And the response? An avalanche of men complaining that the women haven’t earned the pay, that it’s a gift, that women’s sport is boring, and on it goes. As if winning didn’t matter to these giant losers. The women have dominated their sport while the men have more or less disappeared from the world stage.
Elise Kellond-Knight was somewhat surprised by the response. She’s played for Australia more than 100 times. Finished an undergrad pharmacy degree (but reckons she should have done law). And, at least as of Wednesday, is a fully-fledged feminist. Not long after the announcement she tweeted: “Wow I’ve read more male chauvinistic remarks in the last 1hr, than my entire life put together. This is almost making me want to be a feminist. We work as hard as the men, we deserve an equal opportunity. Thanks to those in support of today’s news!”
She remembers what soccer was like when she first started playing at the top level. There was zero interaction with the men’s team and certainly the men weren’t openly supportive. “We were always playing catch-up,” she remembers.
Now Kellond-Knight can see what’s happening in the US, where women not only totally dominate the game and are far more successful than the men, but also bring in huge revenue, even to club matches. Ten years ago, she didn’t think she would ever get an equal share of the revenue, but now she recognises that equality matters.
“Then it didn’t even occur to me to ask but then we didn’t have the fan base we have now.” She says the response on social media didn’t bother her. So much disturbance from those who are uneducated. “I got a good laugh out of it [but] I’m a strong-willed person and an independent lady so it doesn’t faze me.”
So does she now call herself a feminist? She says it has some negative aspects but then concedes that her response on Wednesday makes her a feminist by default. She’s also pretty impressed with the way soccer – Craig Foster in particular and the players’ associations – involved itself with the campaign to free refugee player Hakeem al-Araibi. Footballers are now in the position to go out there and fight for really important causes, including human rights.
Shame not all sporting figures feel the same way.
Some winners become less appealing over time. We now know that Lance Armstrong was a drug cheat; and Marion Jones. Ben Johnson. These are people we no longer respect. Margaret Court is no drug cheat but she too has demeaned tennis with her words and deeds. We need sporting heroes to unite us, not divide us.