Category Archives: Gender Equality

Intergender angles in the WWE must go. And very quickly.

To say the first ever Women’s Money in the Bank match ended in controversy is like saying this month’s UK General Election did not go to plan for Prime Minister Theresa May. For anyone who didn’t know the match – which is won by the first competitor to climb a ladder and grab a briefcase which guarantees the winner a title match at the time of her choice anytime in the next year – ended when James Ellsworth – a man – grabbed the briefcase and handed it to Carmella making her the winner.

To say the shit hit the fan is an understatement. WWE had hyped up the match as a historic achievement for women and played an impressive video before the match showing some famous women from WWE history – including Mae Young, Wendi Richter, Trish Stratus and Lita – then in effect had a man win it. Then after a couple of days of mayhem Smackdown Live General Manager Daniel Bryan announced Carmella would be stripped of the briefcase and the match would be replayed on next Tuesdays Smackdown Live. 

Those are the facts. Now my opinion. The decision to have Ellsworth climb the ladder and grab the briefcase was ludicrous – an example of toxic sexism at its worst. It was like “We will give the women a Money in the Bank match but the poor girlies are too weak to climb a ladder by themselves so we have to have a man to do it for them”. And this is dangerous. I was talking to a friend whose 8 year old cousin (a boy) watched the match and he said to his mother “Girls can’t climb a ladder” Now WWE pride themselves on being a child friendly PG product. How on earth they did not think this ending would not influence young children into thinking that women and girls are inferior. Obviously they don’t even think. The ending was a disgrace and whoever in Creative came up with it needs to join the unemployment line. Ideally he (it must have been a he) should be put in the stocks and have women throw things at him!

Now some people have said we were being “worked” ie WWE always planned to anull Carmella’s victory and have the redo. The hole in that argument is that the ladder match is one of the most dangerous in WWE. I really doubt that this company had planned for women who have never been in a ladder match before to do two in nine days. Other people have said that WWE were shocked by the public backlash and backtracked. The hole in that argument is that WWE never listen to their fans – if they did Roman Reigns would have turned heel two years ago. But WWE do listen to their sponsors (Bryan knows this. He was briefly fired in 2010 when sponsors Mattel were not happy with him strangling ring announcer Justin Roberts with his own tie). I suspect a WWE sponsor(s) had a word with them and put pressure on the company to sort the mess out. Maybe a sponsor threatened to pull out if they didn’t sort it out. Whatever the reason hopefully we have an exciting match on Tuesday with a woman grabbing the briefcase – which is what should have happened on Sunday anyway. 

But WWE need to take a long hard look at themselves. Why was Ellsworth with Carmella in the first place? People might say it was to interfere in her matches and gain heel heat. The problem is heels are meant to get their comeuppance – but men and women can’t fight each other so Ellsworth will never get his comeuppance . WWE had been circling with disaster with this angle since it started. Trouble was inevitable. 

The same can be said the other way round. Most viewers hate Stephanie McMahon shouting at and generally emasculating the male talent. And the men just have to stand there and take it because male on female violence is taboo and quite rightly so. So why put Stephanie and the men in that position? Same with the Miz and his wife Maryse. Miz puts Maryse between him and his opponent effectively using her as a human shield since the men can’t attack her. Terrorists use women and children as a human shield for the same reason. This tactic has NO place in entertainment. 

The solution is so easy that I’m surprised the dumb dumbs in WWE Creative haven’t thought of it. Any male or female superstar that interferes in matches involving the opposite gender is GONE. At once. Also for that reason inter gender factions should be banned. For example Nikki Cross should not be in Sanity. And while we are at it can mixed tags (rubbish) and romantic angles (the current Alica Fox/Noam Dar/Cedric Alexander angle on RAW and 205 Live is hot garbage as most romantic angles are). 

I should say I’m not against interference in the WWE. But if is same gender interference the perpetrators can get their comeuppance. For example the Singh Brothers run interference for WWE Champion Jinder Mahal but get beaten up every time. They are virtually Mahal’s crash test dummies. Meanwhile it looks like the Miz/Maryse partnership is breaking up and instead Miz will have Bo Dallas and Curtis Axel to run interference for him. Good. Miz cannot use Dallas and Axel as human shields as his opponents can just beat them up which they could not do with Maryse. 

