#Inspiration

India’s goalkeeper Sreejesh Shows Reporters the Correct Way to Celebrate Women in Sports

pr sreejesh goal keeper
“We may have lost the medal, but we have won millions of hearts,” Rani Rampal really said it well on behalf of her team that just came back to India after a historic run at 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Finishing fourth, this was a breakthrough campaign for Indian women’s hockey team, that will only go onwards and upwards from here. PR Sreejesh

SheThePeople interviewed the players who recently came from Tokyo to capture their experiences of the event and their thoughts on how promising the future looked of women’s hockey in our country. While I conducted these interviews, a ridiculous incident took place, which only reminds us how media treats women’s sport as a second rate one. A reporter from a news channel requested young hockey player Neha Goyal (who was captured, unforgettably, on her knees and crying, when the team lost their bronze match) for an interview and started asking her his generic list of questions. Minutes later India’s men’s hockey team goalkeeper PR Sreejesh passed by, and to my shock, the reporter abruptly left Goyal’s interview midway to chase him for an exclusive byte.

neha goyal hockey PR sreejesh gender equality

PR Sreejesh shows the way

“How can you do this to a player you are interviewing and leave it in the middle to come after me,” Sreejesh said, giving it back to the reporter, adding, “How can you be so disrespectful and leave the interview in the middle?”

Kudos to PR Sreejesh who showed reporters the correct way to celebrate women in sports, but what does this say about Indian media?

The reporter apologised sheepishly but his conduct was a bitter reminder of the kind of treatment Indian media subjects sportswomen to. Of every 1000 stories published in Indian media, 800 are dedicated to Bollywood, politics and cricket. The balance 200 are left for everything else. Other sports manage to form a tiny part of this remaining chunk. Keeping that in mind, how many stories do you think focus on women athletes? Your guess is as good as mine.

What has nothing changed?

One hoped that with Olympics and the performance of our sportswomen, field reporters would learn to do better. the women’s team may have not won a medal, but was their performance worth dropping the mic midway to to chase a male hockey player? How do we plan to encourage young girls to pursue the game, if this is our media’s attitude towards the women how made history in the sport?

When asked about the incident, Rani Rampal said to SheThePeople, “Am very proud of Sreejesh that he said this. We need more men like this in society who support women. Sometimes women are not able to speak for themselves and feel they are less strong. At a time like this, for a man to stand up for women, it’s like setting an example.”

It’s high time we learn to put women’s and men’s on an equal footing. At the time men’s sport was growing, that’s all there was. Women got the opportunity to enter the field much later. And their journey has been anything but easy. During my interaction with women hockey players, for instance, I realised that one thing was common in all these young athletes- the stereotypes they faced growing up. From the difficulties playing ‘like a girl’ to dealing with utter apathy of society which judged them for their caste, their class, their broken English, their passion for sport.

From caste slurs thrown at India’s hockey champ Vandana Katariya to Megan Rapinoe’s campaign for equal pay for female American soccer players, to the sexism faced by Serena Williams for displaying her upset with the umpire, sports women across the world have and continue to face discrimination because of their gender. These women deserve to be celebrated not just for their skills but their resilience and strong will, and their refusal to let social stigma control their game.

The Sreejesh incident is a good example of how and why male players and men in general must rise up to recognise the inequality and do something about them.

Indeed, we need more sportsmen like PR Sreejesh who refuse to take the spotlight away from women players and remind media to not sacrifice ethics in order to chase a “bigger” name. The limelight is big enough to be shared on an equal footing.

Views expressed are the author’s own.


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