Beth Tweddle's Twitter Q&A saga: Let’s judge women on their work, nothing else

If they’re lucky, sportswomen can get away with being ignored. Could the average football fan tell you how the England women’s cricket team are doing?

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Beth Tweddle has the kind of athletic talent that makes you gasp. She competed in three Olympic Games and won the world championships three times. Tweddle has far more strength and athleticism than you and I will ever have. Just looking at her triple flip would give the average guy on the street backache. So why did so many of those average guys feel justified in abusing Tweddle about her looks during a Twitter chat with her this week?

Tweddle’s chat was a masterclass in how to fire full-scale hatred at an undeserving subject. Horrible questions about her appearance were fired at her from the start.

Twitter has long been a friend to many lonely trolls wishing to cause other people unnecessary misery, but this isn’t about social network moron-making. A Twitter chat with Tweddle’s counterpart Louis Smith would not have elicited such an onslaught. This is about a wider culture in which sportswomen are viewed as women first – objectified, vilified women – and sports people second.

Sportsmen are judged first and foremost on their talent but their female counterparts are viewed through the prism of the type of sexism we supposedly binned in the 1970s. What we saw on Twitter this week is just the tip of an idiotic iceberg.

If they’re lucky, sportswomen can get away with being ignored. Could the average football fan tell you how the England women’s cricket team are doing? Those sportswomen who do make it into the public consciousness can expect their looks, their dress sense and their personal lives to be scrutinised, instead of being judged solely on their talent. An unfortunate few suffer sexual abuse, like Charlie Webster who bravely spoke about her ordeal at the hands of her coach.

You’ll find sexist culprits amongst those making sport, broadcasting sport and enjoying it from their sofas. From viewers at home criticising how Jessica Ennis-Hill looks in her sports vest as opposed to judging how quickly she’s running it in, to radio presenters hosting discussions on whether she should be allowed to have a baby. Why can’t we just let sportswomen be brilliant athletes and judge them solely on their work?

Louise Scodie is a presenter for London Live

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