Monday, 8 July 2013

John Inverdale and Wimbledon

John Inverdale got into all sorts of trouble over the weekend for making comments about hte Wimbledon ladies singles winner Marion Bartoli "not being a looker". He has apologised, which does not excuse the original comments. Spoiling someones crowning moment with these digs is not redeemed by saying sorry on Monday morning.

There was also a whole lot of comments about Andy Murray being hailed as the first British winner of Wimbledon for 77 years - also inaccurate, as Virginia Wade won in 1977. Of course, that was the womens championship. He is the first winner of the mens title for 77 years, and congratulations to him for doing so.

Let me make a couple of points. Marion Bartoli may not be a model, or a pin-up, but she is not ugly. More importantly, her looks are utterly irrelevant - she is a sports-woman, and it is her sporting prowess that is significant. She has just won the premier prize in her sport, and that is what everyone should be celebrating - it is a remarkable achievement for anyone to do, and she has worked hard for it. Kudos to her for lifting the trophy. I don't care about her looks, her religious views, her sexuality or anything else. She has achieved sporting perfection, end of subject.

Nobody makes similar comments about the men. Despite the fact that game has come to be dominated by people who are freakishly tall. That is just the nature of the game.

This sexism does seem to be rather endemic in the sporting world. Womens football does not get the same coverage as mens, and the same applies to rugby. Womens sport is seen as "letting the girls have a go", whereas mens sport is, of course, serious.

Interestingly, there are moves in some sports that I follow to make a difference, despite the fact that they are currently utterly male dominated. In snooker, there are attempts to include women in the same league as men
at least in some cases, although the real problem is that there are not the incentives for women to aim for the top in this sport. The core issue is that, because it is dominated by men, women do not see it as a viable route to sporting success. It can be self-perpetuating, but I really hope that there is a change in the next few years. There is no reason why men and women should not participate in this sport as equals.

My other sport is F1, which is hugely dominated by men. However, the presentation this year on the BBC has included the wonderful Suzi Perry, who is a real motorsport enthusiast, and is a welcome addition to the team. They also use Susie Wolff, who is vying for a top-rank drive - and all the best to her. The evidence is that she is more than capable, so I hope she gets a drive soon. It is also good to see Claire Williams - the daughter of the founder - taking up an important role in the Williams team.

This is only a start, but it is an example of non-sexism. Suzi, Susie and Claire have achieved their current positions by virtue of their ability, not their gender. Their looks undoubtedly help, but their sporting knowledge/ability is the core factor. Susie should get a drive, not because she is female, but because she is good enough. The evidence is that she is accepted on this basis, very largely.

Yes sport has a long way to go. Some more than others. As do some sports presenters.

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