Another reason to ban intergender angles is that WWE will have to put more effort into the women’s division. According to Kate Foray’s RAW Breakdown only 4% of RAW this past Monday was devoted to the women wrestlers. If you add Maryse’s Miz TV segment with her husband the fugure jumps to a still pathetuc 10%. WWE have in effect used intergender angles and mixed tags to artificially inflate female participation in RAW and Smackdown Live. If they are banned they might have to give RAW women more than one segment a week (!) 

WWE like to think they compete against real sport (they always blame Monday Night (American) Football and the NBA play offs when the ratings fall so they must think they compete for the same audience). And real sport is gender segregated – especially combat sport like boxing and MMA. WWE should be the same. Intergender angles in WWE must go. And very quickly. 

One other thought. The women’s cricket World Cup starts on Saturday. Wimbledon starts a week on Monday. The women’s Euro 2017 football tournament starts next month. I can guarantee that no men will run on the pitch and court and interfere in those events….

Mick Foley’s RAW promo & benevolent sexism

Girl Talk with Gabby

Hey, guys. Did you know I’m a woman? I know, I know, shocking. Well, as a woman, I have a plethora of life experiences that have shaped the person I am today. I have been groped by a stranger in public. I have been patronized and looked down on because of my gender. Why am I saying this? Well, because sexism is a reality in my life that I am aware of with every breath I take. And that reality has spurred me to write about what I saw on RAW tonight.

I’ll cut to the chase: when Mick Foley began to passionately beg Sasha and Charlotte to reconsider their historic Hell in a Cell match on Monday Night RAW, I was horrified.

Mick Foley has long been a supporter of the women’s divisions on both shows. He has voiced support for the women of WWE for years. He is…

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Why a women’s Hell in a Cell match is a good idea

The women’s revolution in the WWE – which has been progressing in fits and starts – has received a couple of boosts in the last two weeks. First of all Sasha Banks won the RAW women’s title from Charlotte in the 3rd October episode of RAW. While this had happened before back on July 25th this time the match was the main event of RAW. This is only the second time a match between two women* had main evented RAW – the last one was when Lita beat Trish Stratus on December 6th 2004. And although RAW’s ratings still fell in the third hour (the third hour of RAW is a total disaster and needs to disappear) the ratings fell less with the women main eventing than they had in previous weeks. The match was well received and was seen as a success. But the women had main evented RAW before.

What happened this week is historic though. On Monday’s RAW it was announced that Banks would defend her title against Charlotte at the Hell in a Cell pay-per-view on October 30th. What makes this unique is that Banks and Charlotte will compete in the match the pay-per-view is named after : Hell in a Cell.

The first Hell in a Cell match took place between Shawn Michaels and the Undertaker on October 5th 1997. The match takes place inside a 20ft high, five ton cage and is considered the most dangerous structure in the WWE. It has been called “Satan’s Structure” and “Career shortening”.  There have been 33 Hell in a Cell matches since 1997 all involving male competitors. So when the Banks v Charlotte Hell in a Cell match was announced on RAW it was a big deal. 

I should point out that rumours that the match would happen had been leaked on the internet last Wednesday. I saw three internet polls during the week and they all showed 80-90 percent support for the women’s Hell in a Cell match. While internet polls are even more unreliable than their offline equivalents three polls with this level of support suggested clear support among the Internet Wrestling Community (IWC) for the match. It also suggested that the IWC who often are as divided as the Conservative Party was in 1997 and the Labour Party are now had found something we** could unite behind.

Except that after the match was announced the schizophrenic IWC seemed to change their minds and a backlash against the match begun. People were saying that the match was too dangerous for women and that Charlotte and – especially – Banks were in danger of being injured. Now there are two other Hell in a Cell matches scheduled for October 30th between Universal Champion Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins and between United States Champion Roman Reigns and Rusev. No one says that the four men are at risk of injury even though Rollins injury record is arguably worse than Banks is. It is also argued that the feud between Banks and Charlotte is not worthy of a Hell in a Cell match even though they have been feuding on and off – mainly on – since the Royal Rumble in January far longer than either of the two male feuds that will end in the Cell. Frankly in a world where UK female soldiers will soon be allowed on the front line by a Conservative Government – unthinkable as recently as 2012 – the idea that two women cannot fight in a cage is ludicrous. If women can fight on the front line they can fight in Hell in a Cell. It is sexism pure and simple. 

