Will women ever win the race for equality in sport?

Gender equality still looks like an obstacle course in the world of sport. Despite the confinement, we are going for a mini-Tour de France to meet female athletes who campaign to make a difference in their career. disciplined.

In Saint-Étienne-du-Gué-de-l’Isle in the Côtes-d’Armor, Audrey Cordon-Ragot is reigning French champion in road cycling. She rides not only to win, but also to alert about the lack of professional recognition of women in her sport. She explains that discrimination runs very deep.

“We want to be able to make cycling our profession”

“Today, as a woman, we continue to sign amateur licenses within the French Cycling Federation: which is not the case for men who sign professional licenses,” remarks the young woman. “We are simply asking to be recognized for our true worth and to be able to make cycling our profession,” she says.

Audrey Cordon-Ragot co-founded theFrench association of female cyclists to protect the rights of women in this sport. From a personal point of view, she chose to run in a foreign team, Trek-Segafredo.

“Running for a team that is more American helps me to emancipate myself and to perhaps see things in a different way than if I had stayed in France,” considers Audrey Cordon-Ragot. “We all know that English-speaking countries are still fairly pioneering countries in terms of gender equality,” she continues. “Being part of this team means somehow taking my position on the subject and defending it even more,” she insists.

Removed from her role as international hockey referee

Sexism in sport can range from psychological pressure to physical violence. Those who dare to talk about it risk being sidelined.

Charlotte Girard-Fabre lost her job as an international ice hockey referee there. Today, alongside her husband who is also a referee, she performs the same function at national level in handball.

She explains to us what she went through during training in her role as international referee: “The more my track record grew, the more it was very, very hard to take: during the warm-up, it was balls supported so that I took it in the head or so that I could be in an awkward position,” tell the former referee. “It all crystallized once more about my gender and it ranged from questions about how many miles of *** I had sucked to go to the Olympics to discrimination in the locker room – I was left with everything. alone, no one spoke to me-, “ she indicates.

Charlotte Girard-Fabre worked as an international hockey referee for ten years while practicing for seven years at the highest professional level for French men. She has refereed at six world championships and the Olympics in Sochi and PyeongChang.

“The end of my career, it was not me who decided: I was taken away from this right from the moment when at the 2018 Olympic Games, I point out to my federation, discrimination on the sporting side and on the management side of my career, “ she specifies before adding: “I denounced discrimination, sexism, sexual assault against other referees and from that moment, the omerta was organized, I was clearly told that the victim was not not me, it was the institution that I accused. “

Sexist insults

Charlotte Girard-Fabre also remembers her difficult start in hockey at the age of 9: “I wanted to start this sport and in my club I was immediately told: ‘But girls and boys are not allowed to be on the ice at the same time,’ she says.

“From my first game, I heard awful things like ‘dirty bitch’ or ‘you have nothing to do here’, ‘hockey is a boy’s sport’, ‘go back to your kitchen’.”

Sport is traditionally seen as a men’s business in terms of practice and decision-making power. The proportion of women in the bodies of sports federations in the European Union is D’about 14%. Studies have shown that a minimum of 30% would be needed to make a difference.

“We are being sued for a priori incompetence”

Béatrice Barbusse was the first woman in France to chair a men’s professional club. She is now general secretary of the French handball federation. A function not always easy to ensure as she explains in her book published in 2016: “Sexism in sport”.

“I was able to realize in a certain number of situations that one could make you live with deskilling, disqualifications, humiliations, one puts you down, one always brings you back to your kind,” says Béatrice Barbusse.

“We are being sued for a priori incompetence because we are a woman, it is up to us to demonstrate that we are competent: a man, we do not ask the question,” she is indignant.

The sociologist recalls thata French law of 2014 establishes that sports federations with at least 25% female licensees must have 40% women on their board of directors. It is not yet fully applied, nor sanctioned.

“There must be women at all levels of the sports pyramid,” estimates Béatrice Barbusse. “This may indeed impose itself by law and it must be imposed not only in France, but also in Europe: quotas are needed, “ she assures.

Lack of visibility in the media

We reach Paris, the nerve center of French media. Through them, athletes can become celebrities or be forgotten. And despite the prestigious victories, female athletes lack exposure. Surveys show that women’s sporting events represent 15 to 20% of media coverage in Europe, men’s sport dominating the written press.

We go to the team, private newspaper and television channel dedicated to sport. “It’s true that if we look for example for 4 or 5 years, we have covered women’s sport a little less – apart from football or team sports – because there are fewer champions today in French sport, “ notes Jérôme Cazadieu, editorial director

On August 31, the newspaper L’Équipe was criticized for having made its front page on a stage victory in the Tour de France rather than on the fifth consecutive coronation of the players of the Olympique Lyonnais in the Champions League.

“It’s a question of prioritization,” explains Jérôme Cazadieu. “We still sold the victory of the Lyonnaises on the front page, we made a very big banner,” he said. “Me, I do not get up in the morning saying to myself: I must treat men and women sport equally,” he points out.

“Which means that at one point, women’s sport has more visibility: it is the performance of our teams; we are criticized for not having put the victory of the Lyonnaises in the front page, but the Lyonnaises, they were broadcast by whom? Not by the public service! “ he says.

Towards a women’s Tour de France

But the efforts are starting to pay off. We aknowledge progress on all fronts despite persistent barriers like the pay gap between men and women.

Claire Floret has been fighting since 2015 for the organization of a women’s Tour de France … It will take place in 2022. Her project “Let’s give them to the bike D-1” I already contributed.

“For us, this is a culmination: we know that it will be a breath of fresh air for women’s cycling in general because there will be so much visibility that it will inevitably attract partners in the teams,” considers Claire Floret. “This will allow the teams to structure themselves, to be able to remunerate the runners and then, it’s a virtuous circle,” she hopes.

Despite the confinement, Claire and other cyclists from her club continue to train. Among them, some have participated in the project led by Claire every year since 2015: she took a female peloton to complete the stages of the Tour de France one day before the passage of the men.

“The idea is also to democratize the practice, to show that whatever our athletic profile, we have our place on a bike,” she insists.

By fighting together against sexism in sport in all disciplines, these women are showing the way so that female athletes have the same chances as their male counterparts to achieve in sport.


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