What Do Men Think of Women’s Sport?

In the first of The Mixed Zone’s contributions to Women’s Sport Week, Gail Emms delves into the male psyche to see what a cross-section of men really think about women doing sport. She was more than slightly taken aback by some responses and reassured by others.

Why did I even dare go and ask the question: What do men really think about women’s sport? Probably because I was intrigued to be honest. With various media outlets promoting Women’s Sport Week, as well as conferences up and down the country, I wanted to know if all this effort is worth it? Are these events just ticking boxes and preaching to the converted? Is there hope for women’s sport and have attitudes changed? Well, this is what I found. Prepare yourself. Some of this may rile some readers and cause offence.

I sent out a text to a select few friends. All male and all with varying degrees of interest in sport. The message read:

‘I’m writing an article on women’s sport and would love to have your view / opinion please! And if you could sum up women’s sport in a few words, what would you say? Your honesty is appreciated and your comments will be anonymous. Many thanks, Gail’

All of the recipients know me well and know that I am a supporter of women’s sport, and believe me, they didn’t hold back on their replies. The first text came through:

‘Women should only do gymnastics and beach volleyball.’

This could be a long day. Next response:

‘There are men’s sports and women’s sports, and the lines shouldn’t be crossed.’

Erm … OK? What does that even mean?

‘I’ll watch athletics and beach volleyball but not football and rugby.’

Ah, two mentions for beach volleyball already and we’re only on the third message.

‘Women’s football is OK until the goalkeepers get involved.’

Because the goalkeepers in men’s football are 100 per cent perfect, right?!

This is my personal favourite and thank goodness this was through a friend and I don’t know this person …

‘They can do it, but I’m not watching.’

I am soooo grateful for your permission. My life is now complete.

It was not looking good at all and these responses were from guys who are mates and sports fans. I was surprised at the general lack of respect and them being absolutely fine with that. According to a lot of the responses, beach volleyball is the only one to watch. Oh, unless swapping shirts becomes a rule as well.

However, there were rays of light. It wasn’t all doom and gloom and a few responses lifted my spirits.

‘Sport is sport, regardless if you’re a man or a woman.’

Yippeee!

‘There shouldn’t be a need to say “women’s sport” as it is still sport.’

Finally, some sense.

‘It’s skilful and has more finesse.’

Keep going …

‘It’s hard to judge it as it has less funding so it’s unfair.’

We all know about that!

‘Women athletes have better skills and mental attributes than male athletes for certain sports and that’s good to observe.’

I am loving this.

The most powerful comment, however, was from a friend who replied:

‘My opinion has massively changed since having a daughter. As a man, I was unaware of the inequality until I was personally involved. Now I make it a priority to make sure there is sufficient funding and resources to help girl’s sport grow. I don’t want my daughter to go through what other women had to, just to be able to achieve her goals.’

I think this comment sums it up really. We are never ‘political’ until it is an issue that affects us and we are never ‘outraged’ until it is a personal attack.

I talk in schools about normalising a culture where sport and fitness activities are part of a healthy lifestyle for young people. Let’s start normalising women’s sport as just sport. Nothing more, nothing less, just completely normal, and maybe the next generation can carry this on into the future.

Men will never know how it feels to be a girl being told that she can’t do a sport as a job, as that’s what boys do, or to be handed a piece of sportswear kit, so sexualised because that’s what the sponsors decide she is supposed to wear. But we can educate the next generation that this old-fashioned and outdated view of thinking stops now. Sport is sport, regardless.

 

Watch Gail’s #giving100percent interview here

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gail Emms MBE is one of Britain’s most successful badminton players, best remembered for her silver medal in the mixed doubles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. With partner Nathan Robertson, she won gold at the World Championships in 2006, the Commonwealth Games in the same year, and the European Championships in 2004. Gail was six times national mixed doubles champion and national ladies doubles champion five times. Since retiring after the Beijing Olympic Games, Gail has been a versatile sports presenter on a variety of television and radio programmes. She was awarded the MBE for services to badminton in 2009. She is the mother of two boys. Gail’s latest articles

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gail Emms MBE is one of Britain’s most successful badminton players, best remembered for her silver medal in the mixed doubles at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. With partner Nathan Robertson, she won gold at the World Championships in 2006, the Commonwealth Games in the same year, and the European Championships in 2004. Gail was six times national mixed doubles champion and national ladies doubles champion five times. Since retiring after the Beijing Olympic Games, Gail has been a versatile sports presenter on a variety of television and radio programmes. She was awarded the MBE for services to badminton in 2009. She is the mother of two boys. Gail’s latest articles

2 thoughts on “What Do Men Think of Women’s Sport?

  • 5th October 2016 at 9:10 am
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    The one thing I have noticed is how different women are judged by men when they make a error. Be it a player at fault or a women covering sport in the media. Amnesia seems to set in like men have never made any mistakes ever before.

    Comments like she is good for a women or for a women she knows a lot about sport are also still routinely heard coming out of mens mouths. Like it is a massive surprise that women should even have an interest in sport let alone know plenty about it.

    On the positives I heard a group of women in a cafe discussing football (it was not the team of the offside podcast) and mentioning Manchester City winning the FA WSL title. One then went on to say that her daughter wants to start playing football having seen the match on TV.

    Reply
  • 4th January 2017 at 2:37 pm
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    A gender sensitivity issue. Well, there no such thing as men can do and women can’t in terms of sports or any outdoor activities.

    Reply

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