Wed | Dec 12, 2018

Orville Higgins | It's a man's world - Male sports will always dominate

Published:Saturday | November 10, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dominique Bond-Flasza (16), who scored the winning penalty kick, celebrates with goalkeeper Nicole McClure (13), who made two saves as Jamaica defeated Panama 4-2 in a penalty shoot-out at the Concacaf Women's Championships third-place play-off in Frisco, Texas, to book a spot in the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup.

When Jamaica qualified for the FIFA Women's World Cup set for France next year, one of the discussions that emanated from that, was the treatment of the women versus their male counterparts.

In 1998 when the men qualified, they were given land by the then government - well they were at least promised land, and a national holiday was declared. The members of that 1998 squad are household names even today. Corporate Jamaica was pumping millions of dollars into the men's programme back then.

The difference in how the women have been treated is stark. Yes, we are happy and the ladies have had their moment of glory, but the euphoria isn't anywhere close to what it was for the men. On the worldwide scale, men make far more than women. This is due to bigger 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 that they 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.