Stop banning girls from playing sports
While one is used to hearing stories from Saudi Arabia banning women from sports and claiming that their religion does not permit the existence of female athletes, the fact that an American school would do the same, comes across as shocking. The land of the free is evidently not as free as one would like to believe. An interesting aspect about these bans on women performing in sports activities, is that the reasons for the bans center around the minds of men, which will apparently be corrupted if a female were to join their team.
School authorities at Strong Rock Christian School, Georgia told 11-year-old Maddie Paige that she would not be able to play football anymore because it would incite lustful feelings among her male teammates. Outrage ensued via the creation of a campaign on a popular social networking site, and “Let her play” is currently trending online, bringing forward support from around the world. In a statement, which was emailed to a media channel, the Athletic Director of the school stated, “our official policy is that middle school girls play girl sports and middle school boys play boy sports”.
In Saudi Arabia, authorities have clearly stated that the notion of women playing sports is not conducive to religious teachings, which are clearly in favor of the “remain invisible and be thought of as virtuous” policy. The few sports centers, which allow “only women” members, are expensive and often not easily accessible; it must be stated here that Saudi Arabia’s ban on women driving is partly responsible for this. The high fees of these few centers, along with the high costs of employing a male chauffeur, makes the enjoyment of sporting activities a very dismal one for Saudi women. Only two female athletes from Saudi Arabia competed in the 2012 Olympics; Sarah Attar for the 800m race, and Wodjan Ali Seraj Abdulrahim Shahrkhani for judo above 78kg.
While it is disappointing to see these anti-sportswoman sentiments all over the world, even in developed countries, it is important to note a few contradictions which in fact, have not been brought forward by the same authorities who ban girls from sports. The first contradiction comes from the statements regarding the manner in which male players could develop “lustful feelings” for their female counterparts. Why then, do cheerleaders exist in the sidelines, with their tiny midriff-bearing skirts, high kicks and often sexually explicit routines? The purpose of these ladies on the field is to “motivate” male players to perform better! A simple Internet search will serve to bring forward thousands of cheerleaders from the very same state of Georgia, who have in fact, won numerous cheer leading competitions, and are undoubtedly very welcome on all sporting grounds. Why not ban them if the idea of women and sports is so lust inducing?
The second contradiction involves “girls playing girls sports and boys playing boys sports”; who assigned gender roles to sports? Tennis player Steffi Graf is known for creating records, which have not been broken by any other player. India’s boxing champion Mary Kom is a five-time boxing champion, while the Indian Women’s Cricket Team are the unbeaten 4-time champions of the Asia Cup.
For every talented male sports person on the field, there is an equally talented female sports woman who is not only qualified to play the game, but also has the right to play on equal ground. To insult the intelligence of men by alluding to their apparent inability to control their primal feelings in the presence of a female is as regressive as the decision to ban girls from playing “boys sports”. The fight for Georgia’s Maddy Paige is almost 50,000-members strong, while the voices from Saudi Arabia are speaking up, softly but firmly. In the tennis world, star player Venus Williams is fighting for equal pay for female athletes, while India continues its respectable attempt at highlighting women in sports. The struggle for equality and fair play will continue, and it is hoped that more progressive perspectives will ban regressive thinking.