Vicki Sparks recently became the first female commentator to cover a live FIFA World Cup match and we couldn’t stop talking about it. However, former Chelsea defender Jason Cundy was not impressed with her commentating skills and made his dislike evident during a talk show.
“I found it a tough listen. I prefer to hear a male voice. For 90 minutes listening to a high-pitched tone isn’t what I want to hear. When there’s a moment of drama, which there often is in football, I think that moment needs to be done with a slightly lower voice.”
Cundy further clarified that he wasn’t questioning Sparks’ insight on the game. He said, “It’s nothing to do with her insight, the way she delivers it or her knowledge or her ability to do the job – it’s the voice.”
While immediate outrage forced the Talk SPORT radio presenter to issue an apology, his remarks mirror the sexism women face in male-dominated spaces, like commentary boxes in sports.
Is ex-footballer Jason Cundy a 'sexist pig'? That was the claim Piers Morgan put to him in a debate on Good Morning Britain on whether women should be commentating on the World Cup https://t.co/9wSpMqOMQt pic.twitter.com/6pKMGhJND6
— ITV News (@itvnews) June 25, 2018
Tune your ears and brain instead of asking Sparks to tune her voice
It’s not rare for the society to criticise women for their voices. We face it, on an everyday basis. Don’t speak loudly, don’t be so shrill, don’t speak in that tone…the criticism is endless and ever-present. For many people, the very fact that women have a working larynx is big a problem. How dare she have a voice? How dare she speak her mind?
So, Cundy’s remarks don’t come as a surprise. In fact, I was expecting them, ever since Sparks grabbed that mic.
We have become too accustomed to criticism for our voices that it becomes odd if we don’t meet any resistance for speaking.
Cundy embodies the misogynist mentality which infests playing fields, commentary boxes, locker rooms, televisions and invariably our minds. If people can’t find a fault in how she speaks or plays, they start finding faults in her looks or the pitch of her voice. There is this mental resistance, especially among men, when women invade male-dominated spaces. For them, the question is not why it took FIFA 21 editions to hire a female commentator? It is, what was the need for FIFA to resort to a female commentator?
Do men feel insecure and threatened when women invade male-dominated spaces?
This kind of attitude is the reason why female broadcasters face so much discrimination. In March this year, Martina Navratilova revealed that she was paid one-tenth of the fee which her male counterpart John McEnroe was paid for Wimbledon coverage. Such discrimination makes women feel unwanted, inferior and dispensable, despite being qualified and as talented. For a big chunk of viewers, their appearance and the pitch of their voice is of more relevance than the insight they have to offer on the game. But if that is the matter, then it says how shallow is their interest in the game, if the experience of a game can be marred by someone’s pitch?
Many have criticised Cundy and sided with Sparks, which shows the turn of the tide. So, Cundy can stuff his ears with cotton balls, or switch off his television, because women have learned to pay no heed to such patronizing comments. They have a staunch following in sports lovers whose love for football surpasses gender bias. And the appreciation from these people is enough to keep Sparks and many more future female commentators in the business.
Picture Credit: BBC.com
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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.