RIGHT when women’s sport is finding its own voice and levelling playing fields, there comes a blow – from a charity run in Albury.
This is about more than sport because what happens on the field, sets a standard in how society values women.
Ballarat reaction on social media was largely in a similar tone to that on the border: predominantly misogynistic.
The term greedy was bandied about. Patronising princess labels were thrown in. Even an “every child gets a prize” put down.
Victoria Mitchell stood her ground. This made race organisers squirm and this sparked a social media backlash.
The former Ballarat athlete and long-time Eureka runner eclipsed an 11-kilometre women’s course record by more than one minute in the Nail Can Hill Run last weekend.
Mitchell, a Commonwealth and Olympic steeplechaser, said one $5000 cash prize for the overall race record was sexist and a major inequality. She broke the race record – but there was no prize for the women’s race record.
“How can you do that in this day and age?” Mitchell told The Border Mail post race. (In an extra Ballarat twist, the Nail Can record of 34 minutes, 57 seconds was set by our Steve Moneghetti in 2003. Mitchell ran 42:46).
Rotarians hosting the race say the record prize was gender neutral and yet, they spruik defined men’s and women’s placings prizes.
This is not equality.
The late Victorian Women’s Minister Fiona Richardson stood among the Matildas, the Australian women’s soccer team, two years ago on their road to the Rio Olympics and declared general perceptions of women’s sport playing runner-up to men’s sport had to stop.
Minister Richardson was passionate equal pay and limelight in sporting arenas would do far more than promote healthy, active role models. She said this was leading a movement to shift cultural attitudes about women in the home and community.
Mitchell’s stand is courageous. We should be standing with her.
Gender equality in sport should not just be adapted to suit, regardless of whether this event was for charity or a community fun run. Albury’s Nail Can Run still set a standard and the standard was shown up to be outdated and unjust.
Stawell had a similar issue brewing for a long time.
Australia’s fastest female Mel Breen was one of the most vocal athletes campaigning for parity on the grass at Central Park. Breen repeatedly took on men in Stawell Gift 120-metre handicap vying to become the first women to break into a semi-final. But her push was largely for equal billing.
In 2015, Ballarat’s Grace O’Dwyer became the first Stawell Women’s Gift winner to claim an equal prize. No longer a novelty, Australia’s equal richest footraces set a tone nationwide.
Parity in women’s sporting field promotes belief women are good enough: from Stawell to cricket, from soccer to Australian rules, and leading pay in netball.
Female athleticism should be showcased, no longer a sideshow, or we should call it for what it is: Nail Can Hill Run’s rules are sexist.