Monday, September 27, 2010

What does it mean?

One of the foremost questions I seek to answer in my PhD is:

What does women's cricket mean to the women that play?

Many feminist theorists have suggested that playing sport is, for women, liberating. Both physically, as it allows them to feel powerful and in control of their bodies, and socially, as it is one way of defying social norms about it being "unnatural" for women to play sport, and of creating new norms that begin to associate women with athleticism.

But are sportswomen, and in particular female cricketers, really feminists, or even gender-conscious? I suspect that this question will not be straightforward to answer, because

a) many women do not self-define as feminists - in the world of sport this is even more likely than usual, as it may lead to strained relations with their more powerful male equivalents - yet their actions show that they act in "feminist" ways.

b) a lot of women, in my experience, say that they play sport simply for "fun" and with no hidden agenda. Can I impose a feminist agenda onto female cricketers, or is that simply reimposing their historical silence, preventing their words speaking for themselves?

Linked in with the question of whether women cricketers are gender-conscious are other questions that include

How far are they aware of the history of the sport?
Do they actively seek to differentiate themselves from their male equivalents, or is women's cricket the same as men's cricket in their eyes?
How far are they aware of the types of discrimination - media, societal, financial - that they face as female athletes? Does it bother them, or do they seek to justify it?

I wonder to what extent I will be able to answer these questions, but I hope I can at least suggest tentative answers in my eventual thesis; I want my research to have an impact not only in the field of sports history but also in the feminist arena, and if possible in the world of government policy-formation.

We shall see!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

"The power game"

I just finished reading an interview with the first woman to score a century in Twenty20, Deandra Dottin,


during which the interviewer stated that "the power game is something that is not often associated with women's cricket."

I suspect that most people, if they did bother to read this interview, would accept this statement without a second thought. But it made me stop and think. In the research I have conducted to date, on both women's sport and women in cricket specifically, the issue of female physical strength - in this case phrased covertly as "the power game" - is one that crops up again and again. Mainly the idea that women are less physically able than men, however it is phrased, is bandied about as a justification for the marginalisation of female sport.

How often have journalists written reports of women's games that express this kind of sentiment, stating that "it just wasn't as fast-paced as the men's game" or "it wasn't as exciting"?

How long must female athletes continue to have to compete against men? Dottin scored the quickest century to date in both women's and men's cricket. Doesn't this prove something?

Aren't these kind of sentiments just another kind of phallocentrism in a society that claims to strive for gender equality? Why should it be any more acceptable that any other form of sexism?

Marjorie Pollard, writing on women's cricket in 1930, wrote:
"we do not wish to follow, we wish to go our own our own cricket in our own way."

Today's sportswomen would do well to follow this sentiment.