Sport as a means of equality

Today, March 8, is a shameful date for us men. It commemorates a protest by New York women in the now-distant year of 1857, over the miserable working conditions in which they found themselves. That cause reached a dramatic climax with the 1911 disaster, when a shirt factory in The Big Apple caught fire resulting in many dozens of victims. The vast majority of them were young women, crammed into a space without security or escape routes, all working for a miserly reward. Inspiring girls, immigrants there, or daughters of immigrants, fighters for a future against the abuse of wealthy males.

Women of the Reliance Waist Company, many wearing a corsage, pose for a group photo with a flower bouquets including ribbons that read "Good Luck" and "Your Friends." Photo courtesy of the Kheel Center, Cornell University.

Sport didn't welcome women

Let's not fool ourselves, this still continues today. The males of that generation, and the subsequent ones, educated us in a model that suits men. "Let your sister make the beds," "don't go into the kitchen as that's for 'faggots'" (another, thankfully diminishing, term of the time). Many are now rebelling against that unjust doctrine, initially one by one, then as a group, and finally en masse. Rather insensitively, sport has played its part in those old conventions. I lived through a time when a girl involved in sport was called a 'tomboy'. Those who played a relatively accepted sport (basketball, for example) had to wear those traditional knickerbockers, so that their thighs wouldn't be exposed. Women that stood out in sport were rare cases.

Some of Spain's leading women | Mirela Belmonte, Lydia Valentín, Carolina Marin and Teresa Perales.

Sport can help create female role models

I like to know that in this slow and steady march towards equality, which today's ignorant males contemplate with reluctant indifference, sport is a great component. There are still not many Spanish women who play sport 'seriously', only representing 21.52% according to the federations' records, but their successes far exceed that percentage. Yesterday we learned of our football players' victory in the Cyprus Cup, just as on Saturday our rugby 'Lionesses' had won the European Championship. Sport doesn't provide solutions, but it can inspire. It creates role models. Every woman who achieves sporting success does a lot for all the others.