I like football a lot. However, in the last two weeks something really important has become really apparent.
Despite the upsurge in Women’s football after the World cup and increased coverage of Women’s games, women liking the sport is still something of a sticky wicket.
Two articles have caught my attention. The most recent this morning and both from the BBC.
My reaction to the first, was very much a gut reaction. In my day job, I teach feminism, I work with female students who have unequal access to areas where their male counterparts get a free pass. Football is actually a big part of my teaching. It get shoe-horned into every bit of Psychology, Sociology and Business that I can.
My hackles were raised full mast; how dare people pass a camera over anyone, yes anyone, and comment on their appearance. This happens every day, regardless of it being a footballing fiesta. This goes back to good old fashioned gender politics and socialisation. This is a manifestation of social norms and cultural practices that belong in the dark ages. Funny, since football has been around since then. The views about Women and football do rather belong in the cave ages.
I was incensed, about the comments made about female pundits and commentators. They, like their male counterparts, have skills, knowledge and understanding, practical awareness of the game.
They, know the same offside rule, as a male pundit would.
They too have played football.
Yet, they really don’t know their stuff?
The mind boggles.
Mansplaining has raised it’s ugly head. A concept that is surreal but frightening. Something can’t be true, valid or acceptable if someone with ovaries says the same. Have an XY set of chromosome is the kicker. One day, I do hope someone says “I did just flippin’ well tell you.”
The second article is far more striking for me. Here we have everyday women, of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds, orientations; women, who have more than just a passing interest in football.
These women are just like me. That is what I think is important.
Two weeks ago, I filled in the work football sweepstake for the group stages. Handed over my quid, sat at the table in the staff room. Found my pen; I systematically went through the fixtures. What do I know about France, their turbulent history? The Spanish have sacked their coach, will this reflect in a disjointed team movement. Where are Portugal? Will Iceland trip people up? Hold on, Argentina, Uruguay, will they play samba football or something. No way, no how will the Germans have an early bath.
I took this very seriously!
My footballing education started with Euro 96, it has it’s uses.
So much so.
When the results were being ‘analysed’:
“Punam, you might actually be winning. You’re quite close really….”
(I didn’t win. But I did try. Due to some strange football during the latter half of the group stages, I got kiboshed. The teacher in me wanted to know the final tally, and tutted loudly.)
What all the fluky results, I might have gone into a full scale monologue about how squad formations with empirical statements and historical evidence. (“Right, you’re a defender on the back foot. If you have a great big massive, stocky striker headed towards you, powered by a midfield engine with a full scale attack. You have two options; get pummelled or move out the way. I wouldn’t get in Maradona’s way, would you?”)
“Punam, I have never heard a lady analyse football so well.”
I may have shaken my head, walked off with that second one.
On the other hand:
“Punam, it’s really refreshing to hear a woman speak about football like you do.”
(Lovely. That, we like. That, was genuine, accepting and really encouraging.)
Raising three daughters, Pops has never ever refused us football. Youngest sister was actually a nifty player when a teenager, and Dad would talk tactics with her all the time. The only time I ever asked him what he meant, I had no idea what a heavy pitch was.
(There’s too much water, and they should have cut the grass….)
My key point, is that gender has never been in issue. As a family, we all enjoy football. Mum spends a week complaining about the noise, and by semi-final time she’s picked the opposite team to everyone else.
I will continue to talk a good game; I can’t play for toffee.
With the knockout stages looming, I need to go find a cushion behind which I can watch penalties.
Might even go find my England shirt…