“You have to see it to be it,” Neil Armstrong said when he walked on the moon. “If It weren’t for that other guy taking one small step, I’d never be here.”
Just kidding. Obviously he never said that. These words were uttered by tennis legend Billie Jean King in response to Title IX, the US federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education facilities receiving federal money.
King famously beat Bobby Riggs in the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match in front of 30,000 screaming fans. She was carried into the Houston Astrodome on a throne surrounded by flamingo pink feathers; he was brought out on a rickshaw. It was more Superbowl than regular tennis and proved a defining moment in women’s sports.
Since then, feminist vanguards and woke marketeers have made the phrase their own, using it to fight for equity on behalf of those who can’t tie their own shoelaces unless another woman does it first.
Anyone watching the European Championships may have noticed an increase in female representation on panels of what was once a male domain. It’s fair enough, women make up half the population, so all being equal, they should be represented equally. The only problem is, women don’t like football.
Despite ads for feminine products during breaks, female presenters, girls clubs and US player Megan Rapinoe, the pied piper of aggressive guerilla feminism fighting for financial equality, most women’s response to any football game is “What match?”
I hear you shout; “How dare you? My niece plays for Home Farm. They cater for all ages equally now. Clubs are packed with young girls.”
Obviously I am speaking broadly. If I were to take a trip to Ireland’s feminist epicentre, Dublin 8 and ask the women of Repeal Country who won the match last night, many would say. “Oh is that on?”
When questioned about their lack of interest, they would say; ‘It’s the pasts fault. Men from bygone days ruined it on us.’ This is true for half a century at least. In 1921, the British FA banned women from playing on Football League grounds. “The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged,” the explanation. Previously, women’s games were so popular, a St Helen’s game in 1920 had 53,000 inside Goodison Park with thousands outside.
It was an undoubtedly huge blow, not amended until 1971 when the FA lifted the ban.
We’ve had 50 years to change things and we have. The World Cup in France in 2019 garnered huge attention from media, but passion was muted- amongst women. In Germany, the male share of audience was bigger for women’s than mens, boasting 64 percent to 58 percent.
Ok so we can’t blame time and exposure. Perhaps we can blame the fact that women get paid less for general disinterest- and I am generalising here.
But do they? Like all gender pay scenario’s it is nuanced and difficult to make a comparison because the teams have different bargaining agreements.
Players in the US National Women’s Soccer League, which has less teams despite equal investment in the sport, earn performance based bonuses, while the male national team only earn bonuses. Then there is sponsorship and attendances and things like the World Cup, where the men’s game is more popular. Ironically, Rapinoe has just been asked to front a woke Victoria’s Secret campaign, which dumped good looking models for empowered feminists. I wonder if the men on the campaign will get the same pay. Oh wait there are none.
Clearly women are not that bothered by women’s football, but why not for men’s? In Ireland, it’s difficult to get behind because we don’t qualify for anything of note and blew our chance to host two matches at the Euro’s this year. Even if you were around for Italia 90 and got caught up in the euphoria, there’s a great chance you don’t care about football now – or indeed, weren’t alive then to know how much fun it was.
More Irish women like rugby or GAA, while football leaves them cold. I don’t get this, but each to their own. Besides not being bothered, which is totally fine- women could also be abiding by the rules of ‘spectator lek.’ This phenomenon is robbed from the animal kingdom, where males are more likely to observe gatherings of other males displaying their fitness and plumage, while females merely visit to select mates to copulate, then leave. Kind of like WAGs.
If you want to conduct a micro study into ‘spectator lek,’ also known as aptly as ‘arena behaviour,’ bring a football to the park and see who flocks to it.
Despite my obsession with football, I’m a bit of a cherrypicking lek flake. My life’s highlights include singing ‘Live is Life’, the anthem of the beer drinking Austro-German footballing community, while raising my German flag into the summer sky, arms linked with mulleted people, but I won’t loose sleep over Ipswich vs Slough.
After all the talk of inequality, could it be that women are merely abiding by evolution, not gender division foisted upon us by the policies of our patriarchal overloads?
When it comes to football, maybe they see it, but can’t be ar**d to be it’.