Why we should all frown upon sexism in sport

United States International University-Africa's Beatrice Mbugua waits for a short corner during their Kenya Hockey Union Premier League match against Strathmore University's Scorpions at City Park in Nairobi on October 27, 2019.

Photo credit: Sila Kiplagat | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • I’m clueless where Linda Okello is presently stationed and how she looks in the new Persian blue police uniform, but I was reminded of her saga by a recent newspaper headline about a certain female hockey playing “itching for the stick.”
  • I won’t belabour a point that has already been restated here and elsewhere, but the level of sexism and objectification of women in the media is upsetting
  • The Kenyan media too stands accused of perpetrating this worrying trend of sexism and objectification of women, either by omission or commission




Linda Okello. Does that name still ring a bell? You surely do remember the policewoman who a few years ago became the subject of national debate, all for being pictured in a tight skirt while on duty.

And it didn’t just end with the office banter, barroom talk and the jolly memes on social media that Kenyans online are known for.

The whole thing got very ugly when the Corporal challenged disciplinary actions against her over what the National Police Service termed as “untidy mode of dressing.”

It ended badly though for her employer who later sought to have the matter settled out of court, what with the public backlash that the case attracted.

In the midst of the storm in a tea cup that she had caused, there was a near-stampede in the Nation newsroom when the well-endowed policewoman paid a brief visit.

In between, she had even made it into the list of the most searched person by Kenya’s online community.

What very few people will recall, though, is that Ms Okello’s sudden and unexpected fame had everything do with a sporting event.

That viral photo of Corporal Okello in her famous tight skirt, talking on phone in the company of a fellow policewoman, was taken by veteran motorsport photojournalist Anwar Sidi – as an off-beat, I presume – during the 2014 KCB Kiambu Rally.

The photo was cheekily captioned “Security was tight in Kiambu.”

I’m clueless where Linda Okello is presently stationed and how she looks in the new Persian blue police uniform, but I was reminded of her saga by a recent newspaper headline about a certain female hockey playing “itching for the stick.”

Heated debate

So much for creative headlines, but the paper in question got more than it bargained for, if the heated debate that headline generated online is anything to go by.

I won’t belabour a point that has already been restated here and elsewhere, but the level of sexism and objectification of women in the media is upsetting.

More worrying is that sports – and its coverage – seems to have been pervaded by the same male chauvinism which in a byword for Kenyan politics.

I shudder at the thought of sports falling foul of the profane language and sexist remarks that are the stock in trade for male Kenyan politicians in their ceaseless affront to the opposite gender.

Strathmore University Scorpions' forward Gilly Okumu (left) celebrates her goal against JKUAT with teammates during their Kenya Hockey Union women's Premier League match on March 3, 2019 at the City Park Stadium in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Chris Omollo | Nation Media Group

But this is just one side of the coin. The Kenyan media too stands accused of perpetrating this worrying trend of sexism and objectification of women, either by omission or commission.

The irony here is that in this age and time, the question of every woman’s entitlement to respect, dignity and equal opportunities, much in the same way as men, is a debate that has longed lost traction.

It’s a reality of life that mere machismo no longer sells – it went out of fashion long ago as a standard measure of manliness.

Which is why on this score, I totally agree with my good friend and colleague Cellestine Olilo. Sexism has no place in sport or in the media.

soomondi@ke.nationmedia.com