Sexism in sport still very real problem

The inherent gender binaries in sport have meant that it has been and remains to this day a public sphere particularly prone to misogyny, both explicit and implicit. The latest in the line of chauvinistic high-profile sporting figures is the Russian Shamil Tarpischev, the president of the Russian Tennis Federation and a member of the International Olympic Committee since 1994. On a TV chat show, he referred to Serena and Venus Williams as “the Williams Brothers”, comments which Serena described as “very insensitive and extremely sexist”. Far from offering a full and frank apology, Tarpischev described his comments as a “joke” before claiming that what he had said had been blown out of proportion. Notwithstanding such side splitting jokes, the silence of the International Tennis Federation – under whose authority he falls – is far more worrying than the lazy and tired stereotyping of one ignorant individual.

The sacking of Richard Keys and Andy Gray aside, there is little sign that sport as a cooperative is taking sexism seriously. Examples abound, but take the tennis commentator John Inverdale, who, during Wimbledon 2013, magnanimously postulated that Marion Bartoli was “never going to much of a looker”; or Richard Scudamore, the CEO of the Premier League, whose incisive wit was illustrated in email exchanges which joked about the irrationality of women with children, and about keeping a female colleague “off your shaft”. Both kept their jobs, and all was forgotten.

To say that sexism is not endemic to sport would be to give it far too fair a hearing. Even to ignore the questions about whether women should be able to compete in F1, or be part of the Tour de France, or participate in a woman’s decathlon (the answer to all three is yes), can anyone, for example, justify the male only membership policy of Muirfield golf club, the 16 times host of The Open? Admittedly, a private society can restrict membership however it likes, but would it be so hard for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews to host the championships elsewhere? The idea that women cannot compete in the same way as men is condescending; the idea that women cannot appreciate sport in the same way as men is completely absurd.

With only 2% of mainstream sports coverage dedicated to women’s sport, the usual cry of “men’s sport is just more interesting” is superficial and not capable of waving away the problem. People aren’t interested enough, quite simply because women’s sport doesn’t get the coverage it deserves. Arguments about the differences in quality between genders hold no water, since even if this is the case in some sports, plenty of people would happily watch Morecambe v Exeter over a premier league match. No one watched Jessica Ennis-Hill crown off her Olympic Heptathlon victory in the 800m, and thought, well she’s a bit slow.

Gender divisions within sport are a real problem with real effects – despite a recent upturn caused by the Olympics, participation rates by women remain far lower than government targets. It is the sporting bodies who fail to react sufficiently to instances of sexism, along with blockheads like Shamil Tarpischev, who only further entrench such divisions.

Hamilton Rosberg

What is it that attracts us to Formula One?

Waking up at five in the morning to catch Martin Brundle’s grid-walk before a Grand Prix thousands of miles attracts the same straightforward question. Why? Why do people waste their time watching cars going round and round in circles? You could easily watch that any day of the week with a flask of warm tea and a packet of crisps on a motorway gantry overlooking the M25.

Watching incredibly expensive racing cars being driven by highly paid racing drivers on the same piece of tarmac for as long as two hours may seem quite arduous. However, many of my fellow fanatics believe that it is possible to convert even the biggest motorsport haters into understanding such a passion for what many see as an increasingly underappreciated sport. Viewership of Formula One has decreased rapidly in the past few years. Some have blamed the dominance of Sebastian Vettel and his infamous ‘Vettel finger’ after each of his dominant and oftentimes bland victories. However, the 2014 season has shown that Formula One still has the magic of the good old days of Prost versus Senna, Hunt versus Lauda and Schumacher versus Hill.

The 2014 season has offered almost everything to treat the viewer’s pallet: A fierce rivalry between two old friends involving wheel to wheel action, crashes, drama and a relationship threatening to simmer over at any point. The emergence of brilliant new talents and characters such as Daniel Riccardo and the condemnation of driving villains including the infamous ‘Crashtor’ Maldonado whose ability to dump his car in the gravel trap leaves many miffed as to the reasons for his race seat.

Formula One offers the viewer an experience that no other sport can. Please name a sport where you are able to see; a man at the top of the sport more villainous than Putin (Okay Mr Blatter), Putin himself reluctantly shaking hands with Lewis Hamilton, excessive consumption of expensive champagne and crashes at one hundred and fifty miles per hour all on your screens in one sitting.

Formula One turns the world’s most exotic locations into arenas of racing – Monaco, Singapore, Abu Dhabi and the beautiful Silverstone in the UK. The 2014 season has seen drivers competing on the world’s classic tracks as well as the newest entries into the racing calendar funded by rich Arab Shiekhs and billionaire Russian oligarchs. From the iconic Eau Rouge, a flat out corner where drivers place their lives in the hands of their racing instincts and the competence of their team of engineers in assembling their incredibly intricate car has viewers with their heart in their mouth. The sexy streets of Monaco with super yachts, supermodels and supercars parked up around the Marina as cars race past the Casino Square makes even those with little imagination dream the life of a high flying Formula One driver. As we have tragically seen in the recent past, Formula One remains an extremely dangerous sport and drivers risk their lives to reduce their lap times by as little as one thousandth of a second which adds to the sexy allure of heroic men and their machines.

Formula One is not just about the racing. It is a sport full of Machiavellian characters ruthlessly fighting amongst each other for power and patronage. Whilst this may seem unhealthy in modern sport, there is something romantic about the intrigue, espionage and controversy that goes on behind the scenes. Villains that could have come out of a James Bond novel such as Messrs Eccelstone, Briatore, Dennis and Di Montezemelo, whose management tactics have always been shrouded in secrecy and an unease of deceit.

With Jake Humphrey off of your screens there is simply no excuse to not give it a chance. In the run up to the United States Grand Prix this coming weekend we are left with a number of unanswered questions. Will Lewis Hamilton consolidate his lead going into the final two rounds? Will Caterham be racing next year or even be in the US? Where will Fernando Alonso end up next year? Do tune in.


Ryder Cup

Is Europe’s dominance a threat to the Ryder Cup?

With Europe winning their third successive Ryder Cup to complete a hat-trick of victories over Team USA, their dominance of the golf’s greatest match was further enhanced. They have now won an impressive eight out of the last ten Ryder Cups, with the USA struggling to stay ahead by the end of the final day. While European fans celebrate the success, the question is starting to emerge of whether or not the overwhelming dominance of Europe will cause fans of Team USA to turn off their televisions and to stop paying for the privilege of being a spectator?


Managerial stability: a thing of the past?

As Arsène Wenger stepped out at the Emirates Stadium last Tuesday as his Arsenal team faced Galatasaray it marked an astounding 18 years at helm of the Gunners and one is left to wonder whether we will ever see another managerial tenure in elite football quite like this one. Since he took over in 1996, there have been 207 different Premier League managers with major clubs in Europe following suit with generally shorter-term managers. Have times just changed and the days of managers being with their club season after season are over? Does changing the manager have any impact at all – if the players remain the same, things can’t be too different? If not the manager, what makes up the winning formula?

The Oxford Student

Oxford's Newspaper since 1991