I had a reminder midweek about sexism in cricket and it tagged on from a discussion about involving more women who were capable and wanted to in the Saturday teams at Corbridge. The club encouraging and wanting women players to be available for the 2nd’s and 3rd’s.
It was really good to hear that Corbridge were wanting more women to play in their men’s teams, sorry their other teams, their Saturday teams as I was reminded. The reason I use Men’s cricket even though it’s open to both men and women is for one thing habit, secondly because the leagues are predominantly male only teams and also because men can’t play in a women’s league. And in some league women need permission to play, not that a league can afford to refuse on the basis of gender alone, because that would be sexist and they’d fear getting taken to court. However they could refuse on the basis that the player would be playing at a level which they could not manage and could be dangerous for them, then the refusal is on health and safety grounds. This is used for both genders and tends to be with the involvement of juniors in senior teams. That’s a different issue.
Anyway this discussion struck a chord with me because when I first started out playing Saturday cricket more than a decade ago, scary, I used to make up the numbers for Stocksfield’s 3rd team, meaning no bowling and batting at 11. I was there to field basically.
It hit me how much things have changed in terms of attitudes and the opportunities available in a relatively short space of time.
As I put it 10-12 years ago I was there to make up the numbers and I was fine with that then because I was still learning the game and the opportunity it gave me was to play the longer format at a higher standard even if it was as a fielder.
I didn’t really get an opportunity to play men’s properly until I started playing for Stocksfield Mid-week league team and I was allowed to bowl. Allowed probably isn’t the right word, it was more like, here’s a ball, nothing else is working, you can’t do any worse than anyone else (any of the lads) you may as well have a go. And I picked up a few wickets and didn’t get clattered too much so I became more trusted and given more overs.
The more I played, the more the team saw me play the more I was able to get involved.
To make it clear when I started there was a lot of upfront sexism directed at me or within earshot. Some of it was quite nasty, the rest was run of the mill and what I expected. I wasn’t overly bothered by it. It could annoy me a bit, I either kept my mouth shut or I made a joke of it and played despite of it because I wasn’t naïve enough to think that I could change everyone’s minds and if that was their opinion it was up to me to prove them wrong. I may have said a couple of times “well you either have me on the team or you have 10”. For some players at that time they would have rather had 10 and that was up to them. I was still going to play if I was asked because I wanted to play and since I was willing to drop everything to play at half an hours’ notice… That did tend to make selectors and captains remember my number.
Things have changed. Attitudes as a whole have softened. Some of it is down to the much higher profile of the women’s international game. Higher profile players. Recently professionalism. Some of it is down to more girls being involved in age group cricket. I didn’t play age group but a fair few of the women I now play with did and it defiantly filters through into senior years. Men remember that woman/girl who took that wicket, took that catch or made those runs when they were playing together in their formative years.
There’s an awful lot more respect about. That doesn’t mean that there is, or should be a glossing over of the differences between men’s and women’s cricket.
Most differences stem from physical aspects. Men bowl faster than women. The faster men’s bowlers break 90mph consistently, the faster women high 70’s mph, early 80’s mph. Average spinners mph is higher in men than women too. This is not about skill or accuracy or effectiveness just speed / strength.
Men can throw harder and further than women. Not mentioning accuracy at all.
Men can hit the ball harder than women. Again this is not about skill, placement or timing.
There is an match a ball difference… For a men’s match the ball is between 5 ½ & 5 ¾ ounces, circumference between 8 13/16 and 9”. For a women’s match the ball is between 4 15/16 & 5 1/16 ounces, circumference between 8.3 & 8.5”.
Anyway what really brought this up was a game that I played for Corbridge Ratcatchers, midweek XI this week. I played a bit at the back end of last year, this was my first game of the season for them. New league after getting promoted last year, a team we hadn’t played last year when there had often been one, two or three women in the team. Anyway they made a few comments about me, about me coming on to bowl, basically that I wouldn’t be if they weren’t losing already, these were relayed back by our scorer.
I’ve gotten a bit used to playing in the West Tyne Division 1. I’ve been around a while. I’ve played 49 games for Matfen, this is my 4th year and teams have gotten used to me being on the team. Yes early on there were some raised eyebrows and more than a few comments but it’s settled down. There is still a thing about getting out to the woman but it’s not as big of a thing as it used to be, especially since I’ve taken a fair few wickets, it’s not embarrassing to them anymore. I’ve earned some respect.
There are also more women in Division 2, more involved on a Saturday around the North East. It’s becoming more common place so more accepted.
Anyway hearing about what this team had said was a bit irritating, a throwback and it reminded me that there are those attitudes still out there, the “women shouldn’t be on the pitch they should be making the tea” attitude.
It reminded me of what some women have to face to play in some teams and in some leagues and why it can be off putting.
That’s not to say that all women want to play against men. Some don’t and are happy to play their cricket solely against women. That’s fine and their choice. But that doesn’t mean that those who do and are good enough should be denied the opportunity because of their gender.
With that in mind though there are a few things that as a woman I’ve found very useful playing with and against men.
First off a thick skin, comments are going to come.
To be able to bite your tongue and keep your head down, no reaction is sometimes the best reaction.
It should go without saying but the best of your ability, competitiveness, be willing to listen, ask and learn. It is a learning curve playing at a higher level and it can be more frustrating than learning the game in the first place.
A sense of humour, preferably a massive one.
Practically, being prepared to change in toilets or coming to matches in whites, which isn’t really a hardship. Getting used to playing with a bigger ball especially as a bowler.
I get so much out of playing against men. I’ve learned a huge amount with yet more to learn and been forced to develop my game in ways that wouldn’t have been needed if I had only played in the women’s league. I am a far better player for the experience.
With attitudes shifting within clubs, more opportunities arising and more inclusion sexism should be getting less of an issue but I’m not naïve enough to ever think it will disappear completely.