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- 21 May 2015 00:00
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Whether they would openly admit it or not, many men are not particularly interested in women’s sport. Perhaps that's because they compare it, directly and unfairly, to male sport.
The Women’s Sports Trust charity recently held its first ever "Game Changers” awards, celebrating the huge leaps that have been made in changing the perception of women’s sports.
But whether they would openly admit it or not, many men still have a problem with women’s sport. An awful lot of them simply don't care about it as much as male sport. Are the assumptions that female sport is less competitive or less skillful, true? More importantly, what should be done about it?
As the Telegraph’s Women’s Editor Emma Barnett has said on the subject:, "There’s no logical reason why women’s sport fails to receive the kind of attention and big money that even the worst men’s sports teams can command.”
No one can argue with the fact that women’s sports have been suppressed, edged out of mainstream media coverage and dismissed by broadcasters and the press as a marginal interest. Therefore in this day and age should women’s sports be subject to equal media coverage, sponsorship, status and prize money?
Men however are by far the biggest consumers of sport in the UK. It’s an integral part of male culture.
The biggest problems seem to arise in the marquee sports, those traditionally dominated by men – football, rugby, boxing. It's here that men seem to exhibit a real mental barrier.
Is it that society has been brainwashed to believe that women’s sport simply isn’t as important?
There’s a commonly held notion that the standard of play in women's sports isn’t as thrillingly high as in the men’s equivalents. "There's no female Messi" is a popular refrain. Or "Nadal would wipe the floor with Serena Williams". It’s hard to say whether that’s actually true, but it illustrates one of the main stumbling blocks. That men judge female sport by comparing it, directly and unfairly, to male sport, instead of on its own merits. In many sports, the male participants may well be faster, stronger, or even more technically accomplished, but that's not a reason to give up on female sport, which can be just as competitive or equally dramatic.
Consider the England women’s rugby team's performance in winning the World Cup last year, or the storming efforts of the female members of Team GB at the 2012 Olympics (who won 36 per cent of Great Britain's medals). Exciting enough?
In the end, the general male attitude to female sport is a pervasive one that will take a lot of work to un-do. Women don't need male validation to do what they want, on the sports field or anywhere else. But it does matter when men so clearly dominate the world of sport, on and off the pitch.
So here's a thought ... Why not get behind the women’s England football team when they head to Canada for this summer's World Cup (you've no excuse, every match is on BBC Two!).