Women’s cricket in Australia has had a long battle for acceptance. While the sport has slightly flourished more recently, acceptance by so many members in society has been qualified and limited. It is interesting to note the fact that Australia Women’s cricket team is the No. 1 ranked international team in the world in both one day and Test Cricket. The first World Cup One Day Series was played by women in England in 1973, two years before the World Cricket concept began for men, with Australia having won four World Cups in 1978, 1982, 1988 and 1997.
Nationally, Women’s Cricket provides the framework and support for (seven) state associations to develop cricket for women and girls at levels ranging from junior to modified through to national interstate competitions at Under 17, Under 19 and Open levels. In total over 26,500 women and girls are playing cricket at school and club level nationally. (www.sourthernstars.org.au/) Furthermore it promotes equality and respect for women and girls in all aspects of sport with the aim of creating in sport settings that are more inclusive and supportive of the participation of women and girls.
The statistics listed above illustrate how successful women’s cricket however this is not looked upon proudly among many males in society. Cricket is one of Australia’s key national sports and occupies a sacred place in Australian culture however many people in society accept that, the employment of the word ‘women’s’ invariably proceeding the phrase ‘women’s cricket’ seems to indicate that women are not involved in the same game. Women’s cricket contributed to two of the most significant parts of the game, the over-arm bowling and the world cup but Burroughs, Seebohm and Ashburn suggest that this recognition was hardly given to the women’s cricket teams because they were not taken very seriously.
Ann Mitchell who is the president of the Australian women’s cricket council defends women’s cricket by explaining that men feel threatened because of the success and good sportsmanship of women’s cricket therefore tend to support sexual allegation as a result. Many lesbian cricketers and footballers live constantly with the tension created between their gayness and their desire for integration, which could be eased if they were courageous enough to come out in mainstream sport in greater numbers, and if more heterosexual sportswomen were prepared to stand up and speak out against homophobia and more importantly equality in sport.
The media coverage on Women’s sport has been completely inadequate. And, to sustai8n the argument, it is believed that, while the media continues to reflect the existing situation inadequately, they significantly perpetuate the underlying attitude that women’s sport is less important and less worthy. However it must be emphasised that although women’s sport features very rarely in the commercial media when issues involving sexuality emerge especially in connection with female sexuality, they become prominent as news headlines and front covers of newspapers. It is interesting to not that homosexuality in male sports, by comparison, has never rated as a media issue, but homosexuality in female sports is always exposed and usually embellished by the media.
The media is a large factor in revealing the issue of lesbians in sport that in turn enables the myth that women teams-sports are prominently homosexual based to grow. This was evident in January of 1994. Between the bulletins on the process of the terrible bushfires, it was reported that female cricketer Denise Annetts has been dropped from the Australian women’s cricket team and has alleged that this is because of her sexuality. This was on prime time television and more importantly caused an eruption in the heated debate on lesbians in sport. “The media’s preoccupation with lesbianism within women’s cricket served only to titillate the public, trivialize the game itself and embarrass women’s sport in general.” (A. Burroughs, pp, 37).
There has been a long history of the marginalisation of women’s sport in Australian. For much of the past century, most women’s sports have been confined to the periphery and have had to survive with little encouragement, recognition and resources. Unfortunately, the controversial issue of lesbians in sporting teams (especially team-sports) are not acted upon as strongly as they should be because many believe that it was a “bastion of a dominant male culture incapable of reform”.
There are many gender issues historians need to explore and furthermore, tackle. There is a need to re-define Australian sport and more deeply speaking, Australian culture in order to make sport less sexist and more appealing to women. It is unfortunate that so many women in contemporary society are reluctant to play in team-sports such as cricket and football because of the sexist stereotypes of ‘ugliness, masculinity and lesbianism’ that come with it. Once this has been achieved, it is almost certain that Australian culture will be so much healthier and could become a role model for all other countries to follow. After all, sport is such a big part of Australia’s unique culture.
A. Burroughs, L. Seebohm, L. Ashburn- ‘”A Leso story”: A case study of Australian Women’s Cricket and its media experience’, Sporting traditions, vol, 12, no 1, Nov. 1995, pp. 27-46.
R. Cashman- ‘”Gender”: Paradise of Sport, the rise of Originated Sport In Australia’, Oxford University Press, 1995, pp. 72-92.
Australian Sports Commission- ‘”The Media”: Women, Sport and the Media’, Canberra Publishing and Printing Co. 1985, pp. 32-39.
M. Boutilier and L. SanGiovanni- ‘”The Social Context Of Women in Sport”: The sporting Women’, Human Kinetics Publishers.1983, pp. 93-100.