It’s heartening to see Indian women leaving their footprints across all disciplines after coming out of the shackles of conservative Indian society. Be it Sonia Gandhi, Renuka Chaudhary , Sheila Dikshit , Sushma Swaraj on political fronts and the likes of Indira Nooyi , Chanda Kocchar and Kiran Majumdar Shaw in international corporate circles; the likes of Aishwarya Rai and Sushmita Sen for their beautiful bodies and minds Indian writers like Kiran Desai and Jhumpa Lahiri and not to forget, the nightingales of Indian subcontinent, Lata Mangeshkar and Alka Yagnik etc., for their dexterity in singing. But when it comes to sports, we can barely count numbers on fingers. For instance, Sania Mirza, Anju Bobby George, K Malleshwari and PT Usha.
Women are traditionally not encouraged to indulge in sports. Sports are men oriented, where men play and women watch. It is clearly visible in the Indian media too, be it films or advertisements. For instance, in an advertisement of Clinic Plus shampoo, a coach of a boys’ cricket team in school discourages a girl to play with the team by fearing, when he says,” Baal kharab ho jayege” (your hair will get damaged if you will play cricket in sun). Another advertisement of Tata sky featuring Gul Panag and Aamir Khan, she has been portrayed as a woman for whom sports is a nuisance. During the cricket matches and sports world cups, time and again, many news channels have shown how women have to sacrifice watching their saas-bahu dramas and newspapers also write about falling TRP’s of TV serial and how these matches are a jeremiad for women. Because in the family, their husbands, brothers and father are glued tothe sports channel and the power of attorney for the remote control is transferred to men for those few days when the matches are held.
These news channels, newspapers and advertisements depict our societal attitude and it clearly shows that sports are still considered to be a male domain. As even today, while buying toys for children, parents automatically go for buying dolls, indoor games and kitchen playing sets for their daughters, but cricket bats and footballs for their sons.
Girls are encouraged to learn virtues of a good homemaker since their childhood, whereas boys are encouraged to play outdoor sports. We hardly even see a girls’ sports team or uni-sex sports team in co-educational schools. The upbringing of boys is such that they are not able to digest girls as opponents or team members. On top of it, glitters over gold are Indian movies and the Indian Premier League matches, which have reduced status of girls in the sports to mere cheer leaders and spectators, whose heart stops beating on the glimpse of a cricketer.
Women’s vulnerability to being sexually exploited by men coaches, scarcity of women coaches and lack of sports ground sand sponsors for sportswomen are acting as a hindrance in promoting sports among women, especially in suburbs and rural areas. It’s obvious for parents to feel worried for their girl children in such a society.
All this, directly or indirectly, sings the same song that women are the weaker sex psychologically, physically, are docile and lack aggression, which are prerequisites for being a sports person.
But then, encouraging sports among girls are the answer to make girls stronger. How can one forget that scene in “Chak De India”, when the girls’ hockey players, taught an eve teaser a good lesson? They were able to do so because of their physical stamina only.
The time has come to change societal attitude towards women and practice gender equity. Here, the media needs to play a central role. The manner in which women are portrayed in the media influences our mindsets and attitudes. There is a need to transform the portrayal of women in advertisements. Women should be portrayed for sports, not anti-sports. There is dire need for making more films like, “Chak De India”, highlighting the women sports players for their games, rather than their good looks and sexy figures.
In the end, Indian women making mark internationally clearly shows that the attitude of our society towards women is changing. Indian families understand the importance of their daughter’s academics and educational qualifications, to make her independent. However, they still need to understand that encouraging sports among girls is as important for her personality development as her academics are, and the virtues like team spirit, leadership, decision making ability and flexibility can be learned on the sports ground only, not by merely playing ghar-ghar with kitchen sets.
[Image source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ghedo/2582816683/]