I can hear folk reading this title already. “God almighty, here this yin goes again wae the gender and football patter – gees peace!” – and I don’t blame you! The reason this is becoming a bit of a theme across my wee blog posts is because its important! I am massively interested in how different genders’ life experiences and opportunities vary. So, it feels only natural for me to consider this in the context of football, which is another interest of mine. I think in situations where there is a minority group, you need to hear from the minority group to fully understand the dynamic and the circumstances of their lives. This is why I think it is important for women to make their voices heard in areas which are male dominated like in politics, football etc.
The under representation of women in terms of football as both supporters and players, is reflected in a number of other factors relevant to the game. Before I go ahead, I’m not saying that the gender balance within football is a massive social issue. Gender inequality doesn’t exist in a vacuum within football support. But I think it’s useful to consider how the gender imbalance plays out across different platforms – and I’d like to focus on football.
I’ve being going to football matches since I was a wee lassie (wee-er – I’m still just shy a 5ft!). I personally dont have any complaints about how I’ve been treated at any time in football stadiums, ticket offices, supporter’s buses or pubs surrounding football grounds, I know a lot of other female football fans identify with this. Of course, there are exceptions to this and these women’s experiences are valid and deserving of attention but harassment based solely on gender is not what I’m looking to talk about.
What I’m wanting to focus on is some of the more minor points that could be considered when thinking about the demographic of male and female football fans – how is wider spread gender inequality visible within the context of football support? I can mind being a wee lassie and being accused of wearing football tops that obviously ‘weren’t mine’ cos I was a girl – “you’re just wearing that for attention!” “bet you canny name 5 players!”. It goes without saying, an absolute minor, comical wee thing to note but I think it sets us up nicely for what I’m going to talk about next.
I think that women, primarily young women, sometimes have to strive that wee bit more to establish a status of having “earned” a place in football support. I don’t mean that it is as visible and blatant as swarms of da’s hucklin lassies out of stadiums while they’re waiting for a pie. What I’m talking about Is the casual discourse that you see on social media and in conversation. There are ideas (which I don’t think are massively dominant but are definitely pressing enough to mention) that girls maybe don’t take the football as seriously, that they don’t know what they’re talking about or they’re doing it for male attention. An example of this that I have seen on social media a number of times is lassies getting hassle for getting tickets for certain fixtures and having to justify how they managed to get them while other ‘more deserving fans’ are struggling. Of course, I am not suggesting this is a solely gendered issue, as the demand for tickets in Scottish football combined with the collapse of folk’s away records and shoddy allocations have an impact on all supporters. All football fans – men, women, children – will face pressure under these kind of circumstances. However, with this in mind it does appear somewhat evident that women sometimes have to work that wee bit harder to establish a position there they are ‘deserving’ of a ticket or indeed an opinion.
I am not pointing the finger at anyone here. I am not saying that any individual, clique, group, committee or football team are responsible for this. I am not saying women are immune to criticism, because no one is immune in any walk of life. The reality is that football has historically been a male dominated sport. This is why it’s almost impossible to blame anyone for the frequent disregard for female opinion in football, as this disregard is almost inherent as we are