Misogynoir in sports: How Black women athletes are devalued | Opinions

This is an anti-black world, one where the contributions of Africans and the African diaspora are erased, stolen, or undervalued. This number is twice that of Black women globally, and it’s quite evident in the way Black female athletes are treated. Their achievements cannot be celebrated without undue criticism of their athletic flaws, or without widespread criticism of their appearance or perceived lack of femininity.

The jailing of American basketball player Brittney Griner is a recent example. Framed at six feet nine (206 centimeters tall), her weirdness and her Negro work against her in a world that is anti-black, anti-gay, and confused. As the all-time WNBA player, she earns only $250,000 a year so she had to go to Russia – where there is a lot of racism and homophobia – to play on a basketball team. local for an additional $1.5 million.

In February, just before Russia invaded Ukraine, Russian authorities jailed her to use her as a political pawn in their conflict with the West, regardless of physical, psychological or mental health. her god. The US didn’t take Griner seriously either, they missed scheduled phone calls and didn’t check on her often. The fact that President Joe Biden finally met her wife, Cherelle Griner, in mid-September does not negate the lack of value placed on her mental health, career and life in the serious game of geopolitical posture. .

This is not just a matter of a single gifted black athlete. The frustration that female athletes face around the world over the underestimation of their successes, the hardships they have gone through and the efforts they have put in to compete domestically and international.

I was aware of the disdain of Black women as athletes growing up in the 1980s. I wasn’t aware of my mother’s time as a successful basketball player at Jim Crow Arkansas High School for until I was almost 16 years old. “Yes Donald, I played,” she said nonchalantly on a Thanksgiving Day 1985 call with her brothers and parents.

Even with that, I didn’t know until I was 23 that she helped lead her team to the 1965 quarterfinals of segregated state. She underestimates her 30 points in some of these games, she underestimates her team, and she underestimates the impact that learning this at five or 13 will have on her team. me as an athlete or as a Negro.

My mom despises sports and her achievements as if they don’t matter because, in a world of white racist Jim Crow and Black patriarchy, to a lot of people, they don’t matter. important. That lesson has stuck with me for the 37 years since I first learned about my mother’s athletic success and has shaped the way I think about the devaluation of Black female athletes in all sports. sport.

I remember how in the 1980s US commentators portrayed the two-time US Open singles champion Tracy Austin as the blonde icon of a quintessential tennis player who couldn’t do anything. wrong, a younger Chris Evert, she’s called the “girl next door”.

I also recall around that time, the same commenters discussed only Zina Garrison, a black American tennis player, in vague athletic terms, overcoming hamstring and thigh problems her, and speculated on whether she could win the tour, with such muscle.

These criticisms come despite Garrison’s ranking among the top 10 women’s tennis players in the world between 1983-1990, despite her beating Evert, Martina Navratilova and Steffi Graf when they were in or near the top. The contrast in coverage between white and black tennis players in appearance and competitive expectations sent me soaring.

Then came the 1990s, when Venus and Serena Williams conquered the court, dominating the sport for the next quarter of a century. But even with them, white women continue to be favored in the media. Despite the cover stories in Vogue and Time, Serena never really hit the mark during her long, tumultuous career in which she won 23 Grand Slam singles titles.

Venus has also never been considered the greatest tennis player of all time, with seven Grand Slam singles titles of her own, including five Wimbledon titles. Together, they also have 14 Grand Slam titles in mixed doubles. That makes up a staggering 44 combined titles at four Grand Slams since the 1990s.

Criticisms of their hairstyle and especially their beaded braids, of Serena’s post-pregnancy clothes, of her “I mean, I’m just Serena” swagger, of complaints in court about suspicious referee calls, about their muscles persisting for years.

There are also forever comparisons between Serena and all-time women’s (and lesbian) champion Margaret Court, although more than half of Court’s 24 singles wins at Grand Slams occurred before 1968 when They are considered competitions for amateur tennis players.

Then there’s the sport’s Anna Kournikovas and Maria Sharapovas, who have received much more acclaim (and modeling gigs) as young and relatively skinny white women, even though they have many defects and – in the case of Kournikova – his ability to compete professionally was very limited.

When black women were unable to succeed in white-dominated sports or took time off to protect their mental health, critics were there to rebuke them. Garrison has certainly faced a lot of criticism for her match and thighs as she has never won a single Grand Slam, and has had to deal with and struggle with bulimia in the past. most of his career.

Former black Japanese number one Naomi Osaka, with four Grand Slam singles titles, faced a barrage of criticism during press conferences and she eventually had to withdraw from the French Open. 2021 due to anxiety and depression.

In the US, conservative researcher Charlie Kirk has called four-time Olympic gold medalist gymnast Simone Biles, arguably the greatest gymnast of all time, a “good sociopath” century” for withdrawing from the Olympic Games in Tokyo last year. She made this decision after she lost track of herself in the air during a complicated routine, something that could lead to a terrible trauma. This constant breathing of air has crippled these powerful athletes, possibly even shortening their careers.

Many black and African women also face institutional discrimination in the form of gender and high testosterone limits (high T) and bans in athletics. Recent science in this regard indicates that high T alone does not confer an athletic advantage for female, transgender, or heterosexual athletes.

Despite the evidence, the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) has firmly ruled out athletes with high TT If high T-score athletes want to compete, especially in athletics , they will have to undergo hormone therapy to suppress their natural testosterone production. . Even the International Olympic Committee rejected this stance after the Tokyo Olympics, ultimately ceding decisions restricting the participation of high T-athletes to individual sports organizations. .

The athletes most affected by this arbitrary segregation are black and African women, such as South African middle-distance runner Caster Semenya, a two-time gold medalist. Olympics in the women’s 800m. She is banned from competing internationally unless she lowers her testosterone, a ruling that Semenya appealed at the European Court of Human Rights.

There are a host of others who face similar exclusion and discrimination, including Beatrice Masilingi, Christine Mboma, Francine Niyonsaba, Aminatou Seyni and Margaret Wambui.

At the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, where Semenya won gold, Burundi’s Niyonsaba won silver and Kenya’s Wambui won bronze in the 800m, Polish track and field athlete Joanna Jozwik came in second. years, uttered the real reason many Europeans support a ban on the high T.

“These fellows have very high testosterone levels, similar to that of men, that’s why they look and run like they do… I’ve seen them. [Canada’s] Melissa Bishop, who was very disappointed… I think she should be the gold medalist… I’m glad I was first European, second white,” Jozwik said after the event.

To her, and to much of the world, black and African female athletes look nothing like or like white and European women and deserve to be hurt by the scrutiny of testosterone levels. their. Even more than Black men, Black women are the scapegoat to a world of unfair exploitation dominated by whites.

It is in this world setting that an athlete of Griner’s caliber must suffer in the cell of a Russian prison because the heaviest crime is a misdemeanor. And it is against this backdrop that it is only now, on the threshold of retirement, that the world outside of sports appreciates a quarter-century of Serena and Venus’s black women’s excellence. And it is this anti-black context that continues to limit femininity and women’s rights to white and heterosexual European and white girls and women and makes any international participation in sport by Black women. becomes a precarious endeavor.

It is shameful and unacceptable that the world continues to devalue Black female athletes and their humanity.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial views of Al Jazeera.

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