Sunday, July 25, 2021

Sexism in sport: A vexing thorn to be uprooted

For women and girls in sport sexism is a harsh reality they face on a daily basis. 

Disturbing as it is, society tends to turn a blind eye from having conversations about it. 

Research shows that 65% of sport women suffered sexism at some point in their careers, with only 10% feeling comfortable to report it. Shocking even is that there are women in sport administration who partake in sexism. 

While sexism is rife in sport, here in Botswana, the issue is talked off within the corridors and is barely discussed openly.

This past week, it came under focus when former national team athlete Tsoseletso Magang, hosted sports administrator and activist Game Mothibi and Politician and Philanthropist Margaret Nasha for her weekly Open Discussions with Tsosi talk show.

Describing sexism, Mothibi said it is prejudice or discrimination based on sex or gender, imposing limits on what men and boys can and should and vise versa to women and girls. 

She says that sexism and stereotype go hand in hand as they both reinforce degrading, shaming and or absence of women in sport. 

“In most cases when we speak on sexism which mostly happens to girls and women. Some people tend to highlight that men and boys do suffer from the same discrimination. Primarily it affects females,” she points out. 

Mothibi points out Botswana’s golden girl Amantle Montsho as one of the athletes to have been subjected to sexism despite her placing Botswana on the global map.

Be it in social media, to journalist and to the world at large. Just from her body structure, many had heard a handful to say about Montsho not considering what she has done for this nation.

Sexism in sport comes in many versatile ways, from judging women by their appearances in sports wear and not their performance. 

“People in our country mistake sexism for jokes not considering the impact it has on the person it talks about,” she says.

“For example, some members of our society tend to depict Montsho as a man. When she responds angrily to this, the society then says she is up-tight and anti-social, forgetting that she has emotions and she feels bullied,” Mothibi explains. 

She says like Serena Williams, Montsho suffers a double hit for being a woman and on top of that being black due to the global exposure she has.

While Mothibi acknowledges that sport is a universal language and connects the whole world together, she however says it is rife with sexism and bullying. 

She goes on to describe the system of sport as locked up, saying while an individual can be banned from sport due to doping, nothing is ever done when it is sexism or gender inequality involved. 

“How do we improve from this when it is not even recognized in sport policies,” she asks rhetorically.

For her part, Nasha says women are hardly listened to but society considers how a female looks like more than the job she is doing. 

She says it is high time we acknowledge that sexism is everywhere not only in sport and we should be awake to respond to it rather than laughing or taking part in it.

“When I joined Radio Botswana back in the days, I was lucky because we were very few and until we increased in number, we started to see things,” she recalls.

“We would be told which gender does what and by then women we not allowed to do life commentary on football games as they were told they are clueless and know nothing about football,” Nasha says.

With women not allowed to write sports or news back then, Nasha says things only changed the minute she put her foot down. 

Nasha says when she joined politics and became a parliamentarian, she had to work more because the men surrounding her were watching her, mostly looking for faults.

“Despite what happened, I became strong and told myself that I was going to make an impact. I hope I did,” she says.

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