Against Abuse Of Sportsgirls: Sport Can No Longer Remain Silent By Cheryl Roberts

13 Nov

South African sport should not be silent when sportswomen’s bodies and identities, especially teenage sports girls, are being abused, attacked and murdered, by men who assume they have the right to control women’s spaces and bodies.

Girls and women play sport to enjoy the game, not to become another victim or survivor of abuse and hate. However, it’s another horrendous act of violence against a sports girl. One stab, one life gone. This time, it’s the life of a 19 year old teenage girl. She’s black, a teenage girl, lives in a working class hood and a footballer.

Her name is Sihle Skotshi and she was, at one time in her young life, a junior player for Winnies Ladies FC in Guguletu and a registered member of SAFA Cape Town and SAFA

And the act of violence which claimed her young life was carried out by a thug male who demanded that his space, at the tavern ekasi, be frequented by people whom he wanted o be there and not by women, especially non-feminine women who did not portray the woman’s image as he deemed correct.

Abuse and violence against women and girls is rampant and widespread in South African society. Violence against women in sport and our sports girls is increasing big time, instead of decreasing big time. There have occurred too many deaths of innocent, defenceless sportswomen because of men who want to be in charge of what they term is male turf and the male domain.

And now a teenage girl who should have been playing football, having the ball and world at her feet, is already in heaven eternally, having lived just 19 years. Another horrendous act of violence against a sports girl and thousands of township living girls and women are living in fear, asking will they be next, when will this violence against their bodies, their sexuality, their identity, their being, be eliminated from society altogether.

This fear by the girls and women is real and honest. However much we empathise and sympathise, for those of us who don’t live in these spaces where the thugs rule open spaces as their turf, we don’t really know what fear the women encounter or face as daily and nightly challenges, because we don’t live there.

Some talk about the senseless murder and killing of ‘lesbians’ that is referred to as hate crime. I emphasise the horrendous and violent deaths of our sportswomen because several of the women including Eudy, Luleka, Zoliswa, Sihle (the latest victim) were all league football players, with their own identity, body structure and image.

Sportswomen have not, as a group representative, added their voice to public hate crime campaigns. At least three women footballers, Eudy Simelane and Zoliswa Nkonyana and Luleka Makiwane have been victims of hate attacks and did not survive. But it’s been civil society structures, outside of sport, that have spearheaded support and justice for the women footballers.

Most people, and certainly the majority of society, surely don’t agree with these senseless murders. Even if they occur outside of the victim’s home, in the tavern, in the road, on the sports field, the fact and law is that no man has the right to take out any woman because he doesn’t approve of her behaviour, sexual image or identity. And most of the women victims of hate, which occurs in the form of assault, rape, stabbings and murder, have been attacked and killed outside their family homes.

Sport can no longer remain silent as women’s bodies are wrongfully claimed and bludgeoned. Sport can no longer ignore these brutal killings of our sports girls and sportswomen. And no longer should sport respond as if this is a non-sport issue and just another lesbian challenge. Women of various sexualities engage in, participate in and consume sport, making up the sports paradigm of players, administrators, spectators.

Sport is not just about playing the game, about winning titles and medals. It’s about the social positing of people in society and everything associated with living in society. And that includes women and sexuality, women and image, women and identity.

These vicious, brutal attacks on women in sport and our sportswomen are a result of patriarchy and the arrogant assumption of heterosexism to assume that all should embrace patriarchy and heterosexuality. It is the assumption by men to believe, in their small minds, they have the ‘right’ to own and control women’s bodies.

This challenge is very deeply constructed with misrepresentations and false ownership of women’s bodies, image and identity. Its also negatively prevalent in a community like Mitchells Plain, where the young teenage girl footballers are discriminated against because they play football. These young girls in sport are under attack in their family homes and in some schools by ignorant, patriarchy-supporting teachers, both women and men teachers, who insist on defining the girls’ image, identity and body construction. Its a hood challenge, a South African, African and global challenge, and the most affected are girls from working class communities

Whilst it may seem, via media reports and writings and reflections on hate committed against lesbians that this is prevalent only amongst black women, these harmful behaviours of abusing non-heterosexual girls and women is also emerging in other communities, for instance in Mitchells Plain. The only difference is that a murder in other communities, outside of Black townships, has not occurred. But this abuse of sports girls, who do not embrace the feminine image, is very much gathering steam.

Sportswomen must find an organized voice, make it powerful and effective and challenge all that the system negates against them, whether it’s sexuality, financial allocation, male hegemony and officialdom.

South African sport must engage in a national campaign against all abuse and attacks against girls and women in sport. We must demand this speak out campaign and refuse to be silent and quiet, seemingly as if we don’t care about what happens to our women in sport, when they are not on the playing fields

(photo: By ZImage(photo by: Zanele Muholi)


One Response to “Against Abuse Of Sportsgirls: Sport Can No Longer Remain Silent By Cheryl Roberts”

  1. africanwomanwarrior December 3, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    Reblogged this on africanwomanwarriorcherylroberts.

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