Let The Cage Bird Sing
by J.S. Leatherbarrow
This World Cup has brought out the worst in our society’s attitudes towards women. Using football as a shield, ugly sexism & outright misogyny has reared its head again. It was always there, bubbling under the surface, but emboldened by others, (mostly) men have found their voice & shown their true colours.
Any brush that can be used to tar women with & paint them in a negative light has been used. The classic discrimination lyric “I’m not sexist……but” is singing loudly and proudly out from keyboards across the land.
There is a near-total lack of understanding or willingness to understand what stage of professional development the women’s game is in. And instead of simply letting others enjoy the football, these voices are forcing us to question the very nature of a woman’s place in society. In the kitchen seems to be a minority consensus.
Women’s football is finally beginning to take its place in mainstream consciousness & because of this increased coverage & exposure, it is now being debated by people on social media. However, this has simply lead to confirmation bias for the unfortunates who are desperately in need of educating.
Women are not a weird, alien, species that we men must somehow “understand” or study. It is utterly ludicrous that this even needs to be said but they are, simply put, human beings. Shocking I know.
They are also not meek, weak, pathetic beings that need protecting by men. Neither are they an inferior species who can’t do the same things as men. Equally, they don’t need to be directly compared with men either. I’m saying it is important to take women on their own terms - not simply as men with breasts.
Too many are conflating physical strength with being the same thing as technical ability & skill. Being bigger or stronger doesn’t make you a better footballer. It is a little like trying to compare a heavyweight boxer with a welterweight - or any other lower weight class. Would any boxing fan genuinely say, with a straight face, that a fairly average heavyweight like Bermane Stiverne was a greater fighter than Sugar Ray Robinson? Absolutely not. Equally, anyone who has half a brain & understands a little about football could never say that Andy Carroll is a better footballer than Marta or Ada Hegerberg.
Women’s football has been held back for so long. It was banned for 50 years by our own F.A. We’ve also had the hideous attitudes that I referred to a little earlier to contend with. There is nothing not weird about this. Nothing. Men needing to control women and keep them in their “place.” I’ve seen a lot of frightened little boys on social media since the start of the World Cup. They’ve attacked every tiny mistake with gusto. These double-standards, obviously, do not apply to men. It is simply ignorance & hatred.
“No-one wants to watch women’s football.” Well - possibly this has been true in the past. But why? Because it hasn’t had enough coverage and exposure. It hasn’t become normalised to people. But this World Cup is smashing viewing figures, challenging pre-judgements & turning the tide. Here is an easy equation to remember:
If you increase coverage you increase exposure. If you increase exposure you increase interest. If you increase interest you increase viewing figures. If you increase viewing figures then you increase revenue. If you increase revenue you increase the professionalism of anything. It isn’t rocket science. Increased exposure + increased interest + increased viewership = increased professionalism.
Discriminating against any group of people is tantamount to oppressing them. If you oppress anyone and want to control them then you are veering steadfastly into pure fascism.
So how about this? Give it a chance to grow, flourish & develop. Try supporting people & helping to lift them up instead of giving them the jackboot treatment. And you will not just be doing something good for football - but something good for the whole of humanity.
You might surprise yourself.
Words by J.S. Leatherbarrow. Artwork by FATC staff. All rights reserved.