Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS -

crowds and there­fore big­ger spon­sor­ship. The women’s T20 World Cup started in the Caribbean yesterday. De­spite the best ef­forts of Cricket West Indies, the tour­na­ment be­gan with­out the razzmatazz that would have been rou­tine if this was a men’s tour­na­ment.

Women have been com­plain­ing for years t h a t t h e y want equal pay and at­ten­tion as men in their sport. That is, for the most part, merely wish­ful think­ing. Fe­male sport, gen­er­ally speak­ing, will never be as pop­u­lar as men’s sport. To un­der­stand why, we have to un­der­stand the so­cial dy­nam­ics at play and we also have to go back to his­tory.

His­tory tells us that or­gan­ised sport, in its most fun­da­men­tal sense, started with the an­cient Greeks with the stag­ing of the early Olympic games. Not only were the par­tic­i­pants only men, but the events con­tested in those days were ‘manly’ events, which sought to du­pli­cate what the early Greek men would do in their ev­ery­day life. So box­ing and wrestling and char­iot rac­ing were merely ev­ery­day events with a few rules thrown in.

Things like the javelin throw (which was a spin-off from men hurl­ing spears at an­i­mals and en­emy alike) and foot rac­ing also mim­icked what the Greek men did as part of their lives. Early sports there­fore were cre­ated to put on show, the events that men did for their very sur­vival.

The early win­ners of those gold medals were not then merely seen as Olympic stars, they were seen as al­pha males. Olympic heroes in those days were placed on pedestals and treated in a way that often the po­lit­i­cal fig­ures would envy. It was not un­com­mon for cities to beat down their own se­cu­rity walls if they had a pro­lif­er­a­tion of Olympic heroes. The un­spo­ken tenet is that cities who could pro­duce men like that didn’t need walls to pro­tect them­selves.

Sports then wouldn’t be seen as what men DID, it would sym­bol­ise who they are. The sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship be­tween how well men did in sports and how they were per­ceived as men, ought not to es­cape us.

That is the kind of his­tor­i­cal back­ground and con­text that the women’s game has to un­der­stand today. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, the women’s game lacks the ag­gro and the com­pet­i­tive­ness of men’s sport. It is just how men are wired. His­tory has shown us where a man’s worth to his tribe could be mea­sured by how well he could per­form in those rugged male sports that the early Greeks took part in. Egos, there­fore, was al­ways a part of the male game.

When your mas­culin­ity is judged on your abil­ity to jump and throw and box, then sports be­comes as much a show of man­hood as it is a game. Th­ese are so­cial and his­tor­i­cal back­ground and con­text that the women’s game doesn’t have to con­tend with. Women go out to play to prove who is bet­ter at a game, but their fem­i­nin­ity is not on the line in the same way that a man’s mas­culin­ity is when he steps on to the field.

So my fe­male friends can com­plain all they like. I love fe­male sports too. I will be watch­ing the Women’s T20 as much as how I will be watch­ing next year’s FIFA Women’s World Cup, but the buzz can never equal men’s sports. In the law of the an­i­mal jun­gle the fe­male of the species will al­ways grav­i­tate to­wards the big­ger and stronger and faster males. In the real world be­ing big­ger and faster and stronger is para­mount to most sports, which means even women are sub­con­sciously at­tracted to sports­men who ex­cel. The bot­tom line is male sports will al­ways be more ap­peal­ing than women’s sports to both men and women. That is sim­ply a mat­ter of fact.

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