They might not have dislodged the IPL 2019 cricket games from making the headlines, but these exemplary women have quietly fought their way into the hearts of every individual, as they silently went and knocked over some pillars of patriarchy that stood in their way. While some successfully knocked the pillar down, other players still have a huge battle to win, but they have certainly stood up and have challenged these pillars head on.
It has been an iconic week for women in sports, who have gone and shown the world what they are made of, and how even with fewer opportunities and a landslide of sexism, they can still emerge victoriously.
From Caster Semenya who broke the marathon record, asking a question about the rigid gendered categories set in the sporting competitions to the other sportswomen who didn’t fail to wow us.
The women just added another cap to their feather, when the riders of the Tour de Yorkshire had to face extreme weather conditions as they peddled through their race. It was an ordeal on a different level, as these women cyclists took on the rider’s seat and faced the storm head on to reach the finish line in Scarborough. The troupe of these women cyclists was led by the legendary Marianne Vos, who never failed to motivate these girls to push beyond their limits. Event the crowds gathered in such devastating weather to catch the women riders pass the arrival of the men’s race by hours. This was also the first time the women’s cycling race was telecasted from start to finish by a television channel.
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This was ironic, since the women are only allowed in two stages, as compared to the four allowed to men, and were denied to ride through the cobbled streets, which was home to the famous Bronte sisters, whose early works were published under male pseudonyms. This might be a coincidental metaphor, but maybe in due to course the light will finally shine and equal exposure and opportunity will be given to women sports players also.
Another amazing achievement came from the roads of motor racing. The first of the W series was scheduled to have seven rounds feel to the 20 years old British- Jamie Chadwick, who had emerged from a group go 18 women who were handpicked to set the fastest times in the practice sessions, qualifying on pole position and led the race from start to finish. There are those times when the only way to have your voice heard, is an affirmative action- this was that time. There are a total of 19 women in the grid, which itself is groundbreaking. While a women-only W series is an excellent way to introduce these women drivers into the more mainstream grand Prix events- the worry remains, that it should not just be another gimmick of sorts.
Many commented that the race was only for people who like watching slow motor racing. This probably comes when most people watch women’s sport through glasses tainted with prejudice since they haven’t seen women compete in sports like motor car racing ever before. This sporting event might do a great job of showing how women can also compete equally in the same sport as men do.
In a cricketing world too, the Mini women IPL has been touted to be a revolutionary event for the women’s cricket. It will put them under the limelight and see women crickets from all the different parts of the world come together and play under the same teams.
The fast-paced and exciting format might actually grab a lot of eyeballs and media coverage which will not just be great for women cricket, but also for the young Indian women cricketers like the Kashmiri Jaisa Akhtar, who are still looking to make their mark in the international cricketing forum.
Finally, there was, of course, Caster Semenya, who won her 30th consecutive 800m race in Doha and raised questions which were not just limited sports but also relegated to the society’s changing attitudes towards itself. Semenya has been fighting her heart out to disband the stereotypically gendered distinctions that the sporting world has come to. Even after the I.A.A.F has ruled against her, she is determined to bring this to justice. What really irked many people was that the legendary Michael Phelps has a distinct genetic condition where his body produced half the lactic acid of a typical athlete.
This is sure to give Phelps an edge since lattice acid is the one responsible for causing fatigue. The problem with this is that this condition of Phelps was celebrated by the sporting fraternity as a gift that he was both with. He wasn’t discriminated against, he wasn’t asked to take any medical help to make this condition go away and he certainly wasn’t asked to change himself or his condition.
People considered his lucky and said he was born with something trait clearly gave him an edge over his competitors. Yet, the equation changed quickly when Semenya, a woman born with an increased amount of testosterone was not given the same leeway. While she too was born with it, the I.A.A.F ruled against her and said that she must get herself some kind of a hormone suppressant to be able to continue participating in the 800m women race. She wasn’t celebrated for it, especially since, unlike Phelps condition, it is not even scientifically proved if this increased level of hormone at all gives her an edge.
Such cases which make sports seem still regressive and oppressive towards women. Yet, slowly and steadily the women are rising and winning some unseen battles in the sporting world. From Serena regaining her Top 10 spot after being pushed down to over 400 after her maternity leave, to Semanya not backing down. The women are hitting back at the patriarchal sporting industry in the best way they can- proving their worth and winning battles.
Also published on Medium.