Maria Miller vs the BBC: Tackling sexism in sports coverage is quite the set of hurdles

The Minister for Women and Equalities will have her work cut out

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The Independent Online

There are those who think that the position of Minister for Women and Equalities is a bit of a play job, something you do in your spare time alongside a real brief such as Culture, Media and Sport, but Maria Miller is going to be busy if she plans to send formal letters to everyone who is sexist about sportswomen.

She has just written to the BBC asking if “any further action is likely to be taken” over John Inverdale’s comments about the Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli. (He wondered if her dad had told her when she was little that she’d better be good at tennis because she was “never going to be a looker”.) The BBC is yet to reply; maybe it has its top people rating Ms Miller’s looks out of 10 before they decide if she’s worthy of a response.

This was also the week that Jessica Ennis was asked when she’s going to get around to having children, because totally acing the whole Olympics is obviously not enough of an achievement for a woman of27; and commentators wondered how the Today programme’s new presenter Mishal Husain would manage to get up of a morning despite having three children. Much like John Humphrys does, I suppose: by setting an alarm clock.

At least it’s good that the Director General has hired her to “redress gender imbalance”, because many more instances of Humphrys finding himself having to say, “Imagine you were a woman…” while interviewing two male experts and the poor man might die of embarrassment.

To be fair, the BBC is generously screening the women’s Euro 2013 football tournament - albeit in a minor slot on BBC3 (and not cancelling a whole week’s news for it like they do when male players get a sniff of success). But at least they remember that women tennis players exist, unlike our prime minister, who believes that Andy Murray was the first British person to win Wimbledon for 77 years.

As high-level men’s sport becomes increasingly about diva-ish behaviour - strops, sulks, walking, not walking and ever more balletic falling over - it would be so refreshing to see more of the genuine sportswomanship that we witnessed during the Olympics. It’s also worth remembering that 51 per cent of the population don’t care if sportswomen are cute and blonde and underwear-model “pretty”; we notice that they’re strong and fit and look like winners, and we’d rather aspire to that than to being the kind of girl John Inverdale can fancy.

P.S. If anyone would like to comment on this opinion by criticising my looks, Bartoli’s or Maria Miller’s, please remember to post your photo so that we can all judge whereof you speak.