The Women’s Premier League (WPL) is currently underway and the excitement around it seems like a welcome change until you look closer. In all things sports, men remain the blueprint, which is why you don’t have a Men’s Premier League but an Indian Premier League as the counterpart to the Women’s Premier League.
In Indian society, one can barely move without transgressing and people have been dutifully ignoring women’s cricket as much as possible. Before you let yourself be pleasantly surprised by the fact that men on Twitter are discussing the WPL enthusiastically, you might want to pause. Since the only arena where women could possibly shine is physical beauty, Twitter is now filled with tweets “thirsting” over the cricketers playing the WPL.
A part of that is natural- it’s not as if Virat Kohli’s wax statue in Madame Tussauds didn’t just receive a copious amount of kissing from a fan. The adulation that a male cricketer receives is, however, for the most part, an extension of people’s recognition of his skill. It’s quite the reverse for women cricketers- the “simping” over their looks ends up eclipsing any recognition of their talent for the casual viewer.
Amelia Kerr, who plays for Mumbai Indians, has been labelled “wife material” and “instant crush”.
There are polls being made to decide who is more beautiful- Kerr or Ellyse Perry, who plays for Royal Challengers Bangalore.
It’s alarming that when people see a woman playing a sport, the first thing that comes to their mind is how she might fare as a “wife”.
Alice Capsey, who plays for Delhi Capitals, has been receiving a deluge of admiration from Indian men. With marriage proposals. In fact, some of the comments on her Instagram have gone beyond your garden-variety “simping” to full-fledged sleazing. On one of her photos, one Instagram user comments in Hindi: “Trust me bro, she’s just 18.” “Heyy Alice kya ap meri aammi ki bahu Banna chahegi [sic],” asks another. “Now you are crush of mostly Indian guys,” another reads.
The other comments border on harassment- so just a regular day of being a woman on the Internet. The scene is not very different on Twitter.
Boys, who’s your crush from the WPL this year?Lot of them saying Amelia Kerr… Some saying Lauren… Alice Capsey too
— Vinesh Prabhu (@vlp1994) March 14, 2023
RCB captain Smriti Mandhana, of course, has long been on the receiving end of such attention.
It’s not just women players onto whom the male gaze sticks itself- it extends to women journalists covering sports, and even women watching a game from the stands.
In 2016, TV sports reporter Mel McLaughlin was left “disappointed” after Chris Gayle made a pass at her while she was interviewing him as part of Network Ten’s Big Bash League broadcast. He suggested that they should “get a drink later”. McLaughlin told Network Ten that she hoped never to be in that situation again and that she was pleased that people were talking about it.
In 2019, a girl watching a match between RCB and Sunrisers Hyderabad became dubbed nationwide as the ‘RCB girl’. The camera paused on her in the stands for about five seconds but the male gaze requires less. “It has been an extreme case of abuse, trauma and mental torture,” she later wrote on Instagram. “I am confused as to how people found my name/profile. My identity, privacy & life have been hacked in an instant.”
“I am #theRCBgirl but I am SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT,” she added. Well, for women, “more” has been historically out of bounds.
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