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Artwork By Nicole Sizer

Sport the Difference

By Celaena June Sardothian

CW: sexism, cissexism

It is impossible to escape stereotypes about women. I think everyone has seen, heard, or been subject to some sort of stereotype, especially when it comes to women in sport. Across the whole industry, those stereotypes affect how women are treated from the court to the playing field. Girls never get picked first for teams. People hesitate before passing you the ball, or avoid throwing it to you altogether. Boys and girls play on different courts, and in different leagues, because otherwise it wouldn’t be fair.

I never really cared much for the whole ‘boys are better than girls in sport’ thing, because for the most part I thought it wasn’t all that true. I’ve always considered myself quite good at sport. I tried a bit of everything, from football to badminton to gymnastics, and usually did just as well as my three brothers. Looking back, it’s obvious I was lucky in that I had male siblings (even if they did take it easy on me when we played together) and a sporty family, who encouraged me to pursue sport. I also found a sport that I loved, and so I never really lost interest in physical activity. It could have so easily gone the other way, like it does for a lot of us.

I have 3 distinct memories about sport in my childhood:

  1. I used to get out of running laps at school because my (male) sport teacher knew later that day I would be playing representative basketball and wanted me to save my energy for the game. I played with my best friend and we were the only “representative” basketball players in our year so it was a pretty big deal for our school. My teacher seemed genuinely impressed at our sporting abilities and knew we could deal with the extra exercise but wanted us to really excel.
  2. My Dad said to me one Saturday evening, the night before an early basketball training session that he didn’t want to take me there anymore because “[I] wouldn’t get anywhere with basketball anyway”. I didn’t really understand why he said that, everyone at school was so supportive and my brothers played basketball too and Mum was happy to take me… so why did my Dad have an issue? I still don’t know.
  3. In year six, my school basketball team (girls) played in the boys’ division because we were too good for the girls’ competition. We couldn’t play in any other division; we were the oldest age group for primary school sport and were in the top girls division so the boys division was the only realistic option. We assumed the boys division would be more stimulating; the competition was better because they enjoyed the game more and played more aggressively, so it was more of a challenge. The boys, though, were angry at the audacity of the league to allow such a ‘violation’ of rules. My mum remembers the boys’ parents being appalled at the idea and wanted to watch us lose. We finished 3rd!

Primary school was great for me. I won sports awards and had heaps of athletics ribbons and loved being on the oval at lunch time with my friends playing any sport we wanted. My best friends and I fit in perfectly amongst the boys and they loved the competition! Back then we weren’t afraid to show some friendly aggression.

After primary school comes high school, and well, puberty. I watched friends’ interest in physical activity drop, and was disheartened to find that everybody else found this normal. At lunch, we self-segregated, with the boys playing footy and the girls sitting in the shade. The average Beep Test score for girls in my age group dropped each year, while the boys’ would rise. I hated it and it made me sad. It didn’t make sense to me, and still doesn’t really.

In basketball, girls nails had to be kept short because scratching was a major concern, the boys didn’t seem to have that rule; I guess if the boys got scratched they just had to suck it up? Maybe it was just because long nails were more of a “girl thing”? Who knows? I didn’t love the idea that in tennis the girls had to play 2 fewer sets than the boys. If I’m playing a sport then I wanted to make the most of it! I came to tire myself out!! I never tried netball, the girls at school would always talk about how bitchy the girls were and I wasn’t for that at all. Maybe I’ll never understand why rules and regulations in sport are so sexist.

Ultimately, I found the biggest difference between boys and girls when it came to sport was aggression: boys could get away with playing rough without judgement or fear for their safety, while for us girls, aggression was seen as unladylike. Aggression was perceived as a male trait, and girls who played sport with some attitude were often labelled “manly”. It was important to me that I had an avenue to be aggressive without feeling unladylike.

Once I found a sport that worked for me I latched onto it. Volleyball! It was perfect for me in so many ways: a full body work out, a team sport, offence and defence combined, and the best part? It’s aggressive as hell (but there’s a net between you and the other team so aggression is more than acceptable). In fact, we are constantly told to be more aggressive, and at the end of the games when you shake hands with the other team they comment on how well you play if you play aggressively!! It was the only sport I found where I could show aggression and refs didn’t take it the wrong way.

I’ve been playing volleyball almost exclusively now for about 10 years. I like to imagine the other sports I tried in my childhood are different now to how I experienced them, and are less dependent on stereotypes about girls and women. It’s possible I had a completely different experience to others, and that they never experience sexism in sport, but I fear that’s wishful thinking. Women in sport aren’t taken as seriously or treated the same way as men.

In the meantime, I’ll wait patiently for our turn and cheer on any movement in the right direction! Women’s AFL, Michelle Payne, the Williams sisters. It’s looking good.

 

 

“It’s Just Locker Room Talk”

By Hamah Hosen

CW: sexism, sexual assault, rape, rape culture, sexual harassment, victim blaming

A newly structured version of “boys will be boys” has emerged,
highlighting the continuation of sexism within our society.

The framing of sexist comments as banter suggests
this behaviour is tolerated,
this behaviour is acceptable
That is of course,
as long as no one opposes them,
as long as it’s not taken seriously,
as long as they can be seen as a joke

Disrespect is no joke.
cat-calls while walking on the street
sexist jokes on the public bus
non-consensual grabbing at work
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

The reality is,
these words are rarely ever only confined in the private environment of locker rooms.
But somehow…
they remained said with an excuse
they remain said with a justification
they remain said to facilitate rape culture

It’s a dangerous game facilitating an attitude of no accountability
in a culture …
where 1 in 3 women will become victims of sexual violence.
where 1 in 6 men are victims of sexual violence.
where less than 15% of rapes are reported
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

The ‘Game of Life’ is automatically sabotaged
Free unlimited spins of the rhetoric
Rewards for moving on in the journey
Lucky chances for not being the 1 in 3

It becomes a constant struggle to win the game …
when we constantly have to tug and re-adjust our clothing while passing the players
when we constantly have to try to speed up our pace while passing the players
when we constantly have to watch that we aren’t provoking while passing the players
But don’t worry, “It’s Just Locker Room Talk”.

There’s no win-win in this situation
The odds are not in our favour,
as long as the rhetoric remains intact
at the office,
at the shops,
in the bathrooms.

This tired rhetoric needs to be challenged.
It’s been overused and reused.
We need to refuse to accept these conversations as a norm
We need to refuse to stay silent
We need to refuse to see this rhetoric as an excuse

“Locker room talk” is not simply locker room talk.

 

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