Sports

A reasoned response to the unreasonable Mark Reason, who is bad

Spinoff editorial intern Madeleine Chapman accidentally inspired Mark Reason to write a terrible column about women’s cricket. She responds to his backward views.

Three nights ago I wrote a story highlighting the double standards between the men’s and women’s Twenty20 World Cups, happening simultaneously in India right now. My stance was simple: if men and women are going to play in the same sporting tournament at the same time, they should get the same treatment.

The following day, coincidentally, the debate surrounding equal prize money in tennis was reignited after sexist comments from the director of the Indian Wells tournament, Raymond Moore. Seemingly inspired by my column the night before, The Sunday Star-Times‘ Mark Reason penned his own opinion piece on the matter of female cricketers.

At first I was excited. Mark Reason is perhaps the most prominent sports columnist in New Zealand, and to think he had even read my piece, let alone thought to write about that very same topic, was enough to make me feel quite proud. Unfortunately this feeling  quickly vanished as I was greeted with the headline

Mark Reason: It’s true, women’s sport does ride on the coat-tails of men’s sport

Disappointing, sure, but not that surprising. I wasn’t to be deterred. Everyone has different opinions and while reading endless grammatically incorrect Facebook comments attacking my views is not so fun, I was ready for some genuine, literate debate from a seasoned sports columnist. Instead I read what can only be described as a thinly veiled attack on women.


A ruling from The Spinoff Editorial Board: Mark Reason is not good


Reason didn’t hold back. He suggests that “The Women’s World T20 should have ‘sponsored by men’ next to it” before scolding the “feministas leaping out of their iron-hooped skirts and complaining that the women had to travel economy when the men flew business class.” I think that last one was directed at me but I can’t be sure. Reason goes on to suggest that, despite beating Australia convincingly and displaying impressive skills, the White Ferns’ match on Monday night was laughable and unworthy of his time. This quote captures the essence of his views:

Asking women to play Twenty20 is liking asking men to wear Christian Laboutin [sic] heels and sashay down the catwalk in a plunging Versace gown. They can do it, but physically it’s not much of a spectacle. So that’s it for the women’s World Cup. I’m going to be a happy sexist and only watch the men from now on.

The column is full of pull quotes that would make even the mildest of feministas shudder. There are blatant criticisms of the over-performing female spin bowlers – despite his column last week being a love letter to the Black Caps’ spinners. He poses the question “why do we need to pay women to play cricket if they are not worth it?” Which I couldn’t help but make an ad for.

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Reason makes some pretty nasty comments. I could write a thesis counter-arguing each of his many offensive statements but that’s not my main concern. I have read similarly worded views over the last few days so my issue is not with what Reason chose to write but why he felt the need to publish it.

Clicks. That was my first thought. Enrage all the feministas and they’ll click on your piece like there’s no equal-paying tomorrow. And I’m sure it worked. Look, I’m responding, but I do have some other concerns.

On a fundamental level, sport does not discriminate. Sport helps cross lines of shape, size, race, and gender. It brings together the unlikeliest of groups to celebrate a shared passion. And it is the reporters and journalists who have the privilege of sharing this passion with the world.

Mark Reason has an amazing job. He gets to watch and write about sport every single day. And, because he writes for the biggest news site in New Zealand, every single day people read what he has to say. They take it in, process it, form opinions around it. Imagine having that sort of influence! Every day you have the power to inform and enlighten people on anything and everything happening in the world of sports. There are so many great things to pass on to the unknowing reader.

With regular columns becoming more and more sparse, Mr Reason is in the privileged position of being one of the few sporting voices heard throughout the country. The only trouble with this is that when he says something ridiculous, it often is allowed to pass.

As Mr Reason so proudly pointed out, women’s cricket needs the support of the men’s game. Of course it does. Forty years ago while Mark’s father, John Reason, was writing his own sports column, women were hardly allowed to play sport for fun, let alone dream that their daughters could one day be professional athletes. The trouble with having a history of extreme sexism in sport means that unfortunately the only people right now with the money and influence to bring about change are men.

Perhaps more unfortunately, Mr Reason is one of these men. We are experiencing a moment in history when new, positive thinking seems to be emerging surrounding women in sport. Instead of embracing this change, Reason has taken the opportunity to not only disregard arguments supporting it, but belittle a national team who are doing the country proud.

Thankfully he seems increasingly isolated in his views. David Leggat this morning wrote  “What price New Zealand winning two world cricket titles on the same day next week?” in a piece headlined ‘Black Caps, White Ferns poised for greatness’. Leggat and Reason each have huge and very public platforms, but are using them for very different ends.

It’s interesting to note the fate of the man who directly inspired Mr Reason’s tirade. On Tuesday night, Raymond Moore resigned as CEO and Tournament Director of Indian Wells, after realising that he was hindering the development of equality in tennis that many have been working towards tirelessly. Perhaps Mr Reason can take one more piece of inspiration from him, and follow suit.


Full details on the White Ferns T20 World Cup schedule here.

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