netball team or get involved yourself; draw attention to the issue of inequality in the media and, ultimately, increase media coverage of females in sport. And that doesn’t include reports on Black Caviar.
Felicity Harley is the editor of Women’s Health. The November issue is out now featuring the winners of the I Support Women in Sport Awards. The WH Sportswoman of the Year, surfing super-star Steph Gilmore, is on the cover, look out for it on news stands.
When was the last time you watched women play sport on TV or live?