Acknowledging the past and empowering the present.
Equality is only one part of the equation. More women and girls need to feel empowered to participate and continue participating in sport from a young age, and this is still an enormous challenge in many parts of the world.
Looking back, in 1967 women weren’t allowed to officially enter the Boston Marathon, so Kathrine Switzer entered that year as “K.V. Switzer” to hide her gender. Two miles in, an official tried to eject her from the course, a moment captured in dramatic photographs. She finished anyway, becoming the first woman to complete the race as an official entrant. Consequently, women were officially allowed to enter the race in 1972. Women’s marathoning joined the Olympics in 1984.
Kathrine Switzer, alongside the likes of Billie Jean King and Aileen Riggin and Serena Williams, are only a few of the revolutionary women who we at Halftime are exceptionally proud to call our heroes.
“Everyone thinks women should be thrilled when we get crumbs, and I want women to have the cake, the icing and the cherry in top, too.”
- Billie Jean King, a tennis legend who led the charge for pay equality in her sport
In the past year, we have seen The World Surf League become the first U.S. based global sports league to apply pay parity this year, announcing that it would begin awarding equal prize money to men and women at the elite level in 2019.
On the 1st of March this year, all 28 players on the United States women’s soccer team filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the United States Soccer Federation, an escalation in their increasingly public battle for equality. The players have said that they play more games than the men’s team — and win more of them — yet still receive less pay. They said “institutionalized gender discrimination” affected not only their paychecks, but also where they played and how often, how they trained, the medical care and coaching they received, and even how they traveled to matches.
This level of disparity between the pay of athletes being entirely based on gender filters down to the new generations, distilling a powerful awareness that girls are not deemed as worthy in sport as boys. But where do we draw the line? According to Sport England’s Active Lives survey published in December 2018, in the UK just 17.5% of children aged five to 16 are meeting the recommended 60 minutes of activity each day. And in 2017 the Youth Sports Trust reported that less than 10% of females up the age of 18 were meeting the recommendation.
It’s about mindset. It’s about looking objectively at the fact that we are teaching our children that there are certain things they just can’t do. Children are open and creative with their intentions and new experiences, so why hinder that in any way? With our minds constantly being pulled laterally by climate change, politics, and media dramatisations, it seems trivial to be continuing with this level of ignorance and blatant offence towards talented athletes when it can be corrected so easily. This isn’t about pride, this is a matter of principle. If we don’t challenge the continuous inequality faced within sport then we are essentially agreeing that this is the way it should be.
Our future is entirely malleable. There is nothing stopping us from collectively acknowledging inconsistencies, and eradicating them for the sake of our children.
Later on this year, Halftime will be releasing a short film Directed by Bertil Nilsson with Mindset FC and East London Ladies FC, discussing the importance of supporting children in sport.