Radio, Sports and Women

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Radio, Sports and Women

The theme of this year’s World Radio Day was Radio and Sports.  It seems fitting, with three major international sports festivals happening in 2018.  The Winter Olympics just ended, the Commonwealth Games are coming up and in June, the World Cup will captivate millions, even billions around the world.

Radio will play a big role in broadcasting and disseminating these events.  Even in the world of today where televisions, smartphones and internet coverage are the popular mediums, radio still fits in because of its reach and versatility.   Indeed, in some remote communities or in homes where a television would be prohibitively expensive, radio will be the main means of experiencing the tournament.

According to UNESCO, there is a disparity in the coverage of men’s sports versus women’s sports.  Not just in the level of coverage and analysis, but also just the way the sports are covered.  Not only do female athletes have to deal with the usual scrutiny of their performances, but then they also have to deal with comments about the way they look.

They are expected to attain peak athleticism whilst still looking like catwalk models.  Undue focus is given to their weight, or other physical attributes.  One infamous example saw a commentator make disparaging remarks about the looks of Marion Bartoli, the 2013 Wimbledon Champion moments after she had won the most prestigious prize in tennis.  He asked the listeners “Do you think Bartoli’s dad (who was her long-time coach) told her when she was little, ‘you’re never going to be a looker’, you’re never going to be a Sharapova (one of the most marketable women in the women’s circuit), so you have to be scrappy and fight’”?  The commentator was just referring to Bartoli’s style of play, but I daresay if he were talking about a scrappy male player, he would not feel the need to pass comment on his looks.

World Radio Day created some clips to show this disparity.  One example is like this, looking at the language used to describe the male and female players.  “Dribbles like a god (male), dribbles like a man (female)”

It is not just the athletes themselves.  There is often a lack of female representation in sports commentary and punditry.  There are a lot of old ideas and habits in sports journalism that will take a generation or two to die out.  As viewers, listeners and consumers of media we should also be patient with these intrepid and enterprising journalists when they start out too.

In addition to this, there is also need for women to have their own space on the radio.  In Nigeria, radio is still quite popular, especially the call-in shows.  However, one thing we’ve noticed is that unless men are specifically asked not to call, they tend to dominate the call-in shows, even when the issues might be something that a woman might have a greater insight on.  If a show is about Postpartum Depression, then we’d like to hear from some women about their experiences and often times, we just don’t or it’s not enough.

At ARDA, we are working towards creating content and radio programmes that will hopefully be more welcoming to women. Watch this space!

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