Football should aim to close the gender gap
Sweden's Josefine Oqvist, left, challenges Australia's Kim Carroll during the quarterfinal match between Sweden and Australia at the Womens Soccer World Cup in Augsburg, Germany, Sunday, July 10, 2011.(AP Photo/Matthias Schrader)
It boggles the mind that in 2012 women can still be treated as second-class citizens. If Rosa Parks was still with us and travelling to the Olympics, presumably she would do so in premium economy – and not because of the colour of her skin.
This week SBS’ redoubtable troubadour Scott McIntyre penned a fascinating insight into Japan’s flourishing L-League, currently enjoying a surge of popularity on the back of the Women’s World Cup so successfully hosted by Germany last year.
None of Scott’s insight necessarily came as news to me – in fact my dentist in Japan has had two daughters in the JEF United Ladies squad for years.
And I wasn’t surprised to read that Japan’s senior women’s squad had flown to Europe in premium economy class, while their male counterparts –effectively Japan’s under-23 side – would fly business class.
What was somewhat eye-opening was the speed with which the story of the Japan Football Association’s sexism traversed the globe, all with the usual absence of any context regarding Japan’s specific sociopolitical climate.
I don’t understand why it should come as a shock that a nation with an abysmal human rights record, endemic political corruption and a lily-livered press also harbours sexist football officials.
Equally unsurprising was the prompt revelation that while we were all pointing and laughing at Japan’s archaic attitude towards gender relations, Basketball Australia was busily dividing up its two squads along the very same lines.
According to Fairfax’s Olympics reporter Samantha Lane, Australia’s men’s basketball team flew to London in business class, while the women’s team was ‘upgraded’ to premium economy.
“Different factors are taken into account when organising travel arrangements for our national teams – height and size being a primary consideration,” said a BA spokeswoman.
If you’ll excuse the gender-specific outburst – bollocks.
The only reason our women basketballers fly a different class to their male counterparts is the same reason any form of sexism exists – because as a society we turn a blind eye to it.
It’s the same reason women are paid less to do the same jobs as men, the same reason they traditionally take on more household duties than the men they cohabit with and the same reason the usual bunch of misogynists will crawl out from under their rocks to scoff and sneer at the very notion women deserve to be treated equally.
This has nothing to do with ticket sales or media interest or television revenue generated, especially as we’re talking about the Olympics.
The whole premise of the entire event –which of course flew out the window the second the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles turned a profit – is to see the world’s best athletes compete on a global scale with an equal chance of winning medals.
And that goes for both men and women.
If Basketball Australia couldn’t rustle up the funds to send both the men’s and women’s teams to London in business class, then it should have sent both teams in premium economy.
Judging by yesterday’s revelations this has been an on-going problem for the Opals, so Basketball Australia and any other sporting body guilty of such shenanighans deserve all the public backlash they get.
We’re a long way off gender equality in this country but I for one could never conscionably stay silent on an issue that may one day affect my own nieces.
One wonders what course Football Federation Australia might have taken had it been in the same situation, but the fact the Olyroos and Matildas both failed to qualify for London meant the issue never arose.
I’d like to think they’d have remembered that football is a game open to all and enjoyed by millions – irrespective of gender – and done the right thing by all concerned.
Mike Tuckerman is a Sydney-born journalist and lifelong football fan. After lengthy stints watching the beautiful game in Germany and Japan, he has settled in Brisbane and has been a Roar columnist since December 2008. Follow Mike on twitter @Mike_Tuckerman