Feminism and Football: Women’s football exists?

I am, unfortunately, not a sports fan. It is difficult to be one of us during this incomprehensible period called the World Cup.

I am, unfortunately, not a sports fan. It is difficult to be one of us during this incomprehensible period called the World Cup. In fact, even when there isn’t a World Cup people always ask: “what’s your team?”I usually answer Team Cullen with a serious expression…I wish more people found that amusing but they instead (sometimes) crack a smile and understand that I cannot, do not and will not (and certainly do not have a desire to) understand football.

I simply cannot comprehend the appeal (you most definitely don’t want to hear the vitriol I can spew out for cricket…what kind of match takes five days? I mean, seriously).

However, this week I have been quite forcefully convinced to watch the football match because England were playing. Ironically, it wasn’t a great match to watch as an England supporter. However, watching men run after a ball for just over ninety minutes made me wonder, where are the women?

I know women’s football exists, but my knowledge of it is limited, or even almost non-existent. Do they have a World Cup? Who’s the female equivalent of Beckham? My knowledge of men’s football is atrocious but what I know about women’s football is worse and it’s definitely not as religiously watched by as many people. Is there a glass ceiling here? Shouldn’t I have an equally rubbish knowledge of both?

Normalise it

It’s a valid argument that generally women’s football isn’t as developed as men’s football and it can be scientifically argued that generally (and only generally, there will always be exceptions) that women are less physically strong than men due to nature (it’s only a sexist viewpoint if men think this makes them innately superior).

However, that doesn’t mean women can’t play football (Shes the Man encapsulates what I am trying to say right now) or that they shouldn’t. However, this goes some way in explaining why women’s football isn’t watched or known about as widely as men’s football.

Either people believe it’s not worth watching because women are less strong and therefore don’t play that well or they are ignorant because how often do we switch on the BBC and see a women’s football match? Not as often as men’s football, that much is certain.

There isn’t really an answer that will solve the problem because of the nature of the problem itself. To resolve it would require women’s football to be steeped in history and tradition in the same way as men’s football. This would result in it being more popular and widely watched and followed, and therefore shown more often on popular channels on television, thus normalising it.

But what can be done now since that hasn’t happened? It’s not possible to force people to watch women’s football and to enjoy it.

The way forward seems to be to make it more accessible in an attempt to normalise it now through exposing people to it. Awareness of the Women’s World Cup would need to be to the same extent as the Men’s World Cup. By doing so would mean more people would develop an interest in women’s football and it would become typical to see it on BBC on television or at the pub.

Still worth watching?

People will therefore know about it and would choose to watch it. However, whether this change was made or not, it is unlikely that exist attitudes would cease to exist. If normalised I imagine because women’s football has not, up until now, been regarded as highly as men’s football, that some sexist attitudes would prevail.

There would be a better awareness of women’s football, but some may ignore it and deem it not worth watching because they simply don’t think women belong in the world of football, a prime example found with the Andy Gray and Richard Keys’rant in 2011. It is unfortunate because it is reminiscent of the dark ages and a disappointing, backwards perspective. However, there is no doubt that with time and perseverance it can be corrected, after all, cooking was and sometime still is (unfortunately) seen as a women’s territory, yet I think I can name more famous male chefs than female.

However, remaining honest, exposed or not I’m not sure I’d choose to watch women’s football. But that’s acceptable because my response is exactly the same for men’s football. I won’t be watching women’s football, but I won’t be watching men’s football either. It’s not a gender issue for me—it’s a sport one…I’d much rather debate whether or not it’s acceptable to be Team Volturi.

If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about then don’t worry, summer is a great time for you to read the Twilight saga.

What do you think? Do you agree? Have your say in the comments section below.

Image: Simon Fraser University Public Affairs and Media Relations / Wikimedia Commons