The Men's Football World Cup. Bringing The Sexism Home

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England's Men's football team are now in the the semi-finals at a World Cup for the first time since 1990. Hype and hysteria's have ensued in the streets of major cities across the country.

Gary Lineker is our revered sportscaster as usual, using his authority, experience and charisma to lead pre and post game analysis. When Garry makes a claim about football, you're more than likely to believe that he, and the programme's producers, researchers and scriptwriters have got it right.

Gary Lineker with his world cup panel in Moscow

However when Gary tweeted that Lionel Messi was "the first player to score in the world cup as a teenager, in his twenties and in his thirties" he was mistaken. As one informed twitter user @evgennari pointed out, both Mia Hamm and Sun Wen are players that have previous done this. Her correction of Gary's tremendous mistake was met by a barrage of sexist replies from some of the men of Twitter.

Lets break down some of the common sexist arguments about why women's sport is less important than men's.

1. Men are better at sports

When holding women to a male attribute, most women would (physically) fall shorter. There is no denying most men are stronger, faster and taller than women so saying a men’s football game is better because it is faster is like saying a fish is better at being an animal than a bird because it can swim. Perhaps a women’s game would have better agility, technique, formations and team work which would make them just as good or better at sports than men….if only you were judging them by a fair yard stick.

2 . People only want to watch/only care about men’s sports

With women’s sports making up 7% of all sports media coverage, you can’t watch it if you tried. Advertising is a powerful tool and the public do what newspapers, magazines and their TVs tell them. If the newspapers were raving about the Women’s Rugby World Cup then we’d know and care about it, the sponsorship rates would go up leading to training contracts and an industry of inspirational female athletes as role models to continue the trend. Rather than what actually happened - The Rugby Football Union not renewing the women’s 2018 contracts, although they cost 0.2% of their annual budget. US law has stipulated that male and female college sports must receive equal funding, and as Anna Kessel reported in the Guardian last year, now the US “women’s national [football] team outsell the men’s in gate receipts, and outperform them when it comes to incoming revenue.” Proving women CAN and DO play football.

Shockingly, at Wimbledon in 2016 the BBC showed 93% men’s tennis, even programming less than half of top player Serena Williams’s first two matches. Being publicly funded there are no sponsorship excuses for this mass underrepresentation of half of the competitors. In contrast, and in support of the theory of media support, the UK audience for the women’s football World Cup more than doubled from 5.1 million in 2011 to 12.4 million in 2015 when it was given more viewing time.

When women have a public platform for appreciation, social attitudes would change and funding would increase. That may mean that the highest earning female football player (35K annually) would make more than a tenth of what Wayne Rooney makes…in a week! Let that sink in. Token female presenters are slowly becoming a thing, which I suppose is better than no female presenters. Vicki Sparks made BBC history to become the first female commentator to take the lead of a World Cup match for British TV during the Portugal v Morocco match. The harassment of a Brazilian presenter hit the headlines recently when a football fan invaded her personal space, groped her breast and kissed her cheek whilst she carried out her professional duties. Disgusting, sexist, humiliating behaviour, a version of which lots of women I know have experienced. Re-read my interview with horse racing Sky presenter Hayley Moore HERE.

3. Women don’t watch sports as much as men

With no difinitive proof as to why men generally enjoy sports more than women, we can conclude that social factors influence the trend for women’s ‘lack of interest’ in sport. A huge amount of girls stop playing sports when they reach puberty. In my school there were only 4 girls in the GCSE P.E. class of 30. We are encouraged to do more feminine things than sweat, but equally expected to stay in shape (shaming women and holding them to unrealistic beauty standards, whats new?) Without the role models that men have had for decades, with a huge undervaluing of women’s sports and with criticism about ability and femininity, what is there to grab our interest? Little girls are socially conditioned to be girlie, and that doesn’t include playing sports.

As puts it, the UK is suffering from a cultural hangover of sexism. The BBC has vowed to show 1000 more hours of women’s sport and this is a great move towards a more gender balanced sporting community where Gary Lineker doesn’t ‘forget’ (disregard, neglect, disrespect) a whole gender of football players when talking about achievements.

I never had the opportunity to see women playing sports, except for every 4 years at the Olympics, which I loved! I hope upcoming generations do get that opportunity and we can end this casual, everyday sexism.

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Please do me a favour and share this post with others to help end the stigma around women in sports and make it the norm rather than the exceptional.

Love Roxy xXx

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