February 18 2011
KICK IT OUT
Kick OUT Sexism in football â€“ its been a long time coming, but its moment has finally arrived â€“ marked beautifully by Philosophy Footballâ€™s nice new T-Shirt (got one on order!) and a mug.
This is great for those people, like me, who feel oppressed by the way that football takes up all the space, with its rude intrusion into our sitting rooms, the news, kids bedrooms, TV schedules and even the sounds of the cities.
Despite ourselves we know about football because there is no escape from it. So Kick it Out enables us to contribute to the reform of footballâ€™s ugly culture.
The Sky row provoked by Andy Gray and Richard Keys giving out yards against women exposed a fascinating cleavage in football culture between the men who love its macho scaffolding and men who donâ€™t.
And it offered men the opportunity to take the side of women and repudiate the grand masters of the ancien regime.
That, of course, was an effect of the curious contradictions in football culture that have been created by womenâ€™s presence in a manâ€™s game.
Football was formerly a pleasure put beyond the reach of women in a segregated social space in which men could relish the sound of their own voices singing, soaring over the fence, invading the soundscape of the cities.
For women that exclusivity presented a crisis â€“ be beaten (because we could not beat it) or join it. So, in their thousands, nay millions, women began to play it, watch it, know it, heaven forfend â€˜commentateâ€™ on it, manage it and referee it.
That somehow confirmed its warrant in popular culture. But that in turn created a crisis for as football as uniquely a man thing,Â as a â€˜pageant of masculinityâ€™, as uniquely a man thing, in which men kiss, cry, sing, scream, and in which they harbour hatred and violence, all as a way of being men, and all by themselves.
Womenâ€™s presence (plus a few catastrophes caused by total disrespect for fans) encouraged a cultural revolution in the conditions of the sport,Â that â€“ no doubt â€“ many men endorsed..
But it had not been echoed by the proprietors of the public game. Lord Triesman complans that it is the countryâ€™s worst managed sport.
We could add that even the best of their managersÂ rely on hapless masculine intuition to sort out the lads. This tradition is exemplified by Sir Alex Ferguson and his treatment of Wayne Rooney.Â He assumed that marriage would sort out the ladsâ€™ morals, that â€˜settling downâ€™Â and domestication would somehow keep them off the streets and sort out their sexism.Â Ferguson was wrong and he was irresponsible. He gave to the WAGs the problemÂ he would not, could not address professionally or politically.
The outcome of his strategy has been a tragedy for Rooney and his family, and a ruinous contribution to sexism in the city: everyone knows that girls sell themselves in faux knocking shops.Â Football offers its players as commodities in a celebrity market in which both men and women are objectified.
The Sky row takes the crisis to a deeper place: here were men watching from the sidelines, spilling out pious, sexist and above all WRONG homilies about the expertise of a woman actually on the field.
That took the ignobility of their sexism to another level.
It was the moment when women became more than merely an audience, and took themselves into the field, so to say, that the old football fogeys were confronted by a great challenge to the security of their chauvinism.
There have been great wranglings over whether these men were sexist or stupid. They were both. The social media and mass media commentaries and the larger conversations they have joined, have disclosedÂ a sophistication in popular culture that was traduced by Gray and Keys..
Their behaviour relied on a sense that they had critical mass, an omnipotent fantasy that they were the voice of the people. They were clearly mystified and tongue tied by the discovery that they werenâ€™t.
What would be wonderful would be if the fans â€“ and their alienated friends â€“ kept on creatively crying foul against sexism in sport.