White Privilege Strangling Black Sportswomen In South African Sport? By Cheryl Roberts

11 Jun

It’s because we are women that we must ‘stand together, and support each other as women’ is the common viewpoint for some women in South African sport. This is because women as a gender are discriminated against in sport, because women suffer because of gender inequalities and women are forced to exist in a male-dominated sports paradigm.

Its reality that South African sport is heavily male-dominated and controlled, that women in sport have to struggle for recognition, funding and support, that women have to watch men’s sports getting lots of sponsorship whilst sportswomen struggle to get corporate attention.

But hidden within the framework we must ‘stand together, and support each other as women’, is the white privilege that prevails, ensuring that white girls and white women in sport are nicely taken care of because of their white privilege and of course, inherited apartheid privileges.

Yes, women in sport struggle to participate in sport, achieve in sport and stay in sport. But the struggles and battles encountered by white women in sport are not the same as those faced by black women. Most black girls in sport are working class, struggling to enjoy the luxury of participation in sport. Most white girls in sport are not majority working class.

Most sports in South Africa that women are involved in, are white-women dominated, except for a few such as women’s football and women’s rugby where the player base is black and working class. And most sports teams and athlete representation is also white women-dominated. Look at sports such as swimming, hockey, netball, including athletics. These sports are dominated by white girl and women representation with black players getting a few places to squeeze into a team here and there.

Whist we been busy concentrating on calling out South Africa’s men’s cricket and men’s rugby teams for being white dominated, the white women have been merrily controlling representation in women’s sports. And this is shockingly occurring where sports have black officials as presidents. Look at the 10 netball teams in the national netball league. Four of the top teams are white player dominated and all ten head coaches are white women. That’s not because black women can’t coach netball. It’s because the black women coaches in netball are being kept out, side-lined, marginalised and made to feel inferior to white women coaches.

The national senior swimming team throughout the post-apartheid years has been about white swimmers. The recently announced SA women’s hockey team for 2018 the world cup is largely white-dominated with a handful of black (all players not white) players.

White privilege is thriving in women’s sports in South Africa. Black women, meantime are battling to breathe to exist in a functioning sports paradigm intent on dismantling their growth in sport.

The amazing prowess of black woman athlete Caster Semenya can also cast a false impression that black girls and women are emerging as elite athletes. But look at the 2018 South African u20 girls team to participate in the world u20 championship. It has only 6 girls; five of them white and one girl athlete not white. South Africa’s 2018 Commonwealth Games, Team South Africa was represented by mostly white women.  She was the only black woman athlete to win at the Commonwealth Games; thankfully, black woman athlete Caster Semenya achieved the gold medals for herself, for country and for black women.

Yes, women are discriminated against in sport and suffer because of gender inequalities. But black women suffer and struggle much, much more. And white privilege still prevails! Yes, women in sport are friends, travel together for sport, associate with each other, support each other as teammates. But except for some white women, white women don’t speak out and call out white privilege in sport. They also don’t challenge when whites dominate selection and representation.

Black women are beginning to stir and hopefully, roar against white domination in women’s sports. They no longer are content with whites dominating selection and representation and are beginning to challenge white women privilege in women’s sports. In doing this, black women officialdom must not stay silent; they must also call out white privilege in women’s sports. We have to eliminate white privilege and ensure black women in sport are not strangled by white women privileges, inheritances and resources, in the sports network.

8cheryl roberts  in the rain forest in ghana

Cheryl Roberts (writer of the blog)

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