Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Dear Lady Soccer Players, Make the Fans Respect You! by Alex Snider

I was going to write about Shania Twain's Party For Two today (seriously) but that's going to have to wait because instead I came across this infuriating article in the Toronto Star, Finally we find the hate in the women's game. Cathal Kelly writes about the Women's World Cup game between Brazil and America and what I gather was a rather intense game stirring many emotions from the crowd. Kelly sees that as a step in the right direction for women's soccer, a step towards being taken as seriously as the men.

He says: "Women’s team sport cannot claim parity with men’s until it elicits the same passions from its fans. That can’t all be shine-on-your-sister, let’s-all-have-fun-participating hand-holding. Not at this level." and:
Respect is one thing, but it does sometimes tend to drift into self-destructive and meaningless blandishments in the women’s game. Everybody’s a great player. Nobody’s a cheat. Everything’s just swell.
There’s far too much of that in women’s soccer. The fans have traditionally played along, mindlessly cheering both sides as if these were school kids, not professionals. Nobody wants to hurt anybody’s feelings. That’s another way of saying that women can’t bear to have their feelings hurt.
And then he finishes on this high note: "Once women embrace those emotions — both giving and receiving them — they will know their sport has really arrived at the highest level."

Oh man, this guy is such a raging dick. Ok. Got that out of my system, now for the critical analysis. 

Alright. For a minute, let's pretend that women's sport across the board is denigrated and secondary (at best) compared to men's. Let's pretend that ads like this one for the Rogers Cup aren't run. Let's pretend that "throw like a girl" isn't on of the the worst insults for a boy (or an athletic girl). Let's pretend that the Women's World Cup gets as much funding, gets as much attention, gets as much media coverage as the men's event.  Let's pretend that this wasn't the only article published in the Star that day about women's soccer (compared to front page stories and dozens published everyday during the Men's World Cup).For a minute we'll play Kelly's game and pretend that what is holding women's soccer back is that the teams don't inspire enough passion, enough hate as their male counterparts. 

How is the response of the spectators the responsibility of the women players? What are the teams to do to garner more "passion"? They're already professional athletes at the top of their game -- they're upholding their end.

Besides, why would the women's soccer teams (or women athletes in general) be accountable for their fans? When fans trashed Vancouver did anyone criticize the Canucks and suggest that they need to reign in their fans? 

Women teams do not need to "play like men", they do not need to do fucking anything but play. It's the sports writers like Kelly (who throughout the entire article referred to each player only by her first name which is kinda hugely fucked up, right? Never even mentioned their last names. Way to infantilize!)** who need to change their attitudes about women athletes. It's the legions of sports fans who will not watch women's sports, or if they do it's because they're "hot" who need to change their perceptions. It's the people who say things like "even the best women's teams are mediocre compared to the worst men's teams" who need to change. 

* OK, I should've said "oh man, this article makes him seem like a raging dick".  Or not said anything like that at all. 
** Since I originally posted this, I've learned that the Brazilian players are only known by their first names. Kelly did not demean or infanitilize any of the players.

Photo from Time Magazine

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