Sportswomen of the Year 2011: Mark Cavendish wins BBC prize

// 23 December 2011

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After all the kerfuffle about the BBC failing to include a woman on the Sports Personality of the Year shortlist, cyclist Mark Cavendish picked up the prize at last night’s ceremony.

Watching the programme, it was very obvious that the criticism about the long- and short-listing process had cut to the quick. Viewers were reminded that women had achieved much in sport this year; as presenter Jake Humphreys introduced the cricket round-up, he mentioned the victories of the women’s team before moving directly to talk to Stuart Broad after a lengthy wrap-up of the men’s year. Would it have been so hard to give some of that interview time to Charlotte Edwards? Or perhaps Claire Taylor, seeing as she’s stepping back from international cricket now?

Gary Lineker, meanwhile, made a few nudge-nudge comments in a part-embarrassed fashion; when interviewing golfer Rory McIlroy he urged him to work towards becoming world number one in 2012 – “Can’t let the girlfriend beat you!” he HILARIOUSLY joked, in a reference to McIlroy’s partner Caroline Wozniacki, the tennis world number one. No, Gary, he couldn’t possibly let his girlfriend be more successful in her sport than he is! That would be terrible!

Plenty of fantastic sportswomen were at the ceremony – but mostly to wear a pretty dress, present awards, and act as decoration. Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova and world champion swimmer Keri-Anne Payne were just two of those reduced to that particular role.

Congratulations, though, to Lauren Taylor, the teenager who became the youngest ever winner of the ladies’ British Open Amateur Championship this year, and who was named Young Sports Personality of the Year (out of an all-female shortlist – not that they were trying to over-compensate or anything).

Did you watch the broadcast? What did you think?

Next week, I’ll be doing a roll of honour of all the sportswomen F-Word readers have nominated as worthy of recognition for their achievements this year. If you’ve not had your say already, name your sportswoman of the year in the comments, or drop me an email (carrie DOT dunn AT gmail DOT com).

Comments From You

Kim // Posted 24 December 2011 at 1:25 am

Its sad that a lack of recognition of women in sports is still prevalent today. I remember watching made-for-TV movies about real-life girls fighting to join the all-male football team when I was little. I remember the huge difference in turn-out at my volleyball games compared with that of the guys’ sporting events when I was in high school. Now, when I think of women in sports, if I haven’t watched them actually play that sport, I visualize them in the way the media has portrayed them; emphasizing (even if it is through use of a sweaty picture) the societal view of acceptable femininity.

Of course we find it easier to watch, promote and praise men in sports. Its supposedly manly and acceptable to see them strutting about dirty, drenched in sweat and seemingly primal, as if it is the antithesis of what a woman ought to be.

Additionally, I have noticed that although women receive more air time and mention than they did when I was younger, the overall perception and respect of women in sports is about the same as if was 20 years ago. It always seems to come down to some very familiar and unchanging reasons that women athletes are able to be in the spotlight; some female athletes have the aesthetics valued by our society, while others get a makeover that is not required of their male counterparts in order to seem more acceptably feminine (usually when they are excelling in their sport or are prodigies slated to have a promising career), because a pretty face brings in more money from sponsors; some are recognized for exceptional skills that men do not have to consistently display in order to garner recognition; or enough or the right people have yelled and screamed loud enough against the lack of recognition that an instance or short-lived fad of female athlete recognition comes about.

Its unfortunate that those who are aware of under-represented groups may not always see the truths behind a sudden and often short-lived increase in the spotlight. For instance, I remember my mom being so happy when a football team had a Black quarterback, or she would see an excellent Black female athlete. I wouldn’t cheer with her. Even as a child I would frown and think, “Wouldn’t it be better if we always saw those people?” I still agree with my child-self.

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