Inquiry into Women in sport

I was back in Canberra again on Friday for another Committee hearing, this time for our Inquiry into women’s sport and recreation. I hadn’t been back into Parliament House since June. The full Senate resuming sittings on Tuesday, so it was a chance to re-acclimatise.

I mentioned this inquiry in a post a few months ago about the pay dispute in the national netball league. It’s a relatively short one, with the report due next month. There were three days of hearings this week. Friday was only the one I could attend, as I was doing other things, but the Committee coped fine without me. There were some good quality witnesses.

The lack of media coverage of women’s sport and the related difficulty of even some of the top sportswomen to earn a living was raised in a number of submissions. This gained a fair bit of attention, which is understandable, at is can seem incongruous when world-beaters are still basically living hand to mouth.

There’s no doubt that this is a reality, but what could or should be done about it is another question. Liz Ellis, gained some media coverage. (She appeared on one of the days when I wasn’t present.) It was also good to see one of my fellow Committee members gave a swipe to the ABC for their disgraceful treatment of former netball captain and TV commentator, Anne Sargeant, who basically got the sack for being too ‘old’ and was replaced a younger woman. As often happens in this circumstances, the age of the bloke didn’t seem to be a problem.

In terms of the wider social interest, I think a bigger issue than pay opportunities for elite sportswomen is seeing what barriers there are that prevent greater involvement of women and girls in general recreation. It is well established that this improves physical and mental health, as well as having social benefits, so it is in everyone’s interest to find reasonable ways to encourage greater involvement in physical recreation activities.

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  1. There is no doubt that women’s sport is still mainly an amaterish, second class media spectacle. The ABC coverage of netball, like its bowls coverage, presents sport with no show-biz, no stagecraft, just the plain boring facts of the game.

    Men’s sports used to be the same e.g. cricket and Kerry Packers attempt to turn it into a media spectacular.

    The Tennis and golf circuits, especially tennis, is now realising that women superstars can fill a stadium, proving that womens sport can be in the big league. However it will take an anti-traditionalist entrepreneur to extend this process into other areas such as netball.

    The Williams sisters have shown how feminine sexuality can be a big sports marketing force in tennis. I do not think it is sexist to go down this road, the Williams are not your Barbie doll stereotype and offer athletic models of glamour to compete with the barbie dolls, very few of whom tend to succeed in sport anyway. Even the stereotypical thin bombshells of the tennis circuit are musclier and heavier than catwalk models, creating different elite images of role models.

    Mens sexuality should be exploited and marketed in sport more too for the same health education reasons. I have noticed how some women, and some men, gasp with delight at the throbbing thighs and tight bums of a rugby league scrum. Nothin wrong with that.
    The recent rapes and sensations involving football players certainly indicates a need to reform images of male sexuality in sport – to respect and mutuality rather than sublimated homosexual tendencies being tickled by gang sexual identity. Footballers should feel sexy as individual men relating to their lover(s), not as gang members entertaining each other.

    the need for alcohol discipline to succeed in sport, (and sex) should also be part of a footballers training.

    sport is essentially about physicality which cannot be be separated from sexuality. Not all the sticky stuff, but basic positive body images and role modelling. feeling good about yourself – especially children who Identify with sport stars, it is important for positive body images to be part of this.

    bring back nude Olympics!

    The problem with sexuality in sport is if it promotes unhealthy diets (as gymnastics does) or created a culture of body suppliments and drug use (as athletics is beginning to).
    I love the bodies in sport – all very differsnt shapes and sizes, but all finely tuned and polished and perfect for their particular sport.
    The creation of different beautiful elite role models, i believe, inspires children to identify with them. As long as they remain elite superstars the children do not try to look like them, they are just inspired by them.

    As long as womens sport is kept un-sexy, it will never deliver good wages for elite sportswomen. This is no more prostitution than male images of health and strength, it becomes prostitution if the bums and tits, or bulging jocks and bare chests in locker rooms in the case of male sport, become the focus of the sport rather than as entertaining trimmings to the real business of the game.

    I hate praising mainstream media, but I have (with a few exceptions) been quite pleased with the camera work on coverage of womens Tennis. despite opportunities for pornographic voyeurism available, such as up skirts or down bras, the camera operators succeed in taking beautiful, wholistic and athletic pictures of the superstars. -very sexy.

    womens elite sport just needs a bit of razamatazz to bump up audiences, markets and therefore wages.

    Such overt sexuality should not be part of teaching children sport, for such a focus will for sure scar those who do not feel they can conform to the ideal or do not even want to try. Especially for girls who’s body image changes faster than it takes to get used to the changes.
    But within the playfulness of childrens sport there should be pin ups of very sexy adult sportstars on their bedroom walls, next to batman with his bulging jocks and six pack abs and catwoman with her curvacious power. let’s not forget Xena (Zena?) too. Sports superstars are in this league for young people, the difference is, with a lot of work the young person can be a sportstar but they have no chance of being a super-hero.

    if there were more super sports women on posters there would be more girls trying to emulate them.

    Plenty of male superstars, thats why plenty of boys play sport.

    I hope someone like Kerry Packer intervenes and builds a high profile women’s sport spectacular, not necessarilly netball, but that is a well established pool of talent for such a venture.

    Also……..elite women should be allowed to compete with elite men. It may well be that because of a statistical greater strength of men that the worlds best may be a man in some sports, but I bet there would be a woman in the top three if women had a chance to compete.

    I believe that at the time the Williams sisters first began to dominate the women’s circuit, Sarina could have beaten the best of the men (which may have been Hewitt at the time but I cant remember). Sarina had the strength of many of the top seeded men, as did a few other women, But the Williams developed a different more aggressive style of Tennis which dominated the women until others worked it out and knocked them off their perches. But at that time when they dominated the women they could have also dominated the men because it was about style, tactics and response time, not superior strength. Sarina would have thrashed “The scud” at her peak, no matter how fast his serve or return was.

    If women do not compete with men they will never work out the elite tactics necessary to beat someone of potentially superior strength. But if they could, they would.

    Such gender rivalry would sell a lot of tickets too, cashing in on established male sports markets as well as potential bigger womens markets.

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