“Discrimination Of Abused Black Sportswomen” By Cheryl Roberts

19 Feb

When South Africa’s black women footballers are attacked and abused by violence and hate, few people sympathise, some show empathy. But now, in our midst is a white male sports champion, whose killing of a woman has rocked our society.

It’s a fact that black sportswomen get a raw deal in the sports network! When black women footballers are attacked, hated on, abused, murdered, South African society murmurs here and there about hate crime and homophobia being wrong. A few headlines may say ‘lesbian killed in hate crime’.

When women footballers are bludgeoned and murdered, sport is quiet and says nothing, despite their members being attacked and abused. Sport pushes the headlines away as if the lesbian women footballers are not a part of the sports realm.

In our South African society, its seemingly okay for sportswomen, particularly black women footballers, to be attacked, assaulted and killed but when a sportsman, who happens to be white, male, heterosexual, sports champion, does the attacking and killing of a woman, then its portrayed as shocking news ‘which couldn’t have been done by the nice sports champion we know’.

Because the sportsman is a champion and global sports star, some public opinion and some media representatives would have us believing that a world champion sportsman is incapable of killing a woman in an abusive manner.

And what about the sportswomen, the women footballers who have been viciously murdered and abused? Shouldn’t these attacks not have happened to our sportswomen?

Get this! Abusive men are everywhere in society: in families, schools, at work, in communities, in neighbourhoods and also in sport.

It is difficult being a woman in sport as you go through the sports pyramid system to reach international participation, but it’s a VERY different journey if you are a black woman in sport.

Black sportswomen have been largely ignored by commercial sponsors and advertisers and receive minimal media applause, celebration and publicity. Now that pressure has been placed on media to improve gender profiling of sports people, this has changed a little, but not enough.

At this moment, from seemingly out of nowhere, South Africa’s Paralympian champion Oscar Pistorius’ killing of his girlfriend reveals the ugly facets of discrimination which black sportswomen face and the justice rights which they are denied.

As I write this blog, Freegender, a social justice activist organizations is distributing pamphlets in the community surrounds of Khayalitisha looking for a rapist believed to be freely roaming the streets. This rapist brutally attacked and raped a woman footballer, who survived to tell her story of victim abuse and to identify her attacker.

Admittedly, the killing of a woman by a global sports hero has rocked world news. I, myself am intrigued by it. I’m also guilty of being the public jury. From where I am and receiving the news via various media sources, I have proclaimed Oscar Pistorius GUILTY, after being told by the media, he fired four shots at a woman.

The many sportswomen who have been brutally attacked, raped, assaulted and murdered have not been supported by people as their deaths should have warranted. These football players, amongst them being, Eudy Simelane, Zoliswa Nkonyane, Luleka Makiwane, Sihle Sikoje, were members of organsied sports structures, who participated in sport from club to international level. When the assaults and attacks against the women footballers’ bodies occurred, it was noted as being about ‘lesbians and homophobic attacks’. The media writes it out as if it’s a lesbian thing and not as a sportswoman’s horrendous murder.

Sport treats it as a non-entity, unimportant to the sports realm which concentrates solely on athlete development in sports events and sports competition.

And the women ignored are black, gender non-conforming and non-heterosexual, living in the township. They are women who love sport, especially football, and who have not allowed a gender conforming, heterosexual dominant society to define them accordingly. They have shaped their own identity and image according to who they are and want to be.

South African sport, to the best of my information, has not taken a stance against the assaults and attacks which sportswomen have faced.

South African sport has been ridiculously silent. But this doesn’t mean they accept these attacks on women’s bodies or that they agree with them. But what it does indicate is that South African sport just doesn’t care or couldn’t be bothered.

And then one of our most loved, respected and admired sports champions commits a killing which rattles the South African nation. South African sport remained quiet when black sportswomen were attacked, their bodies violated and their beings left for dead. Now they have one of their greatest sportsmen facing a murder charge.

There’s great admiration when we have pride in our sportsmen on the sports stage, especially their incredible sports prowess, but there’s no ways we can have respect for a sportsman’s abuse and violence towards women and it’s not a matter of what they do in their personal time being their private. A sportsman’s violent abuse of a woman, whatever his global status, should not be tolerated in society.

Yes, Oscar Pistorius has still got to be proven guilty, but I’m amazed at some public opinion and thought that a sportsman of his global sports prowess couldn’t have done this vicious shooting without snapping or the gun doing it on its own. So do all men snap when they brutally abuse women, when they rape and murder them through violence. Get this! Sportsmen, like other men, have also abused and do abuse women!

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