Good Sports
with Wally Salinger

“Oh Link, what are you doing here in this huge crowd of minorities!”

This week’s authoritative statement comes from Hairspray the Musical. When seen on stage, with lights, dancers, music, sets and the amazing Trevor Ashley as Edna Turnblad, the line is funny because it is so absurd. In the context of being part of the many minorities who influence life, love, freedom and politics, its inherent truth is frightening because it is bizarre.

Majorities, made up of clusters of minorities, seek power, privilege or cold hard cash. No majority is absolute as it caters for the opinions, abilities, talents and knowledge of the individuals who comprise it.

Empowering a minority produces amazing things. The collective creative community fights and breathes to challenge authority, tolerance levels in society, our perceptions of self, and push the boundaries of morality. For this I am grateful for every moment I have spent cringing in a seat at La Mama, for every offensive and out-there painting hung in a backstreet Fitzroy gallery, and for every photographic exhibition that pushes buttons.

Sport enjoys a unique place in our society. I am encouraged by the Matildas World Cup crusade, as they battle the powerhouses of women’s soccer. Few in the non-sporting world would be aware that young Ellyse Perry plays in Germany as a world champion in her second sport, cricket. Commentators rank the 20-year-old as the greatest sportsperson Australia has ever produced.

Local media continue to unashamedly promote the ‘majority’ game: men’s soccer. As we age, more women are involved in sport than men. The minority women’s game is a minority in perception only. In participant numbers, success locally and internationally, women outnumber men.

Do you remember cringing at the thought of women being tackled playing Aussie Rules? But of course we did — it was not ladylike to play sport. It was, however, apparently alright to embroider or cook, teach in classrooms or kindergartens.

Perhaps it is time we took a moment to review the barriers sport is challenging. Female performance barriers require an assault on all the things that hinder participation. Being seen as ‘girly’ (hello!) is an excuse used by many male team coaches to put down boys and young men, who then turn from sports they love, feeling they are not successful.

Let’s start being more equal than most: get into gay and lesbian friendly sport; www.queersportsmelbourne.org

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