Since the eighteenth century, women and men across the globe have fought to create a future free from gender discrimination. Whilst many battles have been won, the war is not over. The sporting industry continues to exist as a harsh reminder of the prevalence of gender inequality today.
In 2008, heavyweight boxer Tyson Fury sparked global outrage following his claims that ‘a woman’s best place is in the kitchen and on her back’. Subjected to relentless criticism for his comments, it is arguable that Fury expressed an opinion held by many in the industry. It would naïve to assume that gender inequality is a concept of the past. With only 7% of media coverage dedicated to women’s sports, it is unsurprising that a mere 0.4% of commercial investment is allocated to female sporting events.*
In the football industry, the figures speak for themselves: Captain of Manchester United and England, Wayne Rooney’s annual earnings reportedly amount to £13.5 million, whilst it is estimated that Steph Houghton, Captain of Manchester City and England, earns £65k per year.
However, from Althea Gibson and Jenny Thompson to Jessica Ennis and Katherine Grainger, history tells the tales of legendary sportswomen and their role in shaping the world we live in today.
Yet history tells the tales of countless female sporting legends. From Althea Gibson and Jenny Thompson to Jessica Ennis and Katherine Grainger, sportswomen have shaped the world in which we live today. It is time to play tribute to some of the greatest!
‘People said women couldn’t swim the Channel, but I proved they could’ – Gertrude Ederle
Nicknamed ‘Queen of the Waves’, Gertrude Ederle dominated headlines when she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel in 1926. Only five men swam the distance prior to Ederle, with Enrique Tiraboschi setting the record at 16 hours and 33 minutes. Ederle swam the channel in 14 hours and 34 minutes. The first woman to accomplish such an incredible feat, she also broke the record by two hours; an achievement that demonstrated the strength of women and their ability to compete alongside men.
‘Women, like men, should try and do the impossible. And when they fail, their failure should be a challenge to others’ – Amelia Earhart
Inspired by the famous Charles Lindbergh and his record-breaking flight transatlantic flight in 1927, Amelia Earhart proved to the world that women are as capable as men! In May 1932, Earhart took off from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, and flew for 14 hours and 56 minutes before finally landing at Culmore, Northern Ireland. Placed within the volatile context of gender discourse, this achievement was celebrated by women across the globe and she became the recipient of a number of internationally renowned awards. Earhart continues to be iconised today as the first woman to conquer the non-stop flight across the Atlantic, solo. However the accolades of Earhart are tragically enshrouded by mystery. Whilst attempting to complete a circumnavigational flight around the world in 1937, Earhart disappeared, never to be seen again.
‘I wanted to use sports for social change’ – Billie Jean King
In 1973, Billie Jean King achieved glory as she defeated the notorious tennis star Bobby Riggs in the so-called ‘Battle of the Sexes’. Claiming that tennis was a male sport and that even at the age of 55 he could beat the top female players, Riggs epitomised the existence of gender equality in the sporting world. On 20th September 29-year-old King spectacularly beat Riggs in front of an audience of 30, 492 people and an estimated global television audience of 50 million. Achieving global recognition and changing perceptions, she became an icon in the fight against gender inequality.
Epitomising the strength of women and promoting equality in the world of sport, these women, alongside countless others, embody the continuous battle against gender inequality. It is paramount that we celebrate the sporting heroes of our past and continue to support sportswoman today. Gender inequality is an outdated prejudice that cannot dictate the future of sport.