Why Do Women Not Support Sportswomen? By Cheryl Roberts

15 Mar


Of course, women love sport. But why don’t women show as much love, support, respect and admiration for sportswomen, as they do for sportsmen. Women participate in sports events as competitors and sports leaders, coaches, officials, management. Women also consume sport as spectators and fans. Yet, women don’t support women in sport as much as they give support and admiration to sports heroes, champion sportsmen and male sports teams.

I can’t understand why women, millions of whom consume sport either as participants in organized sport or as spectators and fans, do not support women’s sports events.

For a long time, I’ve wanted to know and fathom out, why women don’t support sportswomen. It’s not all women who disregard, ignore or don’t show support for women in sport. But there exists a larger percentage of women-who-love-sport, who actually have never seen women playing sport.

Are women not aware of their gender: that gender which is oppressed, restricted and stereotyped within patriarchal society? That gender which needs support, big ups, self-fulfillment, affirmation, applause, props and celebration? That gender which says women supporting their gender is strength and self-belief in women’s efforts and achievements?

It’s alarming to myself, trying to talk and write about sports’ gender injustices and imbalances, to note how women who love and indulge in sport, can go through their sports life without giving much, if any at all, support and recognition to women in sport and achieving sportswomen.

Despite phenomenal growth rates of women relevant to sport consumerism, these significant increases of women’s buying power in sport are not being transferred to sportswomen playing sport and women in sport. Sometimes, at some sports events involving women, such as women’s rugby, cricket or football or golf, there are more men supporting women in sport than women themselves.

Surely I can’t be expecting too much when I think that women should support sportswomen, that women who follow sport should give respect to women in sport and not only admire and love sportsmen, particularly champion sportsmen. With this growth in sport consumerism, more women are embracing all that goes with sport, including watching live, digital and televised sport, participating in sport, reading sport, buying sports industry related products.

And there’s no doubt that women’s buying power and spectator attendance contributes enormously to the massive profits accrued for the sports industry. However, women’s interest in sport and subsequent investment in sport, does not bear much positive results for increased spectators or support for women’s sport.

Admittedly, participation numbers of girls and women in sport are increasing the world over: although, for various economic and social reasons, in some countries and communities, participation numbers would be decreasing. Then you have the realm of increasing levels of women spectators in various sports, yet very little, nominal support and interest by women for women’s sport events.

Some explanations do surface for women not supporting or being seen at women’s sport. These include not knowing about the event, not being aware that women are playing certain sports like cricket, rugby and weightlifting and others, to not being interested and preferring men’s sport because it’s more exciting than women playing sport.

Studies, research and scholarship about ‘women in sport’ and ‘women and sport’ are terribly lacking, almost non-existent in South African academia and scholarship. South Africa’s feminist researchers and academics, already loaded with much backlog and contemporary research to do and write, about women in society, have just not noticed that women in sport discourse needs attention and reflection. This discussion, dialogue and representation about women in sport must be nurtured and subsequently strengthened to impact in the interest of gender justice in sport.

And then there’s all media – the print, online and digital media – who play their part in making sure that men in sport are advanced as dominant, all conquering and achieving, wealthy and ambitious whilst sportswomen are not accorded their rightful profile of gender and sport equity and justice in media. 

And this gender imbalance in sports media does of course impact on society’s sports thinking, on what they know about sport, who they following and admiring. I do understand that one can’t blame women when they say they don’t know when and where women are playing sport, especially as some women will believe as fact what she reads and this means the concentration on men in sport.   

But…….If women are better informed about women in sport events, will they attend in large numbers? Will women sports spectators give support to sportswomen before giving support to men’s sports events?

(Photo: Olympic champion, Allyson Felix of the USA, in Nike’s latest advert)

(This is a short blog, raising the question, interrogating the challenge. For now, it’s just my opinion. So much needs to be said, researched and written about women in sport and why women prefer supporting men’s sports events)     

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