Following a long conversation in Australia, the cricketing world is seeing a slow switch to gender-neutral terms like ‘batter’ and ‘player of the match’, rather than batsman and man of the match. While there have been some mutters of resistance, and predictable gripes about the ‘woke’ invasion of everything, many people on messaging forums seem to see the logic of inclusive language.
Ending the ingrained male universal in our language is important. What we say is how we think. When we use ‘mankind’ to mean humans, or ‘chairman’ implying that authority is naturally male, or ‘aam admi’ to casually exclude more than half the world, it entrenches the norm, it renders everyone else a misfit. Sure, many cricketers who are female have gamely accepted being called batsmen, but that still makes them anomalies in a world where men easily belong.
Of course changing a word here or there won’t be enough to level gender discrimination. Mithali Raj earns about 7% of what Virat Kohli makes. There are also wide gaps in sponsorship because women’s cricket is less popular than men’s. But popularity is not spontaneous, it is also created. The bias and disinterest feed themselves – less compelling camerawork and commentary make women’s sports less exciting to watch, which then provides the rationale for the difference in treatment. But as cricket and the wider world confront gender bias and get beyond it, tomorrow may be more equal than today.
This piece appeared as an editorial opinion in the print edition of The Times of India.
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