GAME ON by Sue Anstiss
I am very interested in women’s sports, so I was very keen to read Game On – The Unstoppable Rise of Women’s Sport, the new book by Sue Anstiss MBE. It talks about the inequalities between men’s and women’s sports in many different aspects from television coverage to prize money.
I especially enjoyed Chapter 3 – The Female Frailty Myth which explains how sport was seen as being unfeminine and dangerous to women’s fertility, so it was discouraged or banned. Although this is seen, quite rightly, as an old-fashioned point of view, some of the statistics are shocking. For example, it wasn’t until 1996 that women’s football was included in the Olympic Games, and it took until 2007 until Wimbledon awarded the same amount of prize money to the male and female winners.
Being a former gymnast, I was pleased to read that Barbara Slater has been one of the women at the forefront of the efforts to improve things for women’s sports. She competed for Great Britain in the 1976 Olympic Games as a gymnast and in 2009, she became the BBC’s first female Director of Sport.
It is also fascinating to read how men became the primary consumers of sports events (at live matches and on TV) due to the extra leisure time they had, from their wives doing most of the housework and childcare. As society changed in the division of labour in the home, women have gained more leisure time!
So there is plenty you will learn from this book. However, one slight criticism I have is that the book is understandably full of statistics and acronyms and is very heavy on information, which can make it a bit hard to read in large sessions.
It is, in my opinion, rather sad that sport is judged by the money its sponsors can make, but I guess that’s a sign of the times. Amateur sports are becoming a thing of the past, with more sports men and women training full time and earning a wage from it. This is covered in Chapter 7 particularly – Equal Pay for Equal Play. When reading that tennis star Naomi Osaka earned $37.4 million in 2019, instead of being proud that a woman could earn that amount, I was rather reminded of the inequalities of class as much as gender. Is anyone really worth $37.4 million a year?
Overall, I found Game On proved that the situation is improving and there are many positive things to celebrate. The women involved in these changes should be proud of what they have achieved, but this book also demonstrates that there is still a long way to go.