Archive | July, 2016

Men’s Control Of Sport In South Africa Must Be Disrupted By Cheryl Roberts

26 Jul

South Africa’s sports women and women in sport have for too long and too many generations been done in badly by male-dominated officialdom in sport. Should this male control and reign of sport continue, not much advances are going to be made and fewer gains will be achieved for our sportswomen.

This means that girls and women in sport will continue to get some hand outs here and there, small amounts of financial allocation of sponsorship and the objective of sportswomen playing professional sport, in professional leagues and full-time, will be delayed and never materialised.

As women in sport, we point out that we are not against men in sport. What we are against and what we are challenging is how this male officialdom looks after the development and growth of men in sport and sportsmen, with very little attention given to advancing women in sport.

Men officials in sports federations can try as they want to, to allude to what they are doing for women in sport. The results and programmes are there for public viewing and scrutiny.

How are SA’s elite sportswomen expected to become world class and expected to achieve the desired Olympic Games results when they still compete in chains? The chains are around them constantly as they try to participate in sport as part-timers and struggle to get funding to compete internationally. SASCOC, thru its Operation Excellence Programme assists some sportswomen. But the sportswomen themselves will say how this funding is not enough; it just about helps them with monthly training expenses.

We have to just look at coaching to see how women in sport are neglected and marginalized. Why, after two decades of international participation, do national federations like netball and football rely on foreign coaches to coach these teams? And why are teams like women’s rugby, hockey, cricket, athletics and swimming and many others promoting male coaches to head national teams and no women coaches?

Male officials will say it’s because there are no experienced women coaches. But how do you expect the women to get experience and go thru the coaching system if you don’t create the coaching opportunities for them.

At this moment, one of SA’s most successful coaches is not a man.  The coach is Tannie Anna Botha, a woman and coach of SA’s world 400m world champion, Wayde van Niekerk. Look at how successful a woman coach is Anna Botha. There are many potentially women coaches but SA sport is depriving itself of this talent by being fixated on male coaches and sometimes foreign coaches.

South Africa’s Rio Olympics team (able bodied sportspeople) is not only a story of happiness and unhappiness but also of gender injustices meted out to SA’s sportswomen. While Team SA has been defended by sport’s officials managing the country’s Olympic Games participation as just and honourable representation, behind this defense is a litany of unhappy, angry and very disappointed women in sport.

That’s because the sportswomen such as women’s rugby sevens and hockey and beach volleyball were not accepted into Team SA for participation at the Rio Olympics based on their low international rankings and also because SASCOC, the country’s controlling custodian of sport, officials and sports federation officials took a council decision not to select teams and athletes who were unlikely to be medal winners and finalists and semifinalists.

Who makes these decisions for women in sport? South African sport is male hegemonic defined; dominated, controlled and reinforced by men who control elite official positions, CEO and general manager responsibilities and most strategically, control sponsorship and funding. There are some women in elite positions. However, there are too few women and some of the women have been around in their positions for over 20 and 30 years thereby creating little opportunity for new women sports officials.

The women in elite sports officialdom rarely speak up and speak out against gender inequalities in sport and don’t contest male domination of sport. They are seemingly satisfied with just their selves getting a sports position and its like ‘a don’t care attitude about other women in sport’. If the women sports officials were fierce and resisted male domination of sport we would have seen and heard a dynamic sportswoman’s voice setting the women in sport agenda and programme to advance sportswomen.

So what is the road ahead for women in sport in South Africa? The Minister of Sport must show leadership and interrupt and disrupt male domination of sport in SA. This should be done by instructing SASCOC and its sports federations to be conscientised with a critical gender consciousness and to implement decisions with a critical gender lens. By doing this, at all time the gender inequalities in sport will be acknowledged and decisions and resolutions to propagate advancement of women and disruption of male domination of sport. The Minister of Sport must also lead the way and implement a national girls and women in sport programmme. Sport and Recreation South Africa, the national government department gets the government money to advance sport so this national initiative must come out of the funds and be allocated especially for sport.

Importantly and strategically, a national women’s representatives structure, existing solely for girls and women in sport, challenging and disrupting male control of sport, must be established. This structure/forum must not be meaningless and irrelevant or just a talk-shop. It must take decision and resolutions in the interests of women in sport, and make sure they deliver the desired results and objectives.

Relying on government and official sports structures to disrupt this male control and domination of sport might be having to wait for decades because the male-dominated sports officialdom ain’t going to challenge their privileged, domineering and dominant position. No, not all! So the best and provocative action is civil society, on the ground activism, led by the sportswomen themselves and supported by all who want to see male control of sport in SA disrupted and ended.South African SportsWoman. published by cheryl roberts. published in May 2016

Stop Questioning Caster Semenya’s Testosterone Levels By Cheryl Roberts

3 Jul

1caster semenyaThere’s no doubt that champion athlete Caster Semenya knows her athletics worth and athletics prowess. Having the sports talent she possesses, together with her body image, has catapulted Semenya into an international ‘story’, with most focus being on Semenya’s body instead of her athletics feats.

