2016 marked an amazing year for women’s sports in Australia but you’d be forgiven for not noticing. In a nation that has sports at the very heart of our cultural identity and that prides itself on our sporting heritage, women’s sports have always been relegated to background.
Yesterday, the Australian Football League released a new promo for the up-coming inaugural Women’s AFL Season launch. It’s a great example of how, with the media’s support, women’s sports can grow. Everyone, it seems, loves seeing women in sport.
“Women riding high? I’d like to see that” Michelle Payne
Matt Favier, acting Australian Sport Commission chief executive, says that while women’s sport turned a corner in the hearts and minds of the Australian public last year, greater media and sponsorship support is essential.
This is clear in the surfing arena too where, although the tide is turning, most of the women who appear in surf mags or sell surf wear, aren’t even surfers.
“But, but… women aren’t good enough, and even if they were, nobody wants to see women surf!” The old line that nobody is interested in women’s sport is always trotted out whenever there is any criticism highlighting the media disparity in sporting coverage says the ABC’s Tracey Holmes. Tracey argues that the media at large remains unable at best, unwilling at worst, to meet the challenge of covering women’s sport.
“Girls who never give up? I’d like to see that!” Turia Pitt
For the surfing world, 2016 was great year for women. Amongst other things: Keala Kennelly became the first woman to win an open-gender XXL Big Wave award; Paige Alms, the first Women’s Big Wave Champion, was crowned; women maintained prize purse parity for WSL events; Tyler Wright reclaimed the Women’s World Title for Australia, and Rachael Tilly became the youngest world title winner ever at 17.
“Right now we could really use some strong female role models. What do we tell our daughters right now? We need some heroes.” Keala Kennelly
Let’s be clear. I think that surfing has a whole range of heroes and strong female role models. It’s not up to them to change the way they’re represented in the sport, nor is it up to sporting bodies such as Surfing Australia and the WSL who are already doing a lot for women.
Rather, the challenge lies in the hands of the media and the surf industry. The latter to sponsor women surfers based on their ability and the former to stop objectifying athletes (because that’s what professional surfers are). It’s beyond time for the media and the industry to recognise that not only do women surf, but that we do it well.
Women’s surfing getting the recognition it deserves within the industry? I’d like to see that.