KateMumsnet (MNHQ) Fri 29-Nov-13 11:12:08

BBC Sports Personality of the Year - where are the bloody women?

The shortlist for the BBC's Sports Personality of the Year contains only two women, of a possible ten.

In this guest post, Mumsnet blogger Victoria Smith, who writes over at Glosswatch, asks why - once again - women's contribution to public life is being ignored.

Victoria Smith

Blogger, Glosswatch

Posted on: Fri 29-Nov-13 11:12:08

(28 comments )

Lead photo

The shortlist for the BBC Sports Personality of the Year: two women, eight men

So the BBC have announced the shortlist for this year’s Sports Personality of the Year and guess what? Out of ten contenders, only two are women. That’s three down from last year, where the split was 50/50, but two up on 2011, when there were none at all. I make that an average of two and a bit, which probably means we women should be asking ourselves just where we’re going wrong.

Are we lacking in sportiness? Or do we just have rubbish personalities? I’ve never quite understood the weightings with this particular award (although judging by the current shortlist quotes I reckon sporting prowess is out there in front). Either way, it is galling to find that, yet again, half of the population is so poorly represented in what claims to be a list of Britain’s best.

Yet again it appears that there are sportspeople and then there are lady sportspeople. You look at the list and not only do you think “damn, the women are a bit thin on the ground”. Even though you know you shouldn’t, you also start to think “perhaps even Christine Ohuruogu and Hannah Cockcroft - great though they are - don’t deserve to be there, either. After all, they found eight men, eight proper sports personality types. Surely the judges could have dug out a couple more?” And that’s just one of the insidious ways in which the under-representation of women in just about everything becomes self-reinforcing. At first glance it might not seem right - but ultimately it’s easier to seek out justifications for it than it is to challenge.

This is our world, too. Our achievements, even if they are only measured in relation to the achievements of other women, are just as authentic as those of men. We deserve recognition just as much as men do.


As Caroline Criado-Perez found when she launched her banknote campaign, there will always be plenty of people - both men and women - willing to say under-representation is a non-issue and anyhow, isn’t it just true that women don’t do as much ace stuff as men? Even in Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman, considered by many to be the most engaging feminist book in recent times, the writer claims that "women have basically done fuck all for the last 10,000 years". So yeah, we’re still catching up (so the story goes) so isn’t it just reasonable for us not to have reached the top table yet?

With sport you face the added argument that women literally are not as good as men. They can’t run as fast. They tend not to be as strong. When women do Judo, poor Telegraph columnists can’t “help wondering about their soft limbs battered black and blue with bruises”. As The Spectator’s Rod Liddle sagely notes, "this sexist assumption that women are weaker than men - it’s right isn’t it?":

To give two examples, the fastest time set for a woman in the 1500 metres is 3.50.46, by Yunxia Qu of China. The record for men is 3:26:00. In the javelin the disparity is still greater — 80 metres for women, 104.8 metres for men.

Oh dear. That’s us told, right? I’m not so sure. After all, isn’t the point with competitive running not how quickly one gets from A to B (in which case, why not use a car?) but whether one has the grit, determination and passion to become the very best amongst one’s peers? And when women compete against women, are such things in any shorter supply? I suspect not.

If there is a problem with women’s relationship with sport, how better to combat it than with more high-profile role models? There are enough excellent sportswomen - complete with personalities! - who would fit the bill. Some people would claim this is tokenism. I would argue that granting women just as much space as is granted to men should be our default position.

This is our world, too. Our achievements, even if they are only measured in relation to the achievements of other women, are just as authentic as those of men. We deserve recognition just as much as men do. Otherwise, once again, we’ll cast our eyes on the next award shortlist, the panel on Question Time, the newspaper obituaries etc. and naturally assume that we’re always mere bit-part players in what constitutes real life.

By Victoria Smith

Twitter: @glosswitch

Middleagedmotheroftwo Mon 02-Dec-13 13:47:10

Pixie - you're putting words into my mouth!!

I never mentioned baking, having babies or mending trousers.

I just said that women's sport is boring, which it is. Women don't run as fast, hit as hard etc etc.

For example, watching a women's tennis match after watching a men's match is like watching paint dry.

There are plenty of things women can do well which aren't sporty, and which don't involve baking - though I for one love baking, and can't see anything wrong with wanting to be good at it.

DuckToWater Mon 02-Dec-13 14:39:47

And men's sport is always fascinating and of the highest quality?

Have you ever seen two so-called Premier League football teams grind out a 0-0 draw?

I think sometimes when men and women both play a sport the women's side of the sport hasn't been established as long or is as competitive, which means it can be less interesting to watch. This will be improved by more funding and promotion though - hence the need for more recognition for women's sport. I think tennis is an interesting choice- the top women are just as competitive as the top men, the ones below that level perhaps are not as good to watch. But an awful lot of men's matches are dull as well- tennis is more fun to play than watch in general, I'd say.

And in the 90s the men's game was all about serve and volley and short rallies - bump bump bump. Dull as dishwater - the women's game at the top end was much more interesting then with the likes of Graf and Navratilova. So sport does evolve and change all the time.

Also in many of the Olympic sports the women's events were just as exciting to watch as the mens, if not more so esp. with martial arts. Then there are sports where women compete equallly - equestrian etc - where there is really no gender difference.

It's very unfair to generalise and make a sweeping statement to say "Women's sport is less interesting".

DuckToWater Mon 02-Dec-13 14:42:41

Also athletics - women's events are just as competitive and exciting as the men's.

It's extremely insulting to suggest to imply that women shouldn't bother with sport, because they'll never be as good as a man at it.

Ablumersy Mon 02-Dec-13 21:26:41

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