But Caster Semenya is not the first black woman athlete to have her body so ruthlessly scrutinised and examined by the world’s dominant hetero-normative global media, together with the chattering non-informed, ill-informed people and those with deficient mental capacities. The superstar black tennis sisters of Serena and Venus Williams, particularly Serena Williams, also face such ridiculous scrutiny.

Why are the hetero-normative, male-dominated media being allowed to scrutinise, villify and decide about a woman’s body image and construction?  What is it about male-controlled media that can’t accept black achievements in world sport?

South Africa’s phenomenal woman athlete, Caster Semenya has been in sensational form on the athletics track during the 2016 domestic and international season and in the run-up to the Rio Olympics. After winning her world championship gold medal, a few years ago, Semenya hasn’t known such devastating form as she has been experiencing this season. 2016 seems to be Semenya’s year for national, continental and Olympic domination.

But now, instead of a focus on Semenya’s athletics prowess as a woman athlete and support and respect for her feats on the athletics track, the murmurs and rumours are surfacing about Semenya’s body construction and of course her testosterone levels.

And, guilty of these rumours are the South African media themselves; media largely represented by men who are not feminists or gender activists and who have no record of

speaking out against gender inequalities in society and dehuminisation of  a woman’s body image.

Where are these rumours and murmurs coming from, if not from the male represented media themselves? Why are they asking these irrelevant questions when it comes to Caster Semenya. The International Athletics Federation has a ruling which must be adhered to and that is that testosterone levels with regard to the athlete Caster Semenya are all in order for IAAF regulations and are non-negotiable.

Seemingly, some media people can’t understand how SA can produce a black woman champion of the caliber and prowess boasted by Caster Semenya. Yes, SA hasn’t surfaced much black women sports champions. But that’s not because the black women can’t perform and achieve internationally. That’s because black women haven’t been supported and given the adequate and necessary opportunities to achieve and perform credibly on the international sports stages.

Most importantly, in the conservative and limited-thinking minds of media men, sportswomen have to be constructed in a particular image and that image is feminine; anything else has to be questioned and shown up as being abnormal.

We must not allow Caster Semenya’s sports prowess and athletics ability to be scrutinised by an ill-formed and non-feminist media. This also applies to the public who also surface their disgusting questions when they think some woman in sport and sportswomen don’t fit their sportswoman’s image.

The champion athlete that is Caster Semenya has grown in physical identity from a teenage girl athlete to a young woman on the athletics track. Semenya has also grown fabulously in confidence, self-love and strength. She is not allowing the rumours to get to her because she knows she is participating in athletics as a woman athlete, having not broken any ‘gender’ rules of the international sports domain and their governing structures.

I’ve watched Caster Semenya in training and competition, have spoken to her outside of her track events and have discovered a very self-assured, non-boasting/non-boastful, confident woman athlete. Semenya’s mental strength is strong, very strong. She knows that there exists those who will try to break her and that such people can be found amongst her competitors, the media, the seemingly supportive public and sports officials. She also knows and appreciates the respect given to her by all who know her athletics prowess and worth.

Caster Semenya is a phenomenal woman athlete. She is South African. Why are the performances of South Africa’s phenomenal sportsmen not scrutinised and speculated about like Caster Semenya has to undergo? Why can’t the media accept that Semenya is a rare talent?  After almost not qualifying for the 2015 world athletics championship, Semenya’s achievements this season are world class and world leading. Nothing wrong with that, is there?

Coach of Caster Semenya and the athlete Caster Semenya would tell anyone asking about her achievements in 2016 they are associated with her training programme, her coach and her mental strength to be back at the top of world athletics. That is what Caster Semenya wanted, that is what she worked very hard at, and that is what she is achieving.

Now that the black woman athlete is achieving all that she set out to do and worked hard for, there are those want to question her abilities and link this to ‘higher testosterone levels’.

Just like tennis champion Serena Williams’ tennis abilities can’t be accepted by those intent on vilifying champion black sportswomen, so too is Caster Semenya subjected to horrific and ugly media questioning.

This is it about Caster Semenya. She is a woman athlete of amazing sports talent. She trains very hard and is disciplined as an athlete. She achieves on the athletics track because she works at getting the results she desires. There is nothing ‘wrong’ with her body shape, size and image. Everything that is seemingly ‘wrong’ with Caster Semenya is what is wrong in the minds of those who are doing the questioning and bouncing the rumours.

There must be no questions about Caster Semenya’s testosterone levels. No question. No murmurs. No rumours. What must be celebrated and applauded is the remarkable woman athlete that is Caster Semenya and what must be applauded are her fantastic track achievements.