The Cultural Representation Of Women In Sports

Jun 10, 2019   •  4 views

It's the semi-finals of the Rio Olympics.

Draped in mustard yellow, the badge of the Indian flag rests proudly on her uniform as Sindhu, with ragged breaths and glistening sweat, contemplates her final move. The scoreboard is tight, angry red numbers staring back at her with demand and expectation. It seemed to quicken the pace of her calculations: with what angle of her arm, speedo other hit and drift of the shuttlecock across her opponent would crown her victor?

The time ticks on. Every second passes with a mountable, palpable tension and an escalating emergency to win on Sindhu's behalf.

Finally, fist tightening around the racket, with her feet steady, heartbeat steady and aim locked, Sindhu throws the shuttlecock in the air. With one final push, it rockets through the air and past her opponent. Her racket misses it marginally, but the damage is already done.

The moment after lasts only a second, with Sindhu's foot slamming against the ground with a triumphant stomp breaking the amplified silence.

The score-board changes subsequently, and history is made.

The ground begins to tremble underneath the pads of her cleats - half the audience already on their feet, triggering the best earthquake Sindhu has ever felt. It doesn't feel dangerous, instead its repercussions are the victorious screeches and pelts of joy flood the stadium.

There is a swell in her lungs that leave a violent yell past her lips. Drunk on excitement, happiness runs up and down her veins, and congratulation vibrates within her bones. Sindhu engulfs in her victory, basking in an afterglow of her own with a smile that reaches her eyes. There are tears that follow, but they promise that she has finally unlocked the ultimate key to the finals.

Sindhu went on to win the silver medal, losing out on the gold to Spanish shuttler Carolina Marin. Her match was watched by 17 million people in India.

She was also able to contribute recently with the Asian Games 2018, by bagging the silver medal once again. She became the only Indian to achieve to receive a silver as her priors were only able to notch the bronze medal.

Even her contemporary male counterparts in the same event were unable to play in the semi-finals, even though there were a lot of expectations from Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy.

In the same continental showpiece, the 4x400 women's relay team continued to defend their title of bagging the gold, unlike the men who won the silver.

The novelty of women being the current dominant of the badminton industry has also spread its arteries across other fields as well:

Deepika Kumari, former number one in archery, isn’t a name we hear often, but her effortless skills earn her a significant place in one of the renowned sportswomen.

Sakshi Malik instantly fostered inspiration among aspiring female wrestlers everywhere by being first Indian female wrestler to win one medal out of the two medals India bagged at the Rio Olympics 2016, the other being won by Sindhu.

Captain of the Indian women cricket team, Mithali is the only female cricketer to surpass the 6,000-run mark in ODIs. She has also led the World Cup twice, something no one, not even a male captain, has done till now. About 180 million people watch her matches.

Boxer Mary Kom is perhaps the most recognisable name on this list. Mary successfully punched stereotypes against women and negativity by being the only female boxer to win a medal in each one of the six world championships, and had a movie on her titled "Mary Kom" which released in 2014, that had Priyanka Chopra starring as Kom.

But there seems to be a big divide about the scope and popularity of women's sports across India. The sports industry has long been ruled by men, with women being mostly bypassed. But there can be some explanation behind why is so:

An article called the Atlantic covered this aspect with thorough discussion by highlighting the way men's sports are publicised, the inherent gender inequality among sports-goers and the psychological and physical health that plays apart in this.

The prevalence of higher production values, higher-quality coverage, and higher-quality commentary makes men's sports more exciting to watch compared to women's sports, with less camera angles and replays.

Also men on average are more strong than females, whether it be basketball, soccer or football. Their swift physical abilities are blatantly obvious, which for some, gives them the thrill when watching men's sports which they particularly don't find in women's sports.

It can also be in the way that for generations and generations, audiences are so used to seeing televised sports played by men that women taking up the same place doesn't seem to be anything different or new.

Most of the blame can be put on cultural factors: the fact that women are inferior to men is a cemented idea in Indian society. Unfortunately, this idea is injected into the mindsets of many young women wishing to pursue sports as a career, branding it as "too masculine". For women who willingly deny being feminine, submissive or obedient, they are shunned.

Media support and fan loyalty are also much more common in male sports than women, so it can be partly due to lack of hype from fans.

However, this should not be the case. We should not make male sports the template for how women should play games. There shouldn't be gender bias on the field to justify why one sport being played by one sex is popular than the other. Conservative thinking must be done away. There is so much sheer athletic talent that goes unnoticed, because of the burden of society.

Fortunately, sportswomen are slowly paving the way for more refined female athletes in the coming generations.

Coming back to reality, if we were to imagine the future of women's sports as a tennis ball and our 'serve' as whether or not women can stand equal with men in terms of popularity, then it will take a few swings and returns, spins and aces, fouls and misses in the tennis court of life.



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Omkar Tsn  •  1y  •  Reply
Great ground work 👌