We’ve been used to the patriarchy for so long that there are a lot of things that no longer even bother us anymore. A woman is raped every 30 minutes in India, but do we even think about that? Yes, probably for a few minutes after reading a newspaper report. But then we just move on to our lives. We’re so used to the eve-teasing on the streets or the groping and touching on public transport that more than half the times, we don’t even bother to fight back. Getting paid lesser, having to ‘juggle’ home and work, tolerating lesser respect than we deserve, slut-shamed for wearing jeans or taking on the phone, accused of playing ‘the woman card’ when we try to stand up for ourselves – we’re so used to all of these that it’s what’s normal for us.
Women have always been secondary to men in the society. For gender-neutral names of professions, such as the doctor, engineer, professor, the word ‘female’ needs to be attached in order to specify that the person is a woman. A man who is a doctor is called a ‘doctor’. A woman who is a doctor is a ‘female doctor’. Similarly for professions such as policeman, postman, watchman, when referring to a woman, one says ‘female policeman’ instead of policewoman or postwoman or watchwoman. Films that feature men as protagonists are called movies but a film trying to put a woman in the same spotlight is referred to as ‘women-centric’ and tossed to the side like a category of films that no one wants to see. I know, to someone who doesn’t understand feminism, this probably looks like an ignorable minor issue. But for someone who has had to constantly fight for herself, since the moment she is born, this is actually a pretty big deal.
When I say ‘Indian Cricket Team’, our minds jump to Kohli, Dhoni and the other male players of the men’s Indian cricket team. When I say Ishant Sharma, you automatically know who I’m talking about. But how many of us even recognize the names, Mithali Raj or Harmanpreet Kaur?
Just like every other profession in the world, there is a wide gap in the pay given to men and women in sports too. While male players not only get paid much more than the women, the number of endorsements, the marketing of the players and the airing of the games on the television also differ drastically.
India is a country that bleeds cricket. Ever since the British introduced the game to us, our men’s team has not only played but excelled and won world cups in the game. However, that’s as far as it goes. The gender disparity that we see in literally every field in the world follows cricket in India too. While the men have packed schedules, supportive associations and boards, the women’s cricket matches are not even considered worthy enough to be aired on television. Despite an outstanding performance in the world cup in July 2017, let alone TV coverage, the women did not even get to play a single international game almost 7 months after their world cup got over.
In their first match after the world cup, the women faced and won against the South African Team, notoriously known to be tough to beat. This match was extremely important because the women’s championship was an opportunity for the teams to qualify for the next world cup in 2021. Despite the cruciality of the match, the match wasn’t even aired. Let alone broadcast it, the official BCCI twitter account did not even feel the women’s cricket team (who won the match by the way!) worthy enough of a single tweet. What’s even worse is that the men’s cricket team was in South Africa at the same time, getting their game covered by over 30 cameras and their performance being dissected in studios across continents!
Out of three ODIs and five T20Is that the women played in South Africa, only three T20Is were aired and that too because the men were going to play after them on the same field. So, the broadcasters made the cost-cutting effort to air the women’s game only as a curtain raiser for the main highlight of the day – the men.
Often, people justify the lack of awareness or even interest in the women’s game to the fact that, ‘very less people want to watch it.’ or that ‘the women don’t really have a lot of following’. However, a number of times previously and rightly so, Mithali Raj, the captain of the women’s team has attributed poor attendance at the matches to the lack of television coverage. While fans do try to follow the games online, broadcasting them would not only boost the profiles of the players but also generate more fan following for the games.
A huge reason why the women in cricket are not promoted as the men is that they’re women. This starts from the very beginning when little boys get exposed to both organized and unorganized cricket from when they’re 10 or 11, while the girls are pushed towards ‘more girly sports’ if pushed towards sports at all. If the girls do manage to get involved in the game, the ladder to professional cricket is crooked and painted in patriarchy. The grounds that offer opportunities are often in the outskirts and the more centrally located give preferences to the male players. While the male players, even at junior levels, have sponsors that give out free equipment, the women, even the ones who play for the country, find it difficult to get sponsorship for their gear.
Even though the Indian women’s cricket team finally made it to the pay grade, the difference in the amount they’re paid vs the amount the men are paid is huge. Sportswomen in India still have a long way to go and we’re still struggling to establish the same spotlight on women’s sports that the men have been enjoying for so long. There is still a lot of awareness to spread and interest to generate when it comes to sportswomen and we need to take advantage of the feminism in the air right now to make sure that more female players get to make more record making runs and take record-breaking wickets and we get the opportunity to watch them create history.
Nandini Arora, part of Safecity’s #WritersMovement, works as a Brand Manager in a Software Development company in New Delhi. Although married to numbers, her first love has always been books and writing. She regularly writes about issues such as women’s safety, Feminism, LGBTQ etc. on her blog nandiniaroraweb.wordpress.com