Discrimination in Sports by Dr Payoshni Mitra
I work on gender issues in sports as a researcher and activist. However, as a researcher, it often becomes important to stay neutral and not explicitly express one’s views while interviewing someone who is sexist, so that you do not influence the outcome of your research. It is a hard game, and often I have to be careful in ensuring that I listen before I speak. Let me share with you one of my experiences.
In sports, there are few women coaches, and most of the women who become coaches tend to never get promoted to become a head coach.
Many male coaches and administrators believe that women as coaches can not do well as coaching requires one to spend many hours with her team and travel frequently with the team.
Women, according to these men, are unable to do so as they have bigger responsibilities back home.
In one of the sports centres I was visiting, I had to meet a coach who was responsible for the administration of the centre. He was my contact person and I needed him to help me reach other coaches and athletes for interviews. On the first day, he introduced me to the handful of women coaches. Interestingly, each of them was the senior most coach in their sport in the centre, managing both male and female teams. A couple of them with whom I had the opportunity to talk longer seemed to have been resisting the sexist attitude of many of their male colleagues.
These women had left their families in other cities to work in this particular centre – clearly, they did not fit the popular notion of women coaches unable and unwilling to travel due to family responsibilities. But that didn’t stop their male colleagues from making fresh assumptions about them.
The senior male coach, who introduced me to these women on the first day, was giving me an interview a couple of days later. To my question about female coaches, he responded in a similar fashion. So I tried to explain to him how the women coaches he introduced me to were breaking those stereotypes. What he told me was shocking but representative, never the less.
He said, ‘these women are frustrated. They left their families and live alone here. They are so unhappy with their personal lives that they bring in their bitterness to work and are not productive.’
Women in a male domain like sport, it seems, according to this man, can never do justice to the profession.
Dr Mitra is a Researcher and advocate for gender issues in sports
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