Opinion: Women’s records in sport - and why they matter
By Michael Sherman
JOHANNESBURG – Proteas bowler Dwaine Pretorius was exceptional as he took 5/17 in the second T20 International against Pakistan over the weekend, and he was immediately hailed as having achieved the best figures in the format for South Africa – which was not totally accurate.
In fact, he is third on the list. That’s if the list includes the performances of SA women’s bowlers. Shabnim Ismail is second with her 5/12 she took against Pakistan women in Durban last month, and Sune Luus has the best figures in T20Is for SA with her 5/8 she claimed against Ireland in March 2016.
Many will rush to the defence of all those who claim Pretorius as the best figures, as a matter of semantics – but that’s actually the problem. The performances of women should be just as readily celebrated as men’s achievements.
It leads one to ask, how important is it when we’re talking about records in men’s sport that we mention women’s records as well?
To illustrate the point – here’s another question, who is the only South African to claim 100 T20I wickets?
If you ask that in a pub, you’d likely get some answers like Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir and Morne Morkel. In fact, google lists those names if you search for “most wickets for SA in T20s”. Steyn, however, claimed 64 wickets, Tahir 61, Morkel 46 and they are the top three men’s wicket-takers for SA in T20Is.
Again, the answer is a woman. Ismail also last month became the first SA player to take 100 T20I wickets.
The pattern is easy to spot.
Here’s an example. Who’s the best tennis player ever? Many will say Swiss legend Roger Federer with his 20 Grand slam titles (Spain’s Rafael Nadal also has 20), but going by the ‘Majors’ it’s easily America’s Serena Williams with 23. Many will actually totally disregard the number of Majors won, and start arguing about character in the debate of best-ever when it’s a case of Federer versus Williams.
In fact, if you google “best tennis player ever” or “best golfer ever” or “best cricketer ever” the results are all the same – there are no women’s players which come up. It reveals the bias in sport toward men, and the fact that general conversations of this nature don’t include women.
Another revealing google search, is one for “best athlete ever” which shows 16 results before the name Serena Williams comes up. The argument here is not that Wiliams should necessarily come up sooner, but that women should also appear prominently.
There are many other best-ever searches worthy of comparison, but that likely will see little change in the results.
The crux of the issue is acknowledgement and inclusion, and it’s not too much to ask – is it?
African News Agency (ANA)