Women’s sports deserve more respect and attention
Becoming the champions of ACC Women’s Asia Cup 2018, the women’s national cricket team has brought upon Bangladesh pride, glory and international acclaim.
Just this month, Bangladesh men’s cricket team lost against Afghanistan, who very recently got test status, in T20I series. But the women’s team made the country proud by winning against India and becoming the champions when the Indian women’s team has been winning the cup for the past six tournaments. To give a comparison of the wages earned by the male and female players, the salary for male players goes as high as Tk 0.4 million per month while the female players usually get in thousands (five digits) per month. Also, in international and local games, men and women players have inconceivably high match fee gap.
One could argue that the wage gap exists due to the number of viewers tuning in for sports of men and women. “The money goes where the eyes go.” Statistically, for a men’s cricket match, around 20,000 people go to the stadium to watch the game. But for women, the number stands at around 300.
A huge revenue from the tickets is not earned from the little number of people willing to go and watch a women’s cricket match. Even at home from television, millions of Bangladeshi tune in to watch men’s cricket while most women’s matches aside from the international ones do not even get aired on television. The media is partially to blame for this outcome.
For men’s cricket, any upcoming tournament is widely promoted through TV advertisements, online ads, posters, banners, billboards, flyers etc. The same cannot be said for the female counterpart.
“Compared to men’s cricket, women’s cricket is hardly promoted at all, and this is the case for not only Bangladesh but rather worldwide. Starting from the income, the female players are deprived of other facilities as well. The success in Asia Cup 2018 is a statement by the women cricketers showing what they are capable of, and they can win much more for the country if provided more facilities. But some credit should be given to the men’s team too, as without their success the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) wouldn’t have been able to form the women’s cricket team, to begin with,” remarked a contributor at BDCricTime.
Even aside from cricket, there is a lot of stigma around women’s sports in Bangladesh. One of the players in the national basketball team for women mentioned in an interview, “The entire basketball team for women in my school was cancelled because girls would have to wear shorts to play.” Many people in Bangladesh believe that sports should be exclusive to men and that women do not belong to the sports industry.
In different countries around the world, sports is still an industry predominated by men. However, in recent years, there has been a significant improvement for women in sports, and a lot of it has been due to the traditional media.
Serena Williams, an American professional tennis player, starred in an empowering Nike ad which is a considerable boost encouraging women in different sports across the world. Sania Mirza, an Indian tennis player, has been the face of many brands and has been closely followed by the media for a while, which brought about changes in people’s views of sportswomen in a country like India.
In Bangladesh, women do not get adequate exposure in the media. In 2016, Mabia Akter Simanta achieved the gold medal in weightlifting in women’s 63kg weight class at the South Asian Games. She had a fractured wrist at the time, a fact that she hid from her coach for fear of being unable to participate in the games, and still won the gold medal. Her story is awe-inspiring, yet it did not achieve the media coverage that it should have. She told her story in a book that came out in 2017, HerStories: Adventures of Supergirls.
The lack of media portrayal of women in sports is a huge discouragement for girls across the country who may want to join the sports industry and is also a cause for more discouragement from their families. The wide wage gap between the male and female sportspeople and many more discriminatory issues for women in sports also need to addressed.