Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Sport has failed women

It's hard to keep loving sport when it consistently fails women but at least the topic is being discussed more.

I still can't bring myself to celebrate the state of women's sport, writes Dana Johannsen. Photo / Getty Images
I still can't bring myself to celebrate the state of women's sport, writes Dana Johannsen. Photo / Getty Images

You try to live by your principles, but the uncomfortable truth for me is that sport is a minefield of compromises.

I love sport. I love the feeling that you've just witnessed a small miracle when the Black Caps win a test; watching Valerie Adams psyche out her opposition with her imposing physique and swagger; that confidence you feel just before kick-off in an All Black match; Casey Kopua snatching a spectacular aerial intercept from an unsuspecting Aussie shooter; and that look of grit and determination on the faces of Eric Murray and Hamish Bond, a sheer refusal to be beaten.

But I sometimes hate sport. I hate that it consistently fails women.

This year has produced many highlights for women: Adams, Lydia Ko, Lauren Boyle, the Football Ferns, Lisa Carrington, Team Jolly - aka Jo Aleh and Polly Powrie - in the women's 470 have all delivered special moments.

And yet still I can't bring myself to celebrate the state of women's sport.

*When the NZRU don't have a female representative on their board - and never have.

*When Marion Bartoli wins Wimbledon with a gritty performance and people are more concerned about her looks.

*When rugby players can front domestic violence campaigns yet when one of their teammates is charged with assault they lose their voice.

*When the ANZ Championship struggles to get a foothold in the Australian TV market yet the Lingerie Football League - sorry, I mean Legends Football League - a new sport with no tradition in Australia gets a deal on mainstream telly in its first season because the athletes are running around in their knickers.

*When that same league is the fastest growing women's sport in the world.

*When there is a scarcity of women on our TV screens, radio and in print talking about sport, particularly once past a certain age in TV.

*And when Fifa pays lip service about wanting to promote equality for women in their sport yet Sepp Blatter can barely open his mouth without spouting some sexist drivel (Blatter I imagine would be a strong supporter of the LFL having famously proclaimed female soccer players should wear tighter shorts if they wanted to boost the profile of their sport).

It makes me start to wonder why I remain a fervent supporter of sport.

The irony is not lost on me that I work in an industry that often perpetuates sexist attitudes, with coverage of women's sport shamefully under-represented in the media. And still I really, really like my job.

But if there is reason to be hopeful it's that discussions around female representation are becoming more commonplace. When I look back at the past 12 months it is staggering to see how far we've come in terms of opening up a dialogue in the role women play in sport. I hope that conversation gets louder in 2014.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- NZ Herald

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Dana Johannsen is the NZ Herald's chief sports reporter

Dana has more than a decade's experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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