When they saw the prizes they’d been given as a reward for their achievement in sports, the four women were speechless.
This is an affront to women’s dignity. Sport is a tool that should work toward equality
Almudena Cueto, Asturias Women’s Institute
Besides their trophies, the winners in the female category of a squash championship in Asturias, in northern Spain, received a gift set containing two boxes of hair-removal wax, an electric callus remover, and a vibrator. The male winners did not get a beauty pack with their prizes.
The matter is being investigated by the Asturias Women’s Institute, and it has already triggered resignations at the club that organized the competition and at the regional squash federation.
“I felt surprise and indignation,” says Elisabet Sadó, the top winner in the female category, recalling the gala event held on May 11 in Las Vegas, located in the Asturian municipality of Corvera. The 37-year-old has been competing professionally for more than 15 years. She has been the world champion and is a seven-time national champion in a sport with few associated members: 1,550 men and 255 women in all of Spain, according to 2017 statistics.
Sadó, who works with victims of gender violence, says that this kind of attitude is “the foundation for all the structural sexism which, in its most extreme form, ends with women getting killed.”
Two days after the award ceremony, the four women who received prizes lodged a complaint with the federation, calling the gifts “sexist and out of place.”
The Oviedo Squash Club has admitted the presents “were inappropriate”
“Never in our history had anything like this happened,” says Maribel Toyos, a member of the federation’s governing board, who alerted the Asturias Women’s Institute about the matter.
“This is an affront to women’s dignity. Sport is a tool that should work toward equality,” says the institute’s director, Almudena Cueto. While current regulations do not include sanctions for this kind of behavior, draft sports legislation will make it mandatory for prizes to be the same for men and women.
The tournament was organized by the Oviedo Squash Club, which has admitted in a release that the presents “were inappropriate and should never have been given out.” The note adds that sponsors sometimes provide gifts, and that in this case, nobody checked first whether they were appropriate.
The absence of women in squash is one of the reasons why Sadó continues to participate in tournaments such as this one: to encourage girls to take up the sport.
Female squash players had already been dealing with other forms of discrimination such as lower salaries, fewer promotions and more run-down facilities than those enjoyed by their male counterparts. But they had never received such a gift pack before.
Two club managers and a federation leader have resigned, and the club itself might dissolve over the scandal. But Sadó says it is enough for people to simply take note of what has happened.
“I hope this serves to ensure nothing like this happens again in the future, and to make people realize that sport is far from as equal as people might think.”
English version by Susana Urra.