20 February 2011

Two Weeks Later:Andy Gray, Sexism, and Ambiguity

By Dr3

Two weeks later;

Hi. I have a girlfriend and two half-sisters; I am not sexist. Sexism plagues our everyday lives in ways that most men either don’t care too, or want to, recognize. From female co-workers being addressed by first names, while males are given titles, to Andy Gray-like “tuck this in for me luv(s)”, the world is pretty un-pc and disrespectful to women. PC-ness, is however something that really annoys me. Ironically I will start this with a pc disclaimer. My stance is as follows; Andy Gray was rightfully fired at the wrong time, and sexism/racism/all isms are bad, unfunny, and needs addressing beyond a workshop about sexual harassment etc.

Jennifer Doyle said pretty much everything that needs to be said about the current, past, and seemingly future attitudes towards women, and the total lack of parity and controversy surrounding sexism in general, but especially in sport. As a black, non-sexist man however, it pains me to underline a flagrantly offensive precedent that was shoveled and hidden somewhere in her otherwise excellent diatribe.

As a fan, a player, as a ref or an administrator we are bombarded with statements that are so outrageously sexist they wouldn't be tolerated in any other sphere. How many times have we heard "nobody really likes women's football" or "women can't play in goal"? These are "polite" versions of the Grey and Keys routine leaked by Sky Sports staff. People take the abjection of women's sports as such a given that the declaration that "women's football is boring" is totally uncontroversial - though when you stop and think about it, that statement actually does as much to replicate sexist structures of thought and power as the remarks about "smashing it."

If people think women's football is boring, it's because it's played by amateur athletes who do not have the benefit of the training offered men. It's because when people watch the rare match broadcast on television, there is hardly anyone in the stands - why go, if you've already decided you'll be bored? In the U.S. most local papers do not publish match times or match results for women's games (even those played at the highest level). Traditional sports media is so hostile to the women's game that the US pro league and its fans rely ENTIRELY on new media forms of micro-broadcasting (e.g. Twitter) for information about the season. These are our most reliable sources of information about our teams.

I have stopped. I have thought about it. Thinking women’s football is boring is not sexist; correlation does not imply causation.

I will start with an analogy. People routinely malign the Italian Serie A as being boring and defensive. In as much as I may fly the Calcio flag, and dismiss those people as witless, and oblivious to the true beauty of my league, I cannot then accuse them of exceptionalism/jingoism/nationalism etc. Even further, I also cannot pretend that there is absolutely no credence to having that stance, such that I dismiss them as somehow being bigoted. The reality is that people make differentiations, and form prejudices by which they chose what they like versus what they don’t. To be bullied into clarifying a preference in the face of ‘appearing’ pc, and un-sexist is both disgusting, and in itself offensive and bigoted. Sticking with my analogy though; there is no mistaking that there are people who malign the Serie A without ever watching 90 minutes. They listened to Andy Gray talk about defensive Italians, efficient Germans, and pacey Premiership play long enough that their perceptions were innately skewed forever. They now go to livescore and see a 0-0 Italian league game almost vindicated and dignified. Granted. But we cannot dismiss everyone that used the words ‘boring’ and ‘Italian’ as one of those people. Even further, removing oneself from one's allegiance/agenda, is it really that impossible for a person to be of the opinion that the Italian league is defensive/boring? Is it really that dishonest, bigoted and hackneyed? The answer is a vehement no. There are no 9-0 games in the Serie A. There are no Wigans that can concede upwards of 14 goals in two games. No, the stadiums aren’t packed. No the commentary isn’t fervent. It is entirely possible for someone to watch a matchday of Serie A and say, “should have watched a bag of ice melt”, without being a bigot. It would depend entirely upon what that person’s perception of entertainment or perspective on what good football is, as well as the admittance/acceptance of the reality of what the Italian league offers.

Her argument actually underlines that people’s perceptions are being molded by what they are exposed to, and an underlying infrastructure of archaic biases, versus what it should be, if the powers that be had adopted the right attitudes towards equality; in terms of training, media coverage etc. That in itself chides the current version of women’s football as being ‘understandably’ inferior. Yet she admonishes those who then proclaim that it is inferior or other adulterated versions of the word, as being sexist. Let me reveal it here; I like women’s football, a lot. For four years of my life I attended almost every home game of my collegiate women’s team, which reeked of the very same inequalities explored, with absolutely no qualms (proof? Or maybe I should say I watched it, and NOT the male ‘American football’?). Games were hardly advertised, I was one of maybe 20 fans, etc. I write incensed though, because I tend to tirade for equality, and the precedent expressed in those paragraphs just isn’t it. If women are trained long and hard enough, and exposed to the same treatment as men are they going to be as tall as them? In the utopia, are women going to be as fast as men? Of course there is credence to people disparaging female goalkeepers. Van der Sar simply can reach further than Hope Solo. What those people ('women can't goalkeep') lack though, is perspective. Not sexual fairness, but simply perspective. If you look at a woman’s sport expecting 'manly' characteristics, and measure it on 'manly' traits, then that is not a sexist attitude but rather simply illogical. In the context of women’s football, a person would be hard pressed to not see entertainment, quality, skill, speed, strength, etc. But to pretend/suggest that there are no differences such that people would have to be sexist in order to articulate those differences (as opinion, like “boring”) , is to me, the act of a card-playing, pc-bully. The woman's game is different, and open to peoples slanted definitions of quality.

A person has a right to not like rap music. Period. Football is a sport. An expression. Entertainment. If I don’t like women’s football because it is played by women, and as such is intrinsically inferior; I am a sexist. Without those qualifying sentiments though, all I am is a person with a facking preference. Without perspective, if I look at football for pace, strength, or Stoke City long balls, then I would more than likely prefer Kenwyne Jones, to Birgit Prinz, even though she’s tall and strong. If I want shear speed and skill, I am likely to choose Messi over Marta. The reality is, there are a plethora of handicaps at the very least to the exposure/perception factor of women’s football (as she explored), such that it is ‘understandable’ (not fair or agreeable) that people would have misguided and overly simplified opinions about women’s football. Dismiss them as ignorant. Dismiss them as idiots. But, to castigate these people as sexists is to be more than a bit of a sensationalist, and a pc-tyrant. A person may like football and yet dislike women’s football. Although the differentiating factor is women, that doesn’t mean that the reason for disliking women’s football is because of an underlying dislike of women. Similarly a music lover may not like ‘black music’. And even though the differentiating factor again is ‘black’, it doesn't translate into an intrinsic problem with black people. Correlation vs Causation.

Anyway, this is my red flag, again as a black man opposed to card-playing. It shouldn’t take an exposé to get a man who clearly routinely exposed everyone to his male chauvinism, fired. There shouldn’t be dismissiveness towards any female sport on the basis of the fact that it’s played by females. It shouldn’t take an outcry and training and campaigns for men to treat women equally. It shouldn’t be this difficult to see women’s football anywhere. Coverage and acclaim shouldn’t be so lopsided. I shouldn’t only become aware of female talents at World Cups. Stadiums shouldn’t be extra empty for women’s events vs male ones. In fully understanding the context of the rhetoric, and rallying tone though, I despise the bullying, and radicalism. In getting the female perspective/voice heard (which should in fact be everyones voice), the intrinsic goal of equality is lost; how can you in an argument for equality sideswipe and marginalize an entire group of non-sexist people who have simply expressed their right to choose.

EDIT: Shelly-Ann Fraser is slower than Usain Bolt. She is not an inferior athlete. Nothing is wrong with that reality.

SN: I didn't need to write a farewell to Ronaldo. My blog has always been a testament to the greatest player of all time. I said it. Look at the blog icon. Anway, these, guys, say it all though.

and another note, although not my best bike of the year or evar!!..Jose shows the hidden footage of Rooney's inspiration for that ridiculous goal.

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