Squash world champion Dame Susan Devoy says now is the time to wholeheartedly embrace women’s sport in Aotearoa, following the success of the rugby and football world cups in the last year.
The former Race Relations Commissioner is tired of constant comparisons between men’s and women’s sports, and wants New Zealand to just embrace “enjoyment, competition and participation”.
In an interview with Petra Bagust for rova podcast Grey Areas, Dame Susan said: “We just need to put a stake in the ground and say women's sport is women's sport and men’s sport is men’s sport, instead of these comparisons all the time.”
“I always describe how people would compare me to [male squash great] Jahangir Khan. He was the contemporary of my era, and I probably wouldn't have got a point if I played Jahangir.
“But we're not comparing physicality, we're comparing skills. It's a bit like boxing. You don't put a bantamweight into the ring with a heavyweight, do you? So I think people need to stop comparing apples with oranges and appreciate women's sport.”
Dame Susan said while the disparaging attitude towards women’s sports remains a problem, it’s “really getting better” – albeit will “take quite a while” to be taken as seriously as men’s sports.
“Look what's happened to [the FIFA Women’s World Cup]. Nobody wanted to buy tickets – and then you couldn't get a ticket. It's been amazing. I think we're lucky that [the Women’s Rugby World Cup] paved the way for that because we saw how successful women's sport could be.”
She says it’s all about considering why we actually play and watch sports.
“It's about enjoyment, competition, participation, encouraging other young women to be active and enjoy sport as well – all the lessons in life that sport teaches you about that."
“And so we should just salute and get on with it in sports like this," Dame Susan finished.