Vote For the Future

CN Canadian Women's Open - Round Three

How many of you can name the golfer in the above picture off the top of your head? If as many of 5 of you can then I’ll be extremely impressed. That is Michelle Wie, arguably the most famous female golfer in the world at the current moment in time. Does her name now ring any bells? For the majority of you, I imagine not – and I wouldn’t blame you for not knowing.

In Britain, we live in a society where females are finally being recognised as equal to men, but our sport is seemingly still a long way behind. Only now has one of the most famous golf clubs in the world – the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews – had a vote to see whether women should be allowed to become members. Women have been given the right to vote for who runs the country, acts have been signed to make sure they get equal pay in the workplace and yet they weren’t allowed to set foot in a golf club? It’s absolutely obscene and yet it took a boycott from Alex Salmond (how appropriate) when the Open Championship was held there in 2013 to even make the situation known to the wider world. It’s not even as if golf members really do anything visit and play at the club, so why on earth hasn’t anyone questioned why women weren’t allowed to join until now?

If the vote is passed and women are allowed to become members, there could be a major revolution in sport. However, the key word there is could. In terms of gender equality, golf a long way behind many other sports so if women can get equal status here then others will believe they can also bring about change. But will allowing females to just become members of a golf club really be enough to create significant change? With the way this vote has been covered, I fear it won’t be.

To be fair to the BBC, they have covered this story well on their website since it was announced that there was going to be a vote in March of this year. Both The Independent and The Guardian have also provided good online coverage of the vote across the last couple of days but that’s about it from the major news sources. Any other mentions are generally linked to the current referendum, although this result will actually be announced tonight. The lack of coverage shows, though, just how far women have to go in order to be seen as equals in sport. Even as I listen to the radio now, the discussion is about Cardiff City manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s resignation as Cardiff City FC’s manager – the vote hasn’t been mentioned once all morning. There was a brief 10 minute debate about the vote, but that’s it. This could be a historic moment for women, yet the focus is on something so much more trivial (sorry Cardiff fans!).

The only way, though, that sportswomen can get the media discussing them is through the media that so often ignores them. One of the reasons for this is the general public perception that women are more boring to watch, something I personally disagree with. Yes, men may be naturally a bit quicker and more powerful and this may make spectacles more interesting, but I’ve often found that women are actually much more skillful and intelligent as a result. In fact, many of our women are much more successful than the men. The cricketers enjoyed a double Ashes win last year, the footballers qualified for next year’s World Cup in style – winning all 10 games, scoring 52 goals and conceding just 1 – and the rugby union players won the World Cup just a few weeks ago. All this and I haven’t even mentioned individual stars such as Jess Ennis and Nicola Adams. Yet are any of these teams easily available to watch. As far as I’m aware, no.

This is an absolute scandal in my point of view, but the truth is that people don’t want to watch them. Whilst you’ve got to accept that some people will never think it’s right for women to play sport, we live in such a liberal society now that I’m sure the majority will be instantly interested in women’s sport if they were given the opportunity to watch. The only way of doing this, though, is to increase the accessibility of women’s sport – teams need to keep encouraging people to watch them with ideas such as discounts for family tickets, whilst the big news companies need to increase their coverage. It’s even worse that American sports such as baseball and American Football now attract a fair amount of coverage over here – I don’t care about them, I would rather watch women from our Home Nations participating in proper sports!

If tonight’s vote goes as planned and women can become members of St. Andrews, will it lead to immediate changes? Probably not, but what I hope is that it will have a domino affect. If women can get higher up the ladder in such a male-dominated sport as golf, then hopefully others in less patriarchal events will take confidence and fight for even more equality, leading to the potential of equal media coverage in the future. There’s still a long way to go, but let’s hope this vote is the start of something big.

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