Feminising Football?

8 Feb

Women are becoming more numerous and visible at football and are finally starting to get our voices and opinions heard. But unfortunately,  it seems that those who receive the most exposure tend to be those who talk the least sense… Terrace Bint rants again.

Some stupid bints, somewhere.

One of the reasons I started this zine/blog is because I find most attempts to provide a female oriented approach to football either patronisingly vacuous or tear inducingly worthy and boring. Generally accepted female narratives on football usually fall into one of two categories, the “Oh isn’t footie ace, I love it, I’m always down the pub watching the game with my scarf on trying to impress the boys with my new knowledge gleaned that day from the back pages of The Sun” or the “Football is a serious matter and we women are just as capable of unnecessarily intellectualising it and infusing it with pathetically weak liberalism as men are.” It’s enough to turn the hardiest purveyor of football feminism into a paid up member of NWAF…. Well, almost.

The first approach is characterised by women who love watching “the match” down “the boozer” with “the lads”, swigging alco-pops or weak lager while wearing excruciatingly naff T-shirts with slogans like “Footy Bird!” “Fancy scoring with me?” Or something about balls. Cheeky eh? Their love of “footie” is usually a recent innovation, more often than not coinciding with the breeding and incubation period for most nauseating new-football mongs; a major tournament featuring England. Buoyed by tabloid hype, plastic nationalism and the number of “fit footie loving blokes” they spotted in All Bar One when games were on, they bought some mini car flags, a bit of face paint and an image of football created by the Sky TV marketing department in 1993 and now bang on to everyone in sight about their love of the “beautiful game” (particularly to young men who bear a bit of a resemblance to Ashley Cole and drive flashy two seater cars.) This approach is commonly known by the name of one of its first and most prolific proponents;  Zoe Ball Syndrome.

But these creatures, annoying as they are, can usually be easily ignored. Yeah they do your head in, but they’re generally harmless. They give off a bad impression of what a female football fan is but anyone with the slightest bit of sense sees this and doesn’t take them any more seriously than they take their interest in the game.

Not so in the case of the second chief example of female footballing fuckwittery, the self righteous pseudo intellectual who has managed to convince both themselves and those around them that they have a true knowledge of football and are in it for “all the right reasons”. Their trademark is the bizarre paradox of banging on about how football is a traditional working class sport tainted by modern day moneymaking, while on the other hand despising every-thing that is working class and traditional about it. Particularly those awful fans with their sexist and racist chants (ok they’ve got a point there…) and penchant for alcohol and mindless violence. These stupid interfering self important bitches make my blood boil like no other character in the football stereotype pantheon. Clueless stuck up wannabe journos (a vast percentage of them already are, spouting their inane shite in all sorts of predictable places), and often politicians, with a fabricated view of how football once was gleaned from pictures and BBC footage of smiling crowds of children and men with flat caps and large moustaches and a desire to make football, OUR football, adhere to their sanitised faux-egalitarian New Labour vision. The most nauseating thing is that they genuinely believe that they are genuine football fans. They’ve been supporting a team for, ooh around 10 years now, their newfound enthusiasm for the game only being outshone by their desire to completely ruin it for everyone else. Now that overt racism has been more or less eradicated from stadiums, thanks largely to fan activism within the grounds themselves and partially by the cringeworthily mawkish official campaigns led by the FA and other governing bodies, these self proclaimed saviours of football have turned their attention to sexism within the game. But of course they haven’t taken up the cause of average matchgoing female football fans and what would make our experiences better – because for all their posturing these women wouldn’t be seen dead mixing it with the rough-necks in the stands – but instead focus their attention on shit that most of us really don’t care about and that we actually find not all that bothersome, like swearing and mentioning of “tits” in songs, and players spitting and being bad role models for poor impressionable young children. But supposedly we should all be grateful to these visionaries who are trying to feminise the game on our behalf and make it a happier, brighter, more inclusive sport we can all enjoy, hand in hand, without pointless macho violence, rivalry, on-pitch dissent, drama, excitement…

How fucking patronising do you want to be? Their lack of engagement with actual football fans, and exposure only to the opinions of the ones they meet in the office or in the press box or hear on pisspoor radio phone ins, has led to this false idea that what we need to eradicate sexism in football is to eradicate all the ghastly macho behaviour and terribly rude chants we are subjected to in stadiums, to make the stadiums themselves cleaner and prettier and more attractive to the ladies, with nice toilets and a good selection of half time refreshments, with comfortable seats we can sit in to watch the match and stewards to make sure those awful drunken men don’t stand up and obstruct our view. Apparently the subsequent new atmosphere will make football a more attractive place for women.

Lord give me fucking strength. Where to begin?! Offensive chanting, moody atmospheres, screaming abuse at players, officials and rival fans alike, standing throughout the game, over the top goal celebrations resulting in injury, widespread drunkenness and general ballooning; these are some of the main things that I have loved about following football throughout my life. And I’m a woman. Why the FUCK would I want to change any of that? Because some women who have recently got into football might potentially find it unpleasant and offensive?

Do you know what I find unpleasant and offensive? Clue; it’s not football songs which mention shagging a bucket with a big hole in it. It’s this idea that women are humourless, overly sensitive, and unable to handle themselves in the rough and tumble world of following football. The idea that women can’t handle football as it currently stands and need some sort of cleaned up, sanitised version of it. How fucking patronising is that?

There is no doubting that some things in football stadiums need to change. All too often at matches women experience some seriously out of order discrimination and harassment that should never, ever have to be tolerated. Certain sections of our support get excluded from some aspects of following teams; older people and those with some physical difficulties who can’t fight their way through large and sometimes violent crowds to get into grounds, particularly at aways, and who can’t stand up for long periods of time shouldn’t be made to feel they can’t come to matches, especially as in most cases these people have been coming for decades and deserve to watch the team they’ve given so much time and energy to in relative comfort in their older years. Similar arguments apply for those with kids who want to bring them to the match in the same way their parents brought them years before. They need to be guaranteed a certain amount of comfort, safety and access to facilities. (Comfort and safety DOES NOT mean, however, sheltering kids from rude words in football songs. No child has EVER been permanently damaged by hearing the words “Sad Geordie bastard and a shite football team” at a young age so spare me the recycled child psychology.)

Pathetic attempts to change the game by people who actually know fuck all about its everyday reality helps no one. Positive change can only be  achieved by fans themselves identifying the changes they want to see and striving to put them into place with support from their own fan communities. Self organisation and empowering fans to take control for themselves is the way to eradicate the social problems that affect us. That’s something that can’t be achieved from atop a moral high-ground or a column in  The Guardian.



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