“This is a man’s world, this is a man’s world
But it wouldn’t be nothing, nothing without a woman or a girl”
When legendary singer James Brown said or rather sang these slightly chauvinistic but deeply profound words almost 45 years ago, little must he have realised how much things have changed but still remained the same.
Although women today have made great strides in various fields, there still remains a certain bias against them. Their merit is more often than not overshadowed by other aspects of their personality, and shamefully in some cases, their merit is in fact determined by these other factors.
For reasons that I can never wrap my head around, sport has always been considered to be a man’s domain. Be it in terms of the media coverage or the money paid, it has been the men who have always been given the onus of fighting for their country or team’s honour.
That’s surprising, given that history is replete with instances where women have often surpassed their counterparts in achieving sporting glory. One need not look further than our own country, India to test this argument.
For all of Milkha Singh’s achievements, PT Usha’s heartbreaking loss at the 1984 LA Olympics (she lost the bronze by 1/100th of a second) reminds us that women can also leave it all out on the field. Who can forget Karnam Malleswari’s bronze medal lift at the 2000 Sydney Olympics that made an entire nation proud? And it took the Commonwealth Games and a Bollywood biopic for the nation to appreciate MC Mary Kom‘s outstanding accomplishments in the field of boxing.
Why is it that an Abhinav Bindra or a Gagan Narang is recognised for their sporting achievements, while the female athletes mentioned above are always on the brink of oblivion? This state of affairs is not prevalent just in India where women’s emancipation is still a burning issue. Even developed countries, where women are supposedly more secure and exposed to equal opportunities, seem to be struggling with the notion of removing the ‘beauty and appeal’ part of the equation from the talent.
BBC commentator John Inverdale’s rather insensitive comments after Frenchwoman Marion Bartoli won the 2013 Wimbledon women’s championship is one of those incidents that keep this debate alive. “I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14 maybe: ‘Listen, you are never going to be, you know, a looker. You are never going to be a [Maria] Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5 feet 11, and you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that,” he said.
By that logic should we also ask if Andy Murray‘s mum asked him to compensate for his lack of good hair and sharp features? It is extremely disturbing that good looks play such a huge part in a female player’s success today.