If you can name a mainstream sporting event where sexism hasn’t been an issue, you haven’t been paying attention. The World Cup is just the latest hotbed of sexism and inequality in the sporting world. Though we’ve long been accustomed to cameraperson’s uncanny ability to locate the youngest and attractive female fans in the crowd, this week sees a slate of other unignorable sexist offences.
Photo agency Getty came under fire after they published an album of the “sexiest World Cup fans”. The photo gallery consisted of 30 images of young, attractive women. Though the company has since deleted the post and gallery, and apologised for the offence caused, it’s still alarming that the media agency were planning to supply business and media outlets around the world with these images.
Meanwhile, Sky News have published a montage of clips showing fans kissing and groping female reporters whilst broadcasting on television. One instance sees Brazilian reporter Julia Guimarães dodge a man’s attempt to kiss her, before turning to the man and telling him to “never do this again”. Just a week before, Colombian journalist Julieth Gonzalez Theran was groped and kissed as she delivered a live report in the city of Saransk. The sexism surrounding the World Cup isn’t just rife in Russia. We’ve heard from women working in different industries about how they’ve been excluded from football debates purely because of their gender. A law administrator from Cambridge told us how a male colleague declined an offer to watch the England match with his female co-workers because he wanted to watch the game “with men who knew about football”.
Elsewhere, Australian commentator Lucy Zelic, co-host of SBS’ World Cup coverage, faced a sexist backlash for her careful pronunciation of the player’s names. Some viewers dubbed her supposed ‘over-enunciation’ as “annoying” and “insufferable”. But others leapt to Zelic’s defence saying she was hilariously being accused of being “too good at her job”. Her co-host, Craig Foster said Zelic was emulating her mentor the late, great Les Murray who believed if you couldn’t pronounce a player’s name right, it says you have no regard.
In a similar vein, British sports journalist Vicki Sparks received criticism for the “pitch of her voice”. The commentator, who made history by becoming the first woman to commentate on a live World Cup match for British television, was reprimanded on Good Morning Britain by ex-football player Jason Cundy, who said he prefers to hear a male voice when watching football. “Ninety minutes of hearing a high-pitched tone isn’t really what I like to hear. And when there’s a moment of drama, as there often is in football, that moment needs to be done with a slightly lower voice,” he explained. “God forbid a woman could talk for 90 minutes,” ‘Good Morning Britain’ co-host Susanna Reid shot back.
Whether it’s women sitting in stadiums who are disrespected through incessant objectification or women who earn a seat at the table as commentators and are continually undermined, sexism is still alive and well in the sporting arena. But, as Brazilian reporter Julia Guimarães admirably demonstrated, we’re not prepared to put up with it anymore.