Creative non-fiction: Women’s Football

Women’s Football

2015 has been fantastic for women’s football, I’ll say. Women’s World Cup received a tremendous amount of attention, and obvious issues of sexism in the sport, such as the use of artificial grass, got considerable amount of media speculation. People were talking about it. How often do you get to hear that? It’s not been long since women’s football picked up pace. Although women did play football ever since the sport was born, it suffered a major setback. The year  1921, saw the peak of women’s football. On 26 Decemeber, 53000 people watched Dick, Kerr Ladies beat St Helens Ladies 4-0 at Goodison park. 1921 was also the year which saw the most unfair and unjust decisions taken towards women’s football, when the FA implemented a de facto ban on women’s football. The following statement reads on the official website today-

1921: The FA bans women from playing on Football League grounds…the game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged (FA, 2009a)

This meant that women could play football, as long as they didn’t play on FA-affiliated grounds. Which meant they had to play on bad fields, until the ban was lifted in 1971. Following the ban, various newspapers showed support for the decision, and a Swedish magazine Idrottsbladet, which previously supported women’s football, stated,

“…football is not a game for ladies. The weak female body hurts from hard body contact. Hence the ladies should not participate in football but instead engage themselves in swimming, land hockey and other more noble sport disciplines” [1]

The same sport which when played by women garnered so much positive attention, was now somehow deemed to be as an unfit sport for them. That’s precisely what bothers me- that they would choose such a weak, logically inconsistent reasoning to support their decision. Why not say something more subtle, for instance, “Women who play football are the cause of the world war, therefore, it has been decided by the FA to ban women’s football”
Except the ban wasn’t about stopping women from playing football. It was about stopping the sport from being as good as, or better, than men’s football. It was about stopping it from reaching that level of popularity that men’s football received. Which explains why the decision was taken right after that match, because that was telling that women’s football was on its way to be a direct rival to men’s football.  However, If one was to explore the various reasons why women’s football was banned, and just why men felt threatened, it is also possible that since sport has been viewed as masculine in nature, women’s participation in the sport threatened the status, and perhaps made men feel “emasculate.”

Sports in general has “masculine” qualities, so when the opposite sex started entering the domain, it was almost as if men were stripped off of their masculinity. Of course, that doesn’t make any sense, because logically speaking, sports inherently isn’t masculine in nature, but our culture is such that certain qualities found in men are attributed to sport.

Is it necessary to pitch women’s football against men’s, when the two are clearly different, albeit bound by the same sport, in that they vary in different capabilities and strengths? Is it necessary to make this into a war as to which is the ‘better’ sport, rather than focusing on the most important fact—the sport itself?

By Mugdha Potdar

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