Calling Mithali Raj ‘Former Player’ Is Another Way We Demean Sportswomen

Taapsee Pannu called out a publication for calling Mithali Raj, 'former player.' We still can't take sportswomen seriously, can we?

Taapsee Pannu called out a publication for calling Mithali Raj, ‘former player.’ We still can’t take sportswomen seriously, can we?

A Chennai-based media house shared pictures of Tapsee Pannu prepping for her upcoming film ‘Shabaash Mithu.’ In the article, they referred to Indian cricket captain, Mithali Raj, as a ‘former player.’ ‘Shabaash Mithu’ is a biopic on Mithali Raj where Taapsee Pannu is portraying the character of the cricketer.

This reference to her as a ‘former player’ just goes to show how lightly India still takes its female sportspersons. However, Taapsee Pannu’s reaction to the article is precisely what we needed. She corrected The Chennai Times and reminded people that this mistreatment of female players is the reason such biopics need to be made.

Anyone who is even slightly interested in cricket would know Mithali Raj’s contribution to the sport. She scored a century on the very first time she represented India in an ODI match at the age of 16 in 1999.

Mithali Raj and her achievements are simply overlooked

During the 2017 ODI World Cup, the Indian captain outdid former-English captain Charlotte Edwards’ record to become the highest run-scorer. And was also the first woman to have achieved 6000 runs in ODI.

Her achievements do not stop there. She is the first woman to complete two decades in ODI cricket. And is the only Indian captain, male or female, to have led two 50 over World Cup finals. Despite this, the larger society, including news agencies, choose to remain ignorant of her instead of celebrating her achievements.

This goes to show the deeply embedded patriarchal nature of discarding and disregarding the contributions of female sportspersons. Sports have still continued to be considered a masculine thing. It is by the men and for the men.

Even when women break the glass ceiling to emerge as great players, they find themselves largely ignored by most outside the avid sports fans. On the other hand, male cricketers find themselves under the spotlight 24×7. Some even get launched into electoral politics on the basis of their success in their career in sports.

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Sportswomen are constantly undermined or insulted

But this isn’t all that there is. Sportswomen don’t just find their achievements underappreciated but also are often caught in controversies, for no fault of their own. These controversies range from the media questioning their gender identity to their love for the sport.

For example, in 2014, sprinter Dutee Chand found her body put under scrutiny for having high testosterone levels. This went on the extent that she was even banned from her sport. However, she has constantly challenged traditional ideas of identity and femininity in sports, thus, inspiring a number of young girls.

Similarly, in 2009, South African sprinter Caster Semenya was forced to undergo humiliating gender tests. In another similar incident, Indian sprinter Pinky Pramanik was also challenged for her gender identity. She was accused of misrepresenting her gender identity and her performance too was questioned!

Despite all this, Mithali Raj has made us proud

After all this mistreatment, ignorance, sexism and even humiliation, these female players go through, inequal pay still remains a fact of life. In 2019, the US women’s soccer team and Megan Rapinoe, the co-captain, brought the International community’s focus to their demand of equal pay after they won the World Cup.

In such an environment of hostility, women who make their names as successful sportspersons have to overcome twice the hurdles that men do. Society either discourages girls from participating in ‘masculine’ sports or ignores them and overlooks their achievements completely.

Despite all this, Mithali Raj has proved her mettle time and again. It is a blow to every woman and feminist and sportsperson when she is undermined or overlooked.

Picture Credits: Taapsee Pannu’s Instagram and Mithali Raj’s Twitter

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A postgraduate student of Political Science at Presidency University, Kolkata. Describes herself as an intersectional feminist and an avid reader when she's not busy telling people about her cats. Adores walking around and exploring read more...

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