Hit sexism for a six, it’s about time

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Hit sexism for a six, it’s about time

“Dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women” – that’s how the old Oxford dictionary defines misogyny. Rishi Kapoor probably doesn’t dislike women. Let’s even assume he has no contempt for the gender. But ‘ingrained prejudice’ – that’s there all right.

How else do you explain this from the 64-year-old actor: “Waiting for a repeat of Sourav Ganguly’s act on the balcony of The Lords Ground,London,when India beat England 2002 NatWest series final! YO”. Complete with a photograph of Ganguly in shirtless splendour.BBEkGyx

The abuse piled up in double-quick time. The Women’s World Cup 2017 final was trending in India on Sunday evening. And the actor has a pretty large following on Twitter anyway. Along with the indignation were some yays and a fair number of well-wishers who requested him to take the tweet off.He didn’t. Instead, he tweeted this around 40 minutes later: “WHAT WRONG HAVE I SAID? I DIDNT SAY ANY FEMALE PLAYER SHOULD!I ONLY SAID SOURAV GANGULY SHOULD REPEAT HIS SHOW. YOU HAVE A WRONG MIND DEAR!”

All very cute and all that. Alternately, yeah, right!

Kapoor’s tweet was yet another reminder of the casual – and not so casual – misogyny that continues to hover over women’s sport. In 2017.

Back in 2014, there was the incident involving Di Patston, then part of the Australian men’s rugby team management, and Kurtley Beale, one of the team’s stars. In a gist, Beale sent a series of sexually explicit text messages to Patston, following which Patston resigned from her position. From what I read at the time, the team management did its best to brush the issue under the carpet even as Beale was benched. It didn’t quite get hushed up, but Beale’s career was saved all right. Patston won an out-of-court settlement and, as Rebecca Wilson wrote in the Daily Telegraph soon after, Australian rugby owed a lot to the woman who almost brought the sport in Australia to its knees in 2014.

Training her guns on Channel Nine, Wilson wrote that it “has proved yet again that it has a macho culture that refuses point blank to move itself into the 21st century”. “The blokey culture at Nine has been in existence since the glory days of Kerry Packer. James Packer perpetuated it and Gyngell now carries the baton. His sports boss, Steve Crawley, ensures the grand tradition continues with the only possible light at the end of the tunnel the appointment and continued promotion of the wonderful Yvonne Sampson. Forget that Andrew Johns spoke like a cretin, a yobbo and a sexist boofhead to a woman in Toowoomba. Overlook his history. He’s an immortal mate, he’s one of the boys, so he stays.”

Remember Chris Gayle and Mel McLaughlin? How about Eva Carneiro, the former Chelsea FC physiotherapist, and ‘get your t*** out for the lads’? Shamil Tarpischev, the one-time Russian tennis player and later president of the country’s federation, was forced to apologise – and cough up a fine, etc – after calling Venus and Serena the ‘Williams Brothers’.

Martina Navratilova, who had to deal with her share of idiocy in her career-time, said of the Tarpischev affair (back in 2014), “This kind of bullying comment cannot be tolerated from anyone, but particularly from a high-up official in the tennis world.”

Yes, it is that too: Bullying. The world of sports is just one of many playgrounds for them, men like Rishi Kapoor and Sepp Blatter, who once suggested that women footballers could, “for example, have tighter shorts”. He was FIFA president at the time. Rishi Kapoor has a different kind of power – actual official authority, after all, is not the only one.

“In the sports world, women are praised for their athletic ability — not their physical appearance. We cheer the sweaty woman running down the field for her effort. Mainstream America tells her heels are required because she’s too short, makeup is required because her face isn’t attractive enough, cleavage is required to give men a reason to pay attention, hair coloring is required because aging is forbidden and blondes are sexier, Photoshopping is required because no woman (not even a model) can match the fantasy woman our culture promotes on the covers of almost every women’s magazine. […] But in sports, women stand tall and proud in athletic shoes and uniforms because we’re more interested in what they do than how they look,” wrote Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, one of the most decorated basketballers ever, in an article in Time in June 2014 in the context of #YesAllWomen.

To add: The women that Kapoor directed his misogynistic cheer at [no one buys his cutesy backpedalling, surely?] have just lifted the status of the game in the country to never-before proportions. How about a spot of respect? Or the sort of tweet he might send out if it was the boys playing in the middle? #BleedingBlue or whatever.

No cricket administrator can anything do about Kapoor. But we need to start somewhere. Perhaps in the way Kick It Out helped emphasise that there’s no place for racism in football.

There is still racism (and Kick It Out has come under flak for its lack of effectiveness), as there is sexism – in football and everywhere else. But people in positions of power can say out loud that they don’t accept it. It is not an official action, no, but it is a signal that this is unacceptable and that the sports authority thinks so. #HitSexismForASix – it has to be said, hashtag and all.

But, then again, who in Indian cricket will do it? Unlikely to be Rajeev Shukla, who congratulated Mithali Raj’s side for entering the ‘Champions Trophy final’ after they beat Australia in the World Cup semifinal the other day. Or CK Khanna, who thought it wise to issue a press statement starting with “The BCCI acknowledges the performance” of the team after the Australia win?

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