So why are people so opposed to the match? Eileen McDonough and Laura Pappano have the answer. They mention the “three I’s” that have been used throughout history to deny women equality – Inferiority, Injury and Immorality. All three are being used here. People are saying that Banks and Charlotte are “inferior” and unworthy of a Hell in a Cell match. They are worried that they will suffer injury. And they think women taking part in this violent match is immoral.  And it is utter nonsense. 

The WWE like to think they compete with real sports which is I suspect why they have a deal with US Sports giants ESPN. In most real sports men and women compete in the same events with mainly the same rules. If WWE want to properly support the Women’s Revolution they have to put women in the same matches as men as this happens in real sport. It is only a baby step no doubt about it. There are still other matches that women have not competed in – Tables, Ladders and Chairs matches, Money in the Bank matches, their own Royal Rumble*** and even the Elimination Chamber. But this is the start. 

I will be nervous when Sasha and Charlotte step into the Cell on October 30th. Like Ginny Baker in the fictional “Pitch” (see previous post) the pressure will be enormous. I bet you they will be scrutinised far more than Owen, Rollins. Reigns and Rusev will be. But that is the price of being the pioneer. Banks knows this having been part of – along with Bayley – the first ever 30 minute “Iron Woman” match in NXT last year. Cynics thought women could not wrestle for thirty minutes straight. Banks and Bayley proved that that was nonsense. 

Back to real sport for a moment. After the 1928 Olympics women were banned from running distances longer than 200 metres and the ban stood for 32 years. Women were not allowed to run the Marathon at the Olympics until 1984. Today the idea that women could not run the Marathon would be seen as a joke. The same will apply to the WWE. Ten, twenty years from now wrestling fans will be saying “That Sasha v Charlotte Hell in a Cell match was amazing wasn’t it?”. Ten, twenty years from now women’s Hell in a Cell matches will be taken for granted and accepted (they won’t be common as they aren’t common for men today). And the fact that women were not allowed to compete in Hell in a Cell matches until nineteen years after the men will be seen as ridiculous not as is the case today the fact that they are competing in one. The women’s Hell in a Cell match is an idea whose time has come. In truth it should have happened before now.

*Lita v Stephanie McMahon main evented RAW in August 2000 but the Rock was guest referee and Kurt Angle and Triple H also got involved.

**I don’t consider myself a member of the IWC but the fact I talk and read about wrestling on the internet might mean some people consider me part of it. 

***A woman competed in the men’s Royal Rumble in 1999,2000,,2010 and 2012 but there has never been a women’s Royal Rumble. 

Pitch perfect?

An interesting new TV series started a couple of weeks ago on Fox in America. While I am not going to review the programme – it hasn’t been shown on UK TV yet and I don’t know if it ever will be – it fascinated me because of the subject matter. 

The programme is called “Pitch” and the main protagonist in the programme is Ginny Baker. Ginny makes history when she becomes the first woman to play in Major League Baseball (MLB). The character plays for the San Diego Padres (which some people might see as a punishment rather than a reward). She is a starting pitcher who overcomes her lack of ability to throw 90 mph by perfecting a rarely used pitch the screwball which people have said could get a woman into the Majors. Now as I haven’t seen the programme I’m not commenting on whether or not the programme is any good (although I hope they don’t take the clichéd route of having heroine Ginny fall in love and have an affair with one of her teammates or her team’s manager. Trust me I’ve seen it too often). But what of Pitch’s central thesis? Could a woman really play in the Majors?

First thing I’ll say is that unlike the Premier League in the UK there must be nothing in the rules of baseball or the law of the US that would prohibit a woman playing in the big leagues since MLB have co produced Pitch and allowed the show full access to the Padres’ ballpark, logo and facilities. The programme has the backing of MLB. So with that said is Ginny’s story believable? I’d say no for a couple of reasons. 

