As you have likely heard, Zela will be shut down at Olympics’ end.
In its short lifespan, Zela played a game-changing role in the promotion of women’s sport. It offered well-earned coverage of female athletes, their efforts and their achievements. It provided a space to celebrate elite sportswomen who have long been chiefly ignored.
Zela put women’s sport on the podium.
Well, maybe it’s the loss of an income stream talking, but screw the podium. It’s a three-tier system, and a platform dedicated to “women’s sport” is akin to a bronze medal at best.
No disrespect to Jess Fox, Anna Meares, Emma McKeon, Dane Bird-Smith et al. Real bronze medals are actually awesome, but when it comes to sports coverage, female athletes deserve to stand on the same stage as their male counterparts, not a lower rung.
The thing is, and some of you might want to brace yourself for this, women’s sport is kinda not a thing. It’s actually still sport. Just sport. Vaginas have nothing to do with it.
And there’s already a platform for sports coverage so, you know, just stick these high-achieving women-folk there. Problem solved.
Oh, I know. Women aren’t as physically capable as men and therefore, their sporting endeavours aren’t as impressive to watch. It’s just science, right?
Well, yeah, it is science actually. Studies do show men are, generally speaking, physically stronger than women. But if our love of sport was all about physical strength, we’d be a nation of Strongman fans. We’re not. We enjoy the thrill of a close contest, the romance of an underdog, the groundwork of a playmaker, the tenacity of a fighter.
All these elements feature heavily in women’s sport. Man, I wish I didn’t have to point out such an obvious fact. Man, I wish I wasn’t programed to start sentences with the word “man”. But I am. And we are. We are all programed to watch men play sport because history dictates terms.
Sport was invented by men, for men. I mean, how do you like this pearler from the founder of the modern Olympics, Pierre de Coubertin, in 1925?
“The Olympic Games are reserved for men. Women’s role (sic) must be played behind the scene; especially to crown the winners.”
Of course, they were different times and, thankfully, society has evolved. But the hangover lingers and it’s a problem too big for bacon and egg rolls.
While gender equality is a utopia worth fighting for, there is no obligation to take an interest in women in sport. Female athletes (and those behind their cause) don’t need to be appeased, but they should be respected.
We sports fans will watch and read what we’re interested in, and we have every right to do so, but without access to quality coverage of women’s sport, the choice is all-but eliminated.
The recent effort of a number of outlets, not just SBS via Zela, to promote women’s sport is, without doubt, a step in the right direction.
Still, I’m keen to see the day we drop the caveat; the day women’s sport is referred to simply as sport and stands proudly, clearly as an equal.