Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Not the church, not the New Statesman, women will decide our fate... man

What was that I said about this becoming a blog entirely about football and feminism? (A Game of Two Sexes! A Striker's Right To Choose... Chelsea! No.) Oh well, things could be worse. The New Statesman's Helen Lewis Hasteley, though, thinks otherwise - apparently enjoying football is fundamentally incompatible with being a lefty feminist. Huh. I thought I was doing quite well.

"A culture of disrespect for women permeates football," she writes, and so she prefers to spend her time watching films, reading books, working as a journalist (including her last gig at the Daily Mail) - all of which are completely free of sexism because they exist in a hermetically-sealed bubble outside the reach of the patriarchy, right? OH WAIT. That's the point of the patriarchy: it's fucking everywhere. A culture of disrespect for women permeates our entire society, but - separatist women-only states aside - we have no choice other than trying to fix it.

Liking the things that you like and doing the things that you do, regardless of what patriarchy dictates you should like and do, is a feminist act. I'm pretty sure medicine, for example, was permeated by a culture of disrespect for women in the 19th century - happily, though, that didn't put Elizabeth Garrett Anderson off. This is how we change things: by rolling up our sleeves and diving in, not clutching the smelling salts and skittering away from the horrid coarseness of it all.
Occasionally, they might instal a favoured waif in a mock-Tudor mansion and give her the obligatory Range Rover and small dog but she's less a wife and more a maitresse-en-titre. Show me a football marriage that even vaguely approaches a partnership of equals and I'll show you a look of profound surprise.
Sorry, what was that about disrespect for women?

Hey, Helen, my gentleman dance partner used to be a footballer. Fancy coming over to assess our partnership on its level of equality? You could get us to fill in questionnaires on who does the tidying up (him), who wields the screwdriver (me, and no that's not a euphemism), and who buys the tiny dogs (no one, because fuck off). Other than the fact that I work for a living, pay my own rent, and live in Tottenham, it's exactly like being the King of France's official mistress!
Every time you buy an absurdly overpriced ticket, every time you buy a dubiously sourced replica shirt, every time you cough up for that Sky Sports subscription, you are propping up this whole edifice. You are using your spending power to say that the misogyny, the homophobia, the rewarding of people for a fluke of genetics rather than a worthwhile contribution to society -- that's all OK.
So if everyone to the political left of Shiny Dave Cameron - and anyone who gives a flip about ladies' and LGBT rights - started boycotting matches, merchandise, and Sky Sports (which, I hear, shows sports other than football! They are very dull, though.) would the world be any less misogynistic? Football sure as shit wouldn't be, because all the people who don't think women are only valuable for their tits would have gone. The principle of kicking a ball about a field is not inherently sexist; football, like everything else, is as sexist as the people involved in it.

Hold on a sec, can we go back to "rewarding people for a fluke of genetics"? Am I to assume that your skills as a journalist are entirely the product of your own hard work and privileges, with no innate natural ability in the slightest? In the same way that footballers spring fully-formed from the loins of PelĂ© with rules, tactics, formations and skills genetically fluked onto their brains? Yes, it's a dreadful idea to reward people for things they're good at. We should really stop that at once. I'll be quitting my job, now, because it requires that I be at least partly human, which - let's be honest - is just a genetic fluke. I'm being rewarded for not having been born a jellyfish.

Oh, and just a minor point of order - female commentators are unlikely to be "chosen for their cup size", as you so respectfully put it, given that commentators don't actually appear on screen. It's things like this that give me the feeling that you don't really have ever so much experience watching the game.

You know, I'm starting to lose the will to live, or at least the will to rant. But that's okay - you shouldn't be talking to me anyway. You should be talking to Marta. Go tell her that "football is a man's game".

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