I have trawled through the documentary section on Netflix more times than I care to admit. I like to close my blinds, make a coffee and become engrossed in somebody else’s life for an hour or so. I’m a documentary nerd. Becoming overly involved with strangers on the TV has become a strange sort of pastime for me. However, I am becoming increasingly frustrated about the complete lack of female sports representation.
I could go through 50 different documentary titles in the sport category, and I would be lucky if one was about a woman. Which is interesting, as there are so many women competing in sports, and there are so many compelling stories just waiting to be told. For example, there is Serena Williams’ amazing comeback after life threatening childbirth and Nadia Nadim’s unbelievable journey from Afghan refugee, to International Footballer, and soon to be surgeon, just to name two incredible stories. However the world of female sports is filled with tales of strength, defiance, dedication, trauma, struggle, celebration, world records and so many moments that are more than worthy of being documented.
The lack of female stories being told is obviously a choice. The people in charge have actively chosen to leave these stories out. Instead, they have chosen to make yet another film about a male college dropout pursuing sport once more. Or another film about which boots a soccer player prefers. Films are repeatedly and tirelessly examining every aspect of male sport, whilst leaving women’s sport coverage firmly on the bench with the overriding narrative that we, as women, are simply not worth the air time.
The argument tossed around is that nobody wants to watch films about female athletes. But I refuse to believe that the audience isn’t there. There are so many fans of female sports and athletes, and with documentaries you don’t even have to be a fan; just because you don’t know much about the subject, doesn’t mean that you don’t want to watch a film about it. You can watch serial killer documentaries, without being a serial killer. Fashion documentaries, without being a designer. I will watch documentaries about anything and everything. The point is that you watch, and you gain awareness about the subject, maybe gain an interest in the topic. It’s how fan-bases are built.
Male athletes are splattered all over our mainstream media, it’s hard to escape them. Almost every little boy wants to be a footballer and can name 10 men he considers heroes in a heartbeat. As a young girl, my favourite footballers were Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, David James… — the list goes on, but the list is exclusively male. I didn’t see women’s football or female footballers. I didn’t see myself represented, and consequently I gave up on the sport as an adult. The world told me that men played sport, and I worry that the message is the same all these years later.
Representation of women is not an issue to be trivialized. And that’s why it’s so frustrating that there are so few accessible films about female athletes out there. Young girls need to be able to see examples of successful sportswomen, and see that they have lives and personalities, something that they can relate to and find common ground with. The stories of female athletes need to be visible in media. People are screaming out for role models. Young girls need to see women that they can see themselves in, and aspire to be like. Why are we so unwilling to let sportswomen grace our screens?
This article is published also published at medium.com