First of all Ginny seems to be a one pitch pony namely the screwball. As the not happy guy who loses his place on the roster to Ginny says the 29 other professional teams will be trying to figure out her trick pitch and when they do he will get his job back and she will become the answer to a trivia question. Now a one pitch pitcher can thrive and even dominate in the Majors. The classic example being the greatest closer of all time Mariano Rivera. People said his only pitch was the cut fastball. But it was good enough to keep him in the Majors for nineteen seasons and earned him a record 652 saves which suggests that even if batters knew what was coming most of them still didn’t have a clue how to hit it. But he was a closer. I doubt very much a one pitch pitcher makes it as a starter as she would have to throw to batters two or three times in a game if she was a starter. So I think a female screwball pitcher would be more realistic as a relief pitcher or a closer – which could confuse batters as it would be a contrast to the 90 mph fastball throwers that appear in the Majors. 

But even if our heroine could be a starter it is still not realistic for her to play for the Padres. The Padres are a National League franchise which means Ginny would have to hit. I really can’t realistically expect a real life Ginny to do anything against Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner and Zack Greinke…and that scary trio is just the elite pitching in the Padres own division  never mind the likes of Jake Arrieta, Jon Lester, Stephen Strausburg, Max Scherzer, Matt Harvey, Jason de Grom and Noah Syndergaard that roam the National League’s other divisions. It is more likely that if a woman was to become a MLB starter it would be in the American League where with the Designated Hitter rule she would not have to hit. So if a female pitcher was to reach MLB it in my opinion would either be as an AL starter or a relief pitcher.

But the main reason I can’t see a woman in the Majors anytime soon is because of a lack of opportunity. As I’ve written before since 1974 girls have been eligible to play Little League – but most of them play softball. But the problem is that women’s baseball beyond Little League barely exists so any girl who wants to play baseball at High School has to join a boy’s team where she might not exactly be welcome to say the least. After High School it becomes worse. Only one woman has got a college scholarship for baseball and that was earlier this year when pitcher Sarah Hudek was awarded a baseball scholarship at Bossier Community College in Houston. No wonder girls turn to softball where they can get scholarships. No wonder 2014 Little League wunderkind Mo’ne Davis (who I suspect Ginny in Pitch was based on) has chosen basketball instead. After all she can get a scholarship in basketball and a professional career in the WNBA could occur. There is no professional career for her in baseball.

The only way I can see any hope for women making it to the Majors is if softball is rebranded as women’s baseball and the rules become the same (number of innings, style of pitching, distance between bases among other things). Baseball and softball are so totally different that skills cannot be transferred from one to an other. This is not sexism.I remember seeing on TV Major League hitters trying to hit elite softball pitcher Jennie Finch. Most of them didn’t have a clue how to hit her as the pitching was totally different from what they were used to.

So could women be relief pitchers, closers or be like small men like Dee Gordon and José Altuve who don’t contribute many 400 ft home runs but can get on base regularly and use their speed to steal bases? At the moment we do not know because women have never been given a chance to play baseball throughout their formative years. And unless women can play baseball uninterrupted they will never get the baseball education they need in their teenage years that might give them a chance.

Because of the tradition of shall we say girls being “encouraged” to play softball after Little League we do not know what women are capable of doing in baseball. Right now Ginny’s story can only be a fairytale. But if girls are given the chance to play baseball as teenagers, given baseball scholarships like Sarah Hudek has and if a women’s baseball league is ever set up who knows? 

Why Allardyce leaving could be a blessing in disguise

Just when you think the England men’s national football team could not sink any lower after June’s humiliating Euro 2016 defeat by Iceland they do. It has to be said in fairness that this time it is not the players that are to blame it is the now ex manager Sam Allardyce. Just sixty seven days – and one game – after being appointed on Tuesday Allardyce left his England post by “mutual consent”. The FA had no other option.

Allardyce’s reign came to an end as a result of a “sting” by British newspaper the Daily Telegraph. Allardyce met with two bogus businessmen who offered him £400,000 for being “a keynote speaker”. He also made plenty of controversial remarks criticising predecessor Roy Hodgson saying he’d send them (the England players) off to sleep. He criticised his own players for being physiologically weak, and his own employers the FA for wasting £870 million on redeveloping Wembley. In both those cases a lot of fans would probably agree with him but it’s not a very good thing to criticise your players and your bosses.

If that is all he said he might – might – have survived. But something else he said sealed his fate. He said that there are ways around the FA’s ban on third party ownership – that is the rule brought in by the FA in 2008 where individuals have a stake in the ownership of a player rather than him being owned wholly by his club. Whether you think the rule is a good idea or not is irrelevant. No one in any industry would survive being caught giving people advice on how to get around the rules of their own employers. Once that remark appeared in the Telegraph it was all over for Allardyce. 

Predictably this week’s events have been called a disaster for English football. It is certainly embarrassing. TV pundit Rio Ferdinand said the affair made English football look ludicrous. And yet long term this could be a blessing in disguise for English football as the FA made a dreadful mistake appointing Allardyce in the first place and by making a fool of himself in the press he has given the FA a chance to redeem themselves and get rid of him before his appointment could cause much damage.

An article in yesterday’s Sun by Neil Ashton showed why Allardyce was unqualified for the job. The article said even his own wife did not want Allardyce to take the job as she knew what he was like when he started guzzling pints of lager. Apparently he was famous for his boozing sessions that lasted until 3 am. Earlier this month he apparently had a monumental night out with his coaching staff Sammy Lee and Craig Shakespeare. The next day he turned up for work and a number of FA staff said his breath reeked of alcohol. How on earth is that guy fit to manage a school team never mind his national team? 

But although it was the UK press that brought Allardyce down they cannot be exempt from criticism either. They must have known about his boozing. Also the Ashton article yesterday mentioned Allardyce’s “skewed social views” and that “his comments about females have bordered on sexism”. So why did the press not expose them? They were quick enough – quite rightly – to slaughter Malky MacKay and José Mourinho for sexist behaviour but somehow they didn’t expose Allardyce’s remarks. Even Ashton admitted that they should have exposed him “Shame on us, if the truth be told”. Shows that football thinks that crimes against itself – ie corruption – are more serious than crimes against society – ie sexism (Allardyce was brought down during an ongoing Telegraph investigation into corruption – no UK paper has investigated into sexism in football). It is highly likely that Allardyce would have been brought down by some scandal anyway and had it come say a month before the World Cup in 2018 it would been a disaster. 

But it’s not just Allardyce that is a problem – its English football managers generally. Chelsea fan David Baddiel said in an article about Mourinho in the Radio Times in 2014 that today’s English managers – Allardyce, Steve Bruce, Alan Curbishley, Alan Pradew, Harry Redknapp – could have managed in 1954. That is not a compliment. It is very possible that there are hidden sexist views among those men – in fact Bruce questioned the rape conviction of Ched Evans – how would he know he wasn’t in court for his trial.

It is clear that most British managers are unfit for purpose – it is interesting that most of the Telegraph’s corruption allegations so far have been against British managers and assistant managers. If I were the FA I would not even consider appointing an English manager. There is a reason why the elite Premier League clubs avoid English managers. It is because they are stuck in the 1950s and they represent a horrible macho culture that really should have died long ago. The Allardyce scandal has given the FA a chance to atone for its mistake in appointing him and instead appoint a progressive foreign manager. It is interesting that according to the book “Soccernomics” by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski (page 370) that Fabio Capello was the most successful England manager (in terms of win percentage) of all time and Sven Goran Eriksson was fourth both way ahead of Steve McLaren who was manager between the two foreigners (and therefore had the same players to choose from). England’s cricket and rugby teams have been improved by foreign coaches after disastrous 2015 World Cup campaigns under Englishmen. If the FA take heed of this and appoint a progressive foreign manager the Allardyce shambles could be a blessing in disguise.

Women are Strong, but not Strong Enough…

Like A Girl

queens_u_hockey_team_1917In 1898 a German doctor came to the conclusion that physical activity was damaging to a woman’s body.  Specifically stating that, “violent movements of the body can cause a shift in the position and a loosening of the uterus as well as prolapse and bleeding, with resulting sterility, thus defeating a woman’s true purpose in life, i.e., the bringing forth of strong children.” More recently, a basketball coach in 1967 expressed that women would never play the sport in the same way as men. The fear was that with too much excessive jumping, a woman would displace her uterus. While girls and women on the surface do not seem to encounter these same unfounded assumptions about their bodies, how far has sport truly come in terms of physical expectations?

Currently, many sports that boys and men have enjoyed for centuries are now available to girls and women.  While access has…

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Too many sports? 

So today the “Greatest Show on Earth” the 2016 Olympics start in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. The Opening ceremony is tonight and tomorrow the sport begins*. Over the next 16 days the athletes will be competing for 306 titles in 28 sports (up from 302 titles in 26 sports in London 2012 with the addition of golf and rugby sevens – I’ll get to them). Now you might think 28 sports are too many but guess what? The International Olympic Committee (IOC) don’t agree. 

On Wednesday the IOC announced that five new – well four new and one returning sport – will be added to the Olympic programme. Baseball/softball (the only sports that have been in the Olympics before from 1992-2008), Karate, Surfing. Skateboarding and Sport Climbing will all join the Olympic party in Tokyo in 2020. Between them the new/returning sports will bring 18 more events and hundreds more athletes to the Games. They will not replace any of the existing sports. 

That is not really a surprise as before baseball and softball were voted out in 2005 the last sport to lose Olympic status was polo which was last an Olympic sport in 1936. The Olympics are a bit like what critics say about the England cricket team. It is hard for a sport to get into but even harder to get out of.

Now you might think a baseball fan I would be pleased that baseball is back in the Olympics. Well no actually. The reason is the same reason that I don’t think men’s football should be in (see previous post “Olympic football. Women yes men no”). The best baseball players will not be there as unlike the NBA in men’s basketball (which is in its off season during the Olympics) or the WNBA in women’s basketball (which plays in the NBA off season and takes an Olympic break) the MLB players won’t be there as the 162 game season is too long to take a break (and in any case if the 2020 Olympics are held at the same time of the year that the last Tokyo Olympics were in 1964 – October – that means it will be in the postseason and no franchise would release their star players in that scenario). So while I would love to see Texas Rangers star pitcher Yu Darvish pitch for Japan in his own country it will not happen. And in my opinion unless a sport makes its best players available it should not be in the Olympics. 

Softball I have a different problem with. Namely that it exists at all. No I don’t think the sport should be banned it should be rebranded as women’s baseball. Which as it uses bases, balls and strikes and the aim is to score runs it is. Rebrand it as women’s baseball give it the same rules as it’s “big brother” – same size ball, same style of pitching, same distance between bases for example –  and I would have no problem with it.

Of the other sports Karate, Surfing, Skateboarding,  and Sport Climbing I have no problem with them assuming that they have women’s events too. Except that with thirty three sports there are too many. So what sports would I replace?

Just to be controversial I wouldn’t replace any. But what I would do is get rid of the male halves of sports where the Olympics is not the pinnacle of the calendar but the women’s event is. Three examples of this are football basketball and baseball where for the men it is not the most important event but for the women it is. And the main example of this is the most controversial of the two new sports in 2016. 

The appearance of golf in Rio might be a success. But it has had a rotten build up. Fourteen male golfers – including all of the world’s top four – have withdrawn from the games. Ostensibly this is because of the Zika virus but it is funny that hardly any athletes from other sports have withdrawn. Even US goalkeeper Hope Solo – who thought of pulling out – has turned up although she copped a barrage of abuse from Brazilian fans on Wednesday.  And all the elite women golfers have turned up. 

Which could lead to a major injustice. While golf’s place in Tokyo is secure who could blame the IOC if they voted out a sport whose star players clearly don’t give a toss. At least the male star players don’t. But the women do.  For women’s golf the Olympics are the pinnacle. Why should innocent female golfers pay the price for the arrogant selfishness of their male counterparts? 

Answer : They shouldn’t. So if I ran the Olympics I would say that every sport must have a women’s event but does not to have a men’s event. There is a precedent for this. There are two disciplines that are already women only – rhythmic gymnastics and synchronised swimming – so why shouldn’t there be more? 

So while there are too many athletes at the Olympics I would not cut any sports. Instead I would cut out the men’s events in sports where for the men the Olympics are not the pinnacle but for the women they are. That means no men’s baseball, basketball, football, golf or rugby. 

This idea of mine has two advantages. It cuts down the number of athletes without cutting down the number of female athletes. It would reduce the gap between the number of male and female athletes (in London there were 10768 athletes taking part 5992 (55.6 per cent) were male and 4778 (44.4 per cent) were female). Maybe getting rid of male events where the Olympics are not the pinnacle will lead to gender equality at the Olympics. And isn’t that what everyone wants? 

*Typical of football’s arrogance the football events started on Wednesday (women) and Thursday (men).