“I had the impression of being a ghost, invisible”: former handball player Béatrice Barbusse at a conference in Alès on sexism

“I had the impression of being a ghost, invisible”: former handball player Béatrice Barbusse at a conference in Alès on sexism

Béatrice Barbusse : “La question du sexisme, au fond, ne concerne pas seulement que les femmes.” Divergence – Eric Baudet

The sociologist and the first woman to have been president of a high-level handball club is hosting a conference on sexism in sport this Thursday March 21 at IMT Mines-Alès.

You chaired, between 2007 and 2012, the Ivry handball club. During your role, you yourself were confronted with sexist situations ?

Absolutely. This is one of the reasons why I wrote this book (On sexism in sport, ed. Anamosa, Editor's note). In the book there are passages from the field journal that I kept. I experienced situations even before being president of this club. I had the impression of being an invisible ghost. You're talking to coaches, people come up to say hello to them and not to you. They don't see you. When I became president, repeat. It didn't translate in the same way, but for example you are obliged to explain yourself ten times more than a man. Argument ten times more than a man when you want to get ideas across. You receive comments about clothing: "put on shirts with a little more neckline , men like that." Or experience behaviors that make you understand the incongruity of your presence.

Twelve years after your presidency, have mentalities really changed in the sports world in your opinion ?

Yes and no. The observation must be nuanced. There is a positive development but it is often superficial. Today no one would tell you "I accept being sexist". These are things, particularly sexual violence, that we are talking about today. But in the actions, in the decisions that are taken, the priorities put forward, things drag on a little. In high-level sports, there are still 60% athletes compared to 40% athletes. The conditions of training, practices and accessibility are not the same when you are a boy or when you are a girl. The issue of bonuses has not yet been sufficiently addressed by 90% of federations. Conversely, there are things that are moving forward, with subjects like respecting the menstrual cycle or the maternity of sportswomen. But these remain subjects imposed by women, and relayed by only a few men. We are moving forward, not fast enough. It’s the story of a fight.

A fight that you want collectively ? This is the message that you want to convey through your conference, especially to students  ?

Absolutely. I want young people to remember that it is both an individual responsibility, and that we would be more effective if it took a collective form. This is the responsibility of everyone, not just women. Especially since men also suffer from the sexist context. Today you have athletes who dare to reveal their weaknesses, particularly psychological ones. They dare to talk about vulnerability, harassment, depression. Something they wouldn’t have done ten years ago. One of the first to suffer was rugby player Raphaël Poulain. He was afraid to express his suffering. He always had to show that he was Superman. Today, this sexist and virilist context is no longer supported by many athletes. And when you analyze their suffering, we find behind the sexist and virilist foundations of sport. The question of sexism, ultimately, does not only concern women.

"Sexism in sport", conference-debate with Béatrice Barbusse, this Thursday, March 21, 8 p.m. at the Pasteur amphitheater at IMT Mines-Alès, 6 avenue de Clavières. FREE ENTRANCE. Registration required online: https://urls.fr/-d5JMt. I subscribe to read more

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