It’s 2018 And Football Is Still A Chauvinist’s Safe Space

There is a pervasive notion that football belongs to men. The sport has historically been dominated by male players, male commentators and male supporters. But even as more women watch, play and work in football, male chauvinism and misogyny continues to rear its ugly head. It’s 2018 folks and it’s no longer justifiable to bar women from football.

Despite footballing authorities championing equality initiatives or the high-profile female footballers, there is a deep-seated unwillingness from men to allow women to participate in the sport. For starters, being a female football fan is like walking through a minefield.

Women aren’t qualified to be football fans

By virtue of being a woman, the authenticity of your fandom is always questioned. Ask any female football fan how many times they’ve been “quizzed” on football trivia, been mansplained what’s happening on the pitch or asked to explain the offside rule. There’s an idea that being a football fan is a men’s-only club and as a woman, you have to justify yourself.

More than one billion fans watched the final of the 2014 World Cup Brazil. The competition itself garnered a global in-home television audience of 3.2 billion people, according to final figures from Fifa and Kantar Media. Despite its popularity, some men understand that these figures only include cis-gendered men.

As a woman, your opinion about football is offensive to a man. Your opinions are often second guessed, questioned and ridiculed because it is inconceivable that women can watch, understand and enjoy football.

Female football fans are often accused of only watching football because they’re thirsting after the footballers. Or because they want to seem more attractive to other men. Because everybody knows a woman’s sole purpose in life is to be considered attractive to men.

Of course, certain women who attend matches are constantly sexually objectified. It is near impossible to watch a single football match on TV without the camera zooming into a beautiful woman in the crowd. A quick Google search of “female football fans” brings up a stream of lewd images of scantily clad women wearing cut-off football shirts and tiny thongs. The only women worth showing on TV are those “suitable” for the male gaze.

Not only does being a woman mean you are not qualified to be a fan, it means you aren’t qualified to play either.

Women’s football is not taken seriously

Football is one of the most popular female sports. According to Fifa, some 30 million girls and women play it worldwide. However, in several countries, girls are not allowed to play football. Even at an institutional level, women face stereotypes. In 2004, former Fifa President Sepp Blatter asked women to wear tighter uniforms to make their games more commercial. Italy’s former president of the amateur football association Felice Belloli referred to female footballers as a ‘bunch of lesbians’ in 2015.

Besides this discrimination, we know that the gender pay gap is more prevalent in football than politics, business, medicine, and science. The Sporting Intelligence 2017 survey shows that Brazilian forward Neymar’s 36.8 million contract from Paris Saint-Germain is the same amount as the combined yearly salary of 1 693 female players from the world’s top seven women’s leagues.

We need to speak about how badly sportswomen are paid

In the media, just 4% of sports media content is dedicated to women’s sport with only 12% of sports news presented by women.

Women’s Sport Triumphed This Weekend

Women who work in careers related to football are not afforded respect either.

Women cannot work in careers related to football

In the second week of the 2018 Russia World Cup, a female Colombian reporter was sexually assaulted live on air. While she was reporting on the World Cup on camera, a man grabbed her breast, kissed her cheek and then ran off. She later posted a video of the incident on social media. Imagine the audacity of a man assaulting you in plain view of thousands.

We all saw the abuse levelled at Chelsea club doctor Eva Carneiro. A highly qualified, professional woman doing her job was reduced to her body, sexualised and objectified. When she left Stamford Bridge in September 2015, she admitted online abuse continued after her exit.

God forbid, you are a female linesperson or commentator. We all saw how former footballer Patrice Evra clapped after fellow World Cup pundit Eni Aluko made a perceptive point during ITV’s coverage of a match. Aluko, has been capped 102 times by England, was commenting on the match between Serbia against Costa Rica. After she delivered a detailed analysis of Costa Rica’s playing style, her co-pundit former Sweden international Henrik Larsson said: “That’s very good,” before Evra started applauding.

Ultimately, we need to change the way the game is perceived. As women, we’re tired of the gatekeeping of football as a man’s game despite the evidence otherwise. Women deserve equal pay and equal access to the game. We deserve to work in and around the sport without having to be second-guessed, objectified or harassed. Heck, it would be nice to watch the World Cup in peace whether we’re weighing in on the Messi/Ronaldo debate, commenting on plays and formation or thirsting after Olivier Giroud.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons