What the FA’s sexist tweet tells us about perceptions of women’s sports

The numerous recent successes of the women’s England team has led me to wonder why it has taken so long to gain recognition, especially when men’s football pretty much dominates British culture. A common retort that I have heard, back not so long ago when it was socially acceptable to say such things, is that women’s football would just not be interesting to watch. This is despite the rules and objectives of the game being the same, with the only discernible difference being gender and of course the phenomenally disproportionate wage gap.  Of course, the implication here is that women are weak, lesser players and that female footballers are something of a gimmick within the sport rather than a central element.          

Women’s football is finally getting the mainstream platform that is deserves, with the women’s world cup being finally broadcast primetime on BBC1. For the first time in my lifetime, women’s football has received prominent coverage from main media organisations. The lionesses have proved that women’s football can be just as excitable and watchable as men’s football. At long last, issues such as women’s equal pay within sporting professions are being addressed.

However, clearly there  FA recently released a facepalm inducing tweet so embarrassing that even after its hasty, awkward retraction sports fans were still reeling. The tweet read: “Our #Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes”. The obvious insinuation here is that no matter how many roles a woman takes on, she will always be publicly defined in terms of her personal relationship to others: mother, partner, daughter. If this tweet is truly representative of the beliefs of the FA, rather than simply being the dribblings of an inept swiftly fired social media intern that I like to believe, then what hope do women truly have in being represented in the sporting world?      

I would like to think that this is an isolated incident however further evidence of widespread misogynist attitudes within sport makes for truly depressing reading. Writer and Crown Queen of Twitter JK Rowling last week called out a complete idiot via social media for attempting to body shame Serena Williams, who is arguably the best Tennis Player on the planet, male or female. Sadly, this judgement of first class female sporting champions based on their appearances is all too common with many media sources choosing to focus on the fashions of the female tennis players at WImbledon, rather than their incredible tennis skills. The Mirror recently printed a story with the line: “The World Cup has shown that women’s football really isn’t that good – whoever could have predicted that? A woman’s place is not on a foreign field playing second-rate football – that’s Gareth Bale’s job. A woman’s place is in the wrong”.    

There are so many talented sportswomen in the world, but until we tackle the issue of misguided and outdated public perceptions, they will never have the same opportunities as their male counterparts.  

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