Proposition – Agnes Arnold-Forster – Cherwell Editor
As someone who is completely physically incapable, watching sport is about watching people do things I can’t. I watch Hollyoaks and feel confident that my acting ability far surpasses that of Claire Cooper and Hollie-Jay Bowes (Michaela and Jacqui MacQueen). I watch The Weakest Link and convince myself that I would come home with the cash.
By its very nature, sport is competitive. People give up their precious time and money to revel in watching the best in the world performing feats we know to be beyond anything us mere mortals could achieve. This slightly loses its impact when watching women run relatively slowly and throw relatively badly.
Women’s sport just isn’t the same spectacle of human prowess. We lack the strength, the testosterone, and intensity of our male counterparts.
There have been instances where so called ‘Battle of the Sexes’ matches have been contested, most notably in tennis (incidentally the major global sport where the men’s and women’s events are accorded equal status, although we shall leave the equal prize money in relation to playing time debate for now). In the late ‘90s, the Williams sisters claim that they could beat any man ranked outside the top 200 was put to the test by Karsten Braach, ranked 203 and most notable for his habit of smoking a cigarette or two during end changeovers. He dispatched them both, losing a mere three games in the process.
Women’s sport may be exciting, it may be entertaining, and you may occasionally catch a glimpse up Anna Kournikova’s skirt (obviously I’m joking) – but you’re always going to have that nagging feeling that you could be watching the men’s versions, where real limits of human ability are being tested.
And then there is the very pressing concern of aesthetics. I like men, and I like men playing sport most of all. There are lots of beautiful women in the world: objectified in music videos, cheapened on the pages of magazines and unnecessarily sexualised in films. If you want to look at stunning blondes with stunning bodies, you do not need volleyball. Gender inequalities have left us heterosexual women with a limited number of sources for visual gratification. Sportsmen provide an unlimited supply of eye-candy.
Djokovic, Messi and Dan Carter are the world’s number ones. Women who win will always just be second best to their male counterparts – why do anything if you are not going to be number one (exactly the reason I engage in no physical activity)?
Oh, and the women’s World Cup definitely suffers from having no Beckham and his biceps.
Opposition – Ellie Swinton – Cherwell sport deputy editor
In mid February of my first year at Oxford, I was in the college bar and one of the boys asked me why I wasn’t drinking. I said it was because Varsity lacrosse was less than two weeks away and our team had undergone a self-enforced drinking ban in the run-up to the game; a standard procedure which no one would even blink at for a men’s sport.
I got the reply: “A whole two week drinking ban for women’s lacrosse? That is a joke!” I didn’t get angry, I’m used to it by now. Instead I quietly contented myself with the knowledge that this one boy at St Peter’s is increasingly in the minority, and that popularity of women’s sport is growing by the day.
If there was once a time where women’s sports was not played to the same standard as men’s or when it was nowhere near as highly regarded, that is not the case today: times are changing, and very quickly at that.
Women’s sport at Oxford is in no way irrelevant. Atalanta’s Society was founded in 1992 and its growth in almost 20 years is astonishing. The club brings together Oxford’s leading sportswomen and promotes women’s sport both within and outside of the university.
In some sports, for example lacrosse, the women’s game was established first, is arguably played at a higher standard and attracts far more supporters at the Varsity match against Cambridge.
The popularity of women’s sport worldwide is also growing everyday. Many people would rather watch the women’s side of the draw at Wimbledon over the men’s; let’s be honest, watching ace after ace frankly just gets boring after a while.
With less and less net play these days, mixed doubles is arguably the most entertaining game. Women’s football is a more tactical, fun game to watch because of the slower pace and women’s gymnastics at the Olympics, a sport associated with flexibility and grace, has far higher viewer ratings.
Despite all this, there has always been a shockingly poor amount of media coverage for women’s sports. ESPN supposedly stands for Entertainment Sports Programming Network but they may as well have put an “M” for Men’s before the E.
Besides, it doesn’t make sense that that the USA’s men’s soccer team are ranked around 15th in the world and receive nationwide support, yet the media overlooks the US women, the world’s number one team.
Women’s sport is NOT irrelevant and if the media would just acknowledge this, popularity for the women’s game would increase exponentially; they have the support and high standard of play but are not given the coverage they deserve.