Sexism and Sport: Call It Out

Sexism and Sport, a new iteration of the Respect Women: ‘Call it Out’ campaign

Sport brings communities together, gives us a sense of belonging, and it has the power to create change. 

Significant steps have been taken by many state and national sporting codes over the past decade to move towards equality.

However, we know that sexism is still part of the sporting world – within teams and organisations, as well as in the stands, and in the homes of fans. Other forms of discrimination like racism, homophobia and ableism can also be found on and off the field.

We all have an opportunity to use sport – playing, watching, and learning about it – to:

  • Break free of stereotypes that harm women and girls
  • Create an even playing field for future players and fans
  • Challenge outdated ideas about men and masculinity
  • Foster safe, inclusive communities on and off the field. 

The only way to prevent violence against women is to change the culture that allows it to happen, and with sport, we have the power to create a safer world for women and girls.

What does the data tell us?  

  • One in three Australian women have experienced physical violence since the age of 15, and one in five Australian women have experienced sexual violence. 
  • In 2020, 89 per cent of adults (over 15 years) participated in sport, 54 per cent of women and 69 per cent of men participated in sports-related activities in Australia.   
  • In 2019, women comprised 24 per cent of CEOs across 63 national sporting organisations (NSOs), and 15 per cent of high-performance coaches. 
  • Jesuit Social Services’ Unpacking the Man Box research shows that men who are constrained by harmful stereotypes of masculinity are more likely to perpetrate violence, sexual harassment, and online bullying. 
  • Research from 2018 showed a 40 per cent increase on average in family violence incidents reported to police on State of Origin nights.
  • A 2019 study from Swinburne University found that Australians believe sports organisations do more for the greater good and for communities than government, religious institutions, or unions. 

How can you call it out?  

To create a more equal playing field, whether it’s in sports teams, in the stands, or at homes, we can all play a role. There are many ways to call out gender inequality and sexism, and the way you choose to address it will come down to the situation, who is involved, and what you are comfortable with. We’ve put together a few quick tips to get you started:

  • Call out sexist jokes and comments – We’re all familiar with jokes and slurs that can be used in a sport setting to put people down. Calling it out can be as simple as choosing not to laugh, letting your mate know it wasn’t okay, or pulling them aside afterwards to let them know you didn’t appreciate it.
  • Model equality from the top down – If you can see it, you can be it. Whether you’re a leader in a sporting organisation or the parent of young kids (or both!), you can influence the way that other people think about equality and gender. Choose your language carefully, look at the way you can positively influence the culture in your workplace or community, and remember that gender equality benefits everyone.
  • Take action at work or at your club – Wondering what your club or local team is doing to encourage and support equal participation and create safe spaces? Concerned about an issue that isn’t being addressed? Call up or email your club for a chat and ask about their approach. Use social media to start constructive conversations and think about how you can support or encourage people in your communities to ensure sport is equal and accessible for everyone. We also recommend taking a look at resources from Our Watch on Equality and Respect in Sport.

Support Pathways  

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, call 000. If you are experiencing or at risk of experiencing violence, help is available.  

Safe Steps is available to support people in Victoria who are experiencing or at risk of experiencing family violence. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Call 1800 015 188 or try their live web chat service available 9.00am-9.00pm, Monday-Friday. Chats are anonymous and accessible to anyone experiencing violence or concerned about the welfare of a loved one. More information can be found on the Safe Steps website.  

If you are worried your behaviour might be harming your family members now or may in the future, call the Men’s Referral Service on 1300 766 491. The service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More information can be found on the No to Violence website.

For further services, head to our list of crisis and support services.

Frequently Asked Questions