Social Stigma in India - Why the Sports Industry is a Double-Edged Sword for Women

Social stigma in India

Social stigma is a mentality that is created automatically after observing and absorbing from a particular instinct. In clear words, when I talk about social stigma, terms like social, physical or mental condition influences other people’s views towards a specific concern. It’s not only common in society, but it’s everywhere. We think that we are not a part of it, but we all are interconnected somehow. This aspect of practicality is best favoured when it comes to sports. We talk about women’s equality in every field, but yes, we all know, in reality, our views and thoughts of us are alike. She is a girl, she should do this, she should avoid this, she should look like this and that.


Double-edged sword

Talking about the sports industry, particularly for women, it is dual-faced. Overt sexist remarks are still commonplace and tend to result in less public backlash than similar statements given in other settings. However, women are more likely to be insufficiently active than 50% of men. Reports have shown that 40% of women face discrimination in sports, and about 70% of male colleagues see no equality. Some other problems that are not highlighted are the gender pay gap, feeling undervalued at work, a lack of opportunities for women to progress into more senior roles, and network the culture that supports jobs for the boys. It’s a human mentality that we don’t prefer to work in a sector where inequality is the most common thing one has to face.


From childhood to adulthood, it’s important to guide a girl child about sports and fitness. The best place for that is home, and the best teacher for her is you. Apart from physical fitness, parents should train them mentally as well. It’s not easy for a girl to abide by all these inequalities when they are chasing their dreams. Many times athletes have to deal with how they are perceived by the public. Women need inspiration and motivation to be consistent in their sports, and it should not be biased. Due to social stigma, it’s very difficult to illustrate a more comprehensive phenomenon with a few expectations of sponsorship and fitting their training around fixed employment. Evidence contributed to young women dropping out of sports participation because women are often seen as non-feminine.


Success Stories

There are many such examples that women had set that are worth inspiring. A well-known example is P.T. Usha, who is well known as the queen of Indian tracks and fields. She is a retired athlete from Kerala. Her biggest achievement was representing India in the 4*100 metres relay at Asian Champions in Athletics in 1998. Her team won the gold medal on the way to setting the current national record of 44.43 seconds. Being a high achiever, she has overcome the challenges and hurdles in her life with her passion, hard work and consistency as she belongs to a poor family, but she ended up as India’s golden girl. What matters for a successful career is discipline and one’s ability to consistently work for the dreams apart from life’s hurdles.


Another known example is Sania Mirza, an Indian professional tennis player. She was a former doubles world No.1 and had won six grand slam titles in her career. There were many controversies made against her in 2006 that she played her doubles with an Israeli tennis player for fear of protests from India’s Muslim community. She was referred to as” Pakistan’s daughter-in-law” and unfit to represent an Indian state after she was appointed as the Telangana state’s brand ambassador. Facing such tortures and comments from one’s own country’s people is quite shameful, but she handled every lame blame with patience and understanding. She is a role model for the girls who give up their careers just because of a few bad comments from society. She has made a good balance between her professional and personal life that is very inspiring.


The story of Mary Kom is worth discussing. An eponymous boxer whose life is a portrait by Priyanka Chopra in a film directed by Omung Kumar. Inspired by her, the actress underwent extensive physical training for four months to attain a muscular physique. She learned the sport and Kom’s distinct boxing style. She is the only woman to win the World Amateur Boxing Championship six times. That’s a huge achievement, and was appointed as a member of the Rajya Sabha. Coming from a very underrated state, she proved herself out of the crowd. She made history by winning a much more interesting championship. She taught the lesson of never giving up on something when you put your hundred per cent effort. Your background doesn’t matter when you have decided your destiny.


One of the beautiful examples is Saina Nehwal, a professional badminton player and politician belonging to Bhartiya Janata Party. A former world No. 1, she won 24 international titles. She had won Arjuna Award in 2009, followed by Padma Shri in 2010 and Padma Bhushan in 2016. Achieving these special and precious awards for distinguished and exceptional services is worth appreciable. Controversies are part of a sports person’s life, but what one has achieved is lifelong; no statement or bad quotes can replace it. Living in practicality and down to earth after achieving so much is the motivation for many budding players. One should learn from mistakes, and yes, she had proven it many times.


If we talk about the current scenario, the problems are countless. Women face social pressure and are objectified by fans, commentators, and even coaches because people look at women’s sports as a showcase for their pleasure. Female athletes have to deal with sexist comments, especially from men who think female athletes aren’t strong or talented enough to perform well. These few things one should avoid in order to increase participation of females in sports more and more.

"There is no room for sexism in sports. We must work together to create a level playing field that is fair and inclusive for all genders."