My personal blog on Scottish Women's Football
Recently I have taken an interest in women’s football <insert reason>, well because I love football. But if you want to highlight the problem with sexism in football, then look no further than the fact that many men would have inserted a sexualised gag. As a male supporter I can’t even begin to imagine the problems women have in following the beautiful game, or in wider society.
An unfortunate characteristic of humanity is the desire to enforce homogeneity onto society and attack anyone who acts or looks different. Whilst I am not claiming that the fight against racism and homosexuality is won, it is at least being fought. Sexism, until now, has been ignored.
The problem though is not just that sexism is rife, but some men don’t realise that what they are saying is actually sexist. For example, on numerous occasions I have heard the chant “It’s a man’s game!”. The fan may believe they are referring to the fact that men are playing and that the player went down easily; But think about it. It is not a man’s game. Women have been playing Association football since 1881 despite attempts to repress it by the Male FA, and even if you referring to the fact the match is being played by men – women can be physios, owners, directors, scouts, even coaches or managers.
Another chant I have numerously read or heard is a derivative of “he just wants to score” in relation to a female physio, in the stadium and on social media – with Chelsea’s Dr Eva Carneiro the most obvious example. It is put down as banter, which should be redefined as the word “to often used to excuse oneself from the offence cause by your own remarks.”
Unfortunately society views men as professionals and women as walking sex dolls/objects. Too often, women are judged on their appearances rather than their work. A good example of this was when the Daily Mail famously judged new female cabinet ministers by their clothes. I mean, none of the four Westminster party male leaders are going to win a beauty pageant, but that doesn’t matter. I dislike both David Cameron and Nigel Farage, not because of how they look, but because when they speak it feels like I’m swimming in a cesspool of bile.
You may say David Beckham and Cristiano Ronaldo have had their looks judged. Yes, but neither of those would have happen if they had been pub footballers. Their skills and ability will always be what these two players will be remembered by, and their looks a secondary matter.
When it comes to sexist chanting, I have heard it be justified along the lines of “what do they expect? An attractive woman in front of an audience of men.” That is not right. Some people may say this is all harmless fun, but it is not. I have lost count of the number of times I have heard men somehow justify a rape because a woman is provocatively dressed. A woman’s outfit is not a secret code telling men how desperate they are to have sexual intercourse.
I am never going to be able to explain the insanity of this concept that women are judged on their clothes they wear, to how their hair looks, or what make-up they are using, or the fear of walking down a street at night, worrying how men are looking at you – because I am a man.
And what makes the issue worse, is that these discriminations are tragically subliminal. There was a magnificent John Oliver clip on this, where they highlighted that identical CVs where the name was John got hired far more often than those with the name of Jennifer.
As a wider society, we need to get away from defining stereotypes in general and wide-sweeping characteristics such as, gender, age, nationality, hair colour, skin colour, religion, sports lover….I could go on. There isn’t a definitive man or female, but unfortunately the human mind is an expert at making a definitive judgement on a person from basic information.
And terrifyingly, this level of abuse has become so absurd that when Caroline Criado-Perez ran a campaign to get a woman onto a British bank note, people on Twitter sent her death threats.
When Sian Massey was an assistant referee in Liverpool’s 3-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers, the disgraced presenters Andy Gray and Richard Keys made the notorious off-air comments that included “Women don’t know the offside rule”. Massey had actually made a magnificent decision, one that many assistant referees get wrong. It goes without saying that even if Massey had made a mistake, she should have been judged on her ability, rather than her gender.
This is the problem females face in society. Despite numerous scientific studies, they have to justify themselves further than men just because they have breasts and a vagina, rather than a penis.
I do think that football can be a champion for gender equality, but it will be a long and tough road. There are no easy fixes.
First of all, everyone in football needs to treat sexism with a zero-tolerance approach. Any clubs where just one of their ‘fans’ shout sexist abuse (no matter the scale) should face the same sanctions as those where fans chant sectarian, racist or homophobic abuse – and all those punishments should be increased. Look at it this way, how can you make football a family environment if half your potential audience feel threatened?
The woman’s game in Britain has gone a long way in gaining credibility, with the 2012 Olympics being a high point. Women’s football needs to improve its traditional media growth; Glasgow City and Bristol Academy competing in the Women’s Champions League and the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Canada should kickstart this growth. This growth will need to start a snowball effect, and if everyone makes women’s football a big deal, then things will grow. Clubs need to champion their female members to highlight their input, whether they are volunteers or board members – and I know many clubs have their own dedicated Women’s’ Day.
But the main thing is that everyone (admittedly mainly men) need to treat women as human beings, as the same should and is normally done for men. It is terrifying the extent that women are overtly sexualised in everything they do and this has to stop. This equality issue affects everyone in the football community and in the wider world, and it is simple what men have to do.
Treat women as human beings. They have an infinite potential in what they can be from surgeons to writers to footballers to politicians – but more than that, they are human beings. Don’t shout abuse at them, don’t make them feel like they are threatened, anywhere they are.
The reality is this, football needs women at every level. It is everyone’s responsibility to stamp this out. Report anything you hear that you think is wrong. No harm can come from that, whereas serious harm can come from inaction.
And remember, banter is not an excuse. There should never be scenes like what happened at the Cyprus Cup this week.