Over the years I have learnt that the most successful strategy to frustrate the success of a person, tribe, a group of people or a nation at large is to limit its participation in socio-economic circles of influence. This was the case with colonialism before independence and sadly, is the case now for women. While I am very much aware that there are many spheres of influence that our shameless patriarchal male egos intrude into, today I will focus on sport.
What pushed me to write this piece was a comment from a victim of vile public insults in a local Facebook group for sports called Sports Line which has a following of more than 53 000. In a comment to the group the victim – a woman, wrote the following;
“The problem that you have most of you take football as a personal thing. How come some insulted m [sic] saying lam [sic] a hooker? Hee [sic] guys please take a chill pill this is football and after that the same person describe you as hooker sent you a friend request do we have Admins here ? Calling me a hooker imagine do we have Admins here is it a crime to support this team.”
Social media is a reflection of reality
With all the respect I have for the administrators of the group and its members, I am always heartbroken and so much agitated by the levels of sexism and unimaginable misogyny shamefully displayed by some lunatics in the group. Given that the admins of the page are men, as far as I know, they just tolerate this and let it go on as if it’s nothing worth worrying about.
We are a country that has made it so difficult for women to be actively involved in sports. What is happening on social media is a clear reflection of the status of women in sports, and society in general. You can easily see the negative impacts of exclusion of women at the slightest level of power, including the mere administration of a Facebook group. If we are a people that cannot respect the voices of women on social media, what more in our stadiums? For a woman, following sport and having her own opinions about it attracts insults. Furthermore, there is a line of barbaric thinking that labels any woman who gets into the vicinity of a sports stadium as some kind of whore.
And yet, quite ironically, it is our sportswomen that have yielded the highest returns for us as a nation in the recent past.
Let’s not forget, women have done well in sports
Our Mighty Warriors have done us proud by qualifying to the Olympic Games , a success that our always losing and spearless Warriors fail to do so consistently and loyally. These are women making it, and earning pride for the whole nation. Also, have we forgotten about Kirsty Coventry and the shining Tanya Muzinda, an 11 year old who has become a global icon in motocross? So why then do we find it so comfortable to throw unmentionable vulgar words at women who participate in sports? It’s such a shame and it gives a bad portrayal of our country and our levels of civilisation, educated as we are.
It is my wish that one day, women who actively participate in groups like Sports Line be treated with respect and dignity, the same way they also respect us. There are so many women in Zimbabwe who understand and love football much more passionately than men. But the whims of patriarchy and men’s sexism confine them to express their love of the game in their own safe spaces to the detriment of more robust public conversations.
And what a loss that is.
Main image taken from www.glamourmagazine.co.uk