I have a new found love of Aretha Franklin’s hit “Respect,” no longer is it just a good dance track, and a great singalong track but it has a meaning in a sporting sense.
Preparing for this documentary has been a real education. Having grown up watching women competing at Wimbledon and the Olympics I had never really given it much thought as to how hard some of the female pioneers had fought for the right to compete in the first place.
I had never thought about the supposed stigmas that were attached to women who played sport. If they swam, played tennis or golf, the “Country Club” sports, this was acceptable, as they were classed as genteel sports and the athletes could remain ‘ladies.’
Heaven forbid if they went in for any activity that was a little more boisterous such as sprinting, hurdling, or of course football. If a female took part in these or similar sports they suffered comments about being ‘flat-chested’, ‘manly’ and ‘too muscular.’
That was if you were a white athlete. Take a moment and think about the issues black female athletes have had to overcome to get where they are today. They not only suffered the same put-downs as their white colleagues, but also had to suffer the racism that abounded at the time.
Add to that within their own communities sport was the way for a black man to gain empowerment, respect, a sense of achievement and become a symbol of pride. This chauvinistic society was none too keen on having its women overshadowing the men. So they received very little support from any quarter, ultimately making their achievements all the more remarkable and hopefully respected.
As we head to Germany I will watch the Women’s World cup with immense pride and will also tip my hat to all those forgotten ladies who made this event and other top women’s sporting events possible. The sacrifices they made and the slurs they would have had to endure. Every female athlete should remember that their performance is a credit to those ladies.
One who we shouldn’t forget as the tournament kicks off is Ellen Wille of Norway, who was the first female speaker at a FIFA meeting back in 1986, and at that meeting she proposed a World Cup for Women!