WiSP World New Zealand Presenter and Cricketer Zoe George responds to an Op Ed piece by Mark Reason published here, which was prompted by the recent sexist remarks made by the erstwhile Chief Executive of Indian Wells Tennis Tournament, Raymond Moore, which resulted in his resignation on March 22.
Dear Mark Reason,
Thank you. Thank you for bringing to light the very important issue of equality in sport. It’s a subject I’ve been raising for a long time but as a woman it seems not many want to pay attention to what I have to say. I mean, what would girls know about cricket, right?
I’ve been a player, an administrator at international level, an academic and now a journalist.
Cricket is a game created by men for men’s interests. It’s the “gentleman’s game”. It defines masculinity. You have to be agile and fearless while you swing a phallic shaped willow or face at times, as we well know, a deadly projectile. At the end of the game there’s backslapping and congratulating, then off to the changing rooms where “boys” talk will ensure.
While traditionally the men are on the field, women’s roles in cricket involve making the sandwiches, taxiing children, getting grass stains out of whites and sitting on the sidelines applauding the men’s display of masculinity.
When women start to challenge this notion of masculinity, they get labeled. Their sexual identity gets questioned. Women are looked at as second class and told to get back where they belong – in the kitchen.
I’ve been involved with cricket since I was 8, just like many boys. And yes you are right; I did ride on the coat-tails of boys and men. Why? Because within the sport I was an anomaly. I was the only girl for a very long time. I didn’t have any female coaches, or administrators leading the way. Female role models in cricket were small. Female sports journalists were not often seen and the coverage of international women’s cricket was non-existent. It was boys and men all around me and if I wanted to learn and grow within cricket I had no other option. Men control the sport.
I’ve faced criticism, asked “what do girls know about cricket”, asked if I was a “dyke” and had male players show dissent when I’ve clean bowled them. I’ve been wolf whistled at, and sexually objectified by players and administrators. I’ve been told coverage of women’s sport is not a “priority”. If I speak up about it I’m told to be quiet because it’s just “boys being boys” and “not to rock the boat”.
Yes, you are right, men’s cricket does help pay for women’s. The White Ferns are semi-professional. Some get a small retainer while others work full time to support their dream of being an international athlete. England are paying their female players a wage and getting results. You talk about equal pay in [Tennis] Grand Slams. Sure. Women could play five sets. But in the ASB Classic both men and women play three sets. The men’s prize pool is twice as much as the women’s.
I’m all for signposting the women’s game with “sponsored by men” just as long as we can have a sign saying “Blackcaps: brought to you by their mums”.
If you look at it that way, women actually gave birth to cricket.
We can change cricket for the better. New Zealand Cricket is already looking at ways to find out how they can better engage girls and women with the game, which is a great first step. But it runs so much deeper than that.
Your piece is a prime example of why we need change. And you have the ability to bring around that change. Have a look at how many sporting organizations and sports newsrooms are run by middle aged white men. Their interests lie within the core “values” of sport – created by men for men’s interests. But you Mark, you have the ability to switch-hit and be a champion for women rather than drag them down.
We need more men to stand up and say “I’m doing this for the mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts and friends.” They can start redefining what masculinity is and what the term “boys being boys” truly means. They can start thinking “don’t blush baby” is not acceptable and speaking out about it.
This can start at the top with you Mark, and with those currently in our sports newsrooms and organisations.
We need more men like you to continue to raise this issue. Thank you for your piece.