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I’ve always wondered why women are perceived to not be interested in sports. After some research, here’s what I found out!
My earliest memories of watching cricket on TV (EC TV or was it Weston TV) is the year Kris Srikkanth made his debut against England in 1981. Since then the black & white TV has given way to QLED, or is it OLED TV? And cricket has seen its own evolution from Test cricket to T20.
The pandemic has played havoc with the lives of the inhabitants of this planet. And with the global impact, it has had, it is not surprising that sports also took a beating. While all is still not well, for the cricket fans, IPL certainly brings some joy, more for some than others depending upon which team one supports.
Now I sit in front of the TV, in my favourite spot on the sofa clutching the striped cushion as I always do when engrossed in this cricketing spectacle. Suddenly, a question that has always intrigued me, right through my teen years and adult life comes to fore once again in my mind. And I wonder ‘why is watching sports considered to be a guy thing?’
My grandmother would sometimes say very indulgently, expressing her thoughts on my love for sports, ‘she loves watching sports as much as boys.’ That line said with grandmotherly affection just about sums up the equation between sports, girls and the societal perception.
Personally, I have never been able to understand (perhaps because my parents didn’t make that distinction) why are girls perceived to or expected to like watching sports any less than boys. So I reached out to my trusted research partner – Google and put the question, ‘Do women watch sports?’ And Google threw up many results, about 1,530,000,000 to be precise.
Some caught my eye, while the others not so much. Meanwhile, a few attention-grabbing ones were ‘The Scientific Reason Men Like Sports More Than Women.’ The science behind this phenomenon as explained in that article is so unscientific that I will not go into details. Suffice to say the author had neither science nor nature behind the article but his own personal biases.
Then there was the one titled ‘Why women are not that interested in sports like men.’ Some not so subtle in their messaging like” Ladies Only Watch Sports Because it Makes The Boys Like Them.”
Looking at female viewership of sports through their myopic gender-biased glasses, some authors chose genetics as a basis to explain their opinion. While others just held that opinion because apparently women sit down to watch sports only when they are done with the household chores. Or if they want to please the menfolk (apparently that is the sole objective of the lives of us womenfolk).
The genetics explanation was along the line that men are stronger and more competitive by birth. Thus, are naturally drawn to the competitive thrill that sports provide, women by converse arguments are not genetically built to like sports.
The other argument that came up frequently was that women pretend to like sports to keep up with their husbands/boyfriends. But they would much rather sit in a corner and do a ‘girly’ activities like embroidery or knitting.
A few found the answer (perhaps the closest to making some sense) in the inequality practised both within families as well as in society when it came to female participation in sports. According to the proponent of this view, historically young girls were discouraged from participate in sports as compared to their brothers. And hence, since they did not participate, they did not develop an interest.
The point I am trying to drive home is that forget participation in sports by females, even the viewership of sports by females is subject to gender bias. (Though this should be the topic for debate – the dearth of female sports journalists, commentators, funding to women sports and even prize money disparity)
Growing up in a cricket crazy country like India, loving cricket was and is part of our collective DNA. I wasn’t untouched by this phenomenon. My ‘craze’ for the game extended to me keeping a personal attendance register during college so I knew how many classes I could afford to miss during the cricket season.
At that time without 24/7 internet availability and online streaming of sporting events, one had to miss watching cricket, football, tennis. Add to this no accessibility to the TV during office hours, classes or some family function. And sure as day and night, a family function always managed to pop up during the cricketing season.
My most valuable possession at that time was a pocket-sized TV that my father bought for me from Germany. I would take it along with me to college during the cricketing season. It was a cute little black and white TV. If I pulled out its antenna to the maximum and moved it around sufficiently, it was able to catch Doordarshan transmission.
I must admit it was an object of envy for boys, many of whom came with small transistors. But pocket-sized TV was a novelty that won hands down against the transistors.
This view that it is men are born with the genes to not only enjoy watching sports but understand it. Meanwhile, female fans follow only better-looking sportsmen. This is not just held by the men but there are many females who subscribe to this distorted opinion too.
Watching or following any sports is not determined by one’s gender, it is a personal choice that one makes. A lot has changed in this world since my black & white pocket-sized TV.
Female viewership of sports has gone up but the notion that men somehow have the monopoly on watching sports still remain. Be it in social gatherings or at a workplace, talking sports still seems to be a men’s thing. And if a female pipes in with an informed opinion she is often treated with amused indulgence.
Personally, I have been ‘privileged’ to have the luxury of being able to follow sports as a serious fan. But it is time that the notion ‘watching sports is a guy thing’ is relegated to the societal dustbin where all biases and wrong notions should go to die.
A version of this was earlier published here.
Picture credits: FilterCopy’s video on YouTube
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