The Crazy Ways Sexism In Sports Is Alive And Thriving


Women's Health |

Image of Alyssa Conley and Akani Simbine shot by Sean Laurenz. 

Prepare to be livid.

The sports industry is notoriously sexist. Sportswomen are treated unfairly in tons of ways. We’ve rounded up just a few of the ways things are unfair for elite female athletes.

Their Bodies Are Policed  

An Australian newspaper polled readers on what they thought of Olympic swimmer Leisel Jones’ body, stating that “the Olympic veteran’s figure is in stark contrast to that of 2008”. She’s the first Australian swimmer to compete in four Olympic games.

Caster Semenya, South Africa’s champion sprinter, was required to undergo humiliating “gender verification tests” to determine her sex. “In the case of this athlete, following her breakthrough in the African junior championships, the rumours, the gossip was starting to build up,” said the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) spokesman Nick Davies. She struggled to find a sponsor following this debacle.

Shamil Tarpischev, the president of the Russian Tennis Federation, referred to Venus and Serena Williams as the “Williams Brothers,” adding, “It’s frightening when you look at them.” He was fined and suspended from the Women’s Tennis Federation – for a year.

Serena Williams claps back at the body shamers. 

The Rules Are Tough On Sportswomen, Even From A Young Age

Blitzbokke player Chané Stadler played rugby at home as a kid. She tried to play in the boy’s team at school, but her coach told her she couldn’t play any longer because her teammates were “too big for her to play with”. At home, she was playing – and beating – her older brother and father at the game. Then there’s the inherent lack of support for female sports. Local rugby leagues don’t exist in South Africa and there isn’t a Varsity Cup for female rugby players. The same goes for women’s cricket, despite the fact that the team is doing really well, and the interest for the sport is growing.

Sports Is Sexist, But Sportswomen Rarely Talk About It 

A UK survey revealed that 40 percent of female athletes experienced sexism, but only seven percent reported it. Why? One participant said she thought it would affect her selection chances. Another said “inequality is normal”.

 … And When They Do, They Get Backlash 

Last year in India, Dipika Pallikal refused to take part in the National Squash Championships because the prize money for women was less than half of that awarded to the men. Her peers criticized her for prioritising money over the love of the game. But it paid off: this year, the prize was equal, and she could compete again.

Looking for more? Check out our special report on sexism our sports stars face.

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