Divya Deshmukh: India chess player’s Instagram post sparks sexism discussion

Divya Deshmukh India chess players Instagram post sparks sexism discussion

An 18-year-old Indian chess player’s Instagram post has ignited a conversation on sexism in the sport, shedding light on the behavior of fans and male players towards women in chess.

An Instagram post by Divya Deshmukh, an 18-year-old Indian chess player, has sparked a crucial discussion on the treatment of women in the sport. Deshmukh, who holds the title of International Master, highlighted the issue of online comments focusing on her appearance rather than her games. Her post has shed light on the under-discussed topic of sexism in chess and has prompted experts and players to address the behavior of fans and male players towards women in the sport.

Deshmukh’s post came after the recent Tata Steel Chess tournament in the Netherlands, where she experienced behavior from the audience that irked her throughout the competition. The tournament organizers later issued a statement in support of Deshmukh, expressing their commitment to promoting women in chess and ensuring a safe and equal sporting environment.

Sexism in Chess: An Under-discussed Topic

Sexism is still an under-discussed topic in the world of chess, which is one of the few mainstream sports where men and women often compete against each other. Deshmukh’s post has ignited a crucial conversation on the behavior of fans and male players towards women in chess, drawing attention to the need for change and equality in the sport. Even grandmaster Susan Polgar has joined the discussion, emphasizing the importance of addressing the issue.

Divya Deshmukh’s Experience with Sexism in Chess

Deshmukh revealed that she has been receiving hateful comments related to her appearance since she was 14 years old. She expressed her sadness at the lack of attention given to her chess skills, as comments often focus on her dressing, looks, or speech. Deshmukh’s experience is not unique, as many women players face similar challenges, with online comments often laced with sexist attitudes and sexually suggestive remarks.

The Gender Balance and Stereotypes in Chess

Chess already suffers from a poor gender balance, with women making up only 10% of licensed players globally, according to the International Chess Federation (FIDE). This gap widens at the top level, with only three of India’s 84 grandmasters being women. Experts attribute this imbalance to the lack of access, opportunity, and support for women and girls in chess, perpetuated by stereotypes surrounding the sport. Beliefs that men are inherently better at chess due to being “wired differently” amplify these biases.

The Impact of Sexist Attitudes on Women Players

Sexist attitudes in chess have a significant impact on women players, both psychologically and professionally. A study conducted by New York University revealed that many believe girls have lower potential in the sport and are more likely to quit due to a lack of ability. This lack of confidence and support hampers the progress of women players, affecting their career opportunities and hindering their development as coaches as well.

Online Trolling and its Consequences

Online trolling exacerbates the culture of not taking women players and tournaments seriously. Women players are disproportionately vulnerable to receiving misogynistic comments from predominantly male audiences during online tournaments and livestreamed games. The trolling not only deepens sexist attitudes but also impacts the confidence of young women players, making them work twice as hard to prove themselves.

Personal Stories and the Need for Change

Personal stories from women players like Nandhini Saripalli and Susan Polgar highlight the challenges they face in a male-dominated sport. Saripalli shares her experience of being told that her male opponents can easily defeat her, both online and offline. Saripalli and her female peers often “dress down” to avoid unwanted attention from male players and the audience. Polgar, one of the world’s best chess players, shares her own experience of being sexually harassed and assaulted by male chess players.

Progress and the Path Forward

While there is still work to be done, some progress has been made towards equality in chess. Players like Koneru Humpy, one of India’s top chess players, acknowledge that there is more equality now compared to when they started playing. Humpy emphasizes the importance of male players regularly training and playing against their female peers. However, it will take time for women players to have the same influence on and off the chess board as their male counterparts. Removing socio-cultural barriers and increasing the number of women-only tournaments can help alter the power imbalance and encourage more women to participate in chess.

Divya Deshmukh’s Instagram post has sparked an important discussion on sexism in chess, shedding light on the behavior of fans and male players towards women in the sport. The under-discussed topic of sexism in chess has gained attention, with experts and players emphasizing the need for change and equality. The experiences shared by women players highlight the challenges they face and the impact of sexist attitudes on their careers. While progress has been made, there is still work to be done to ensure a more inclusive and supportive environment for women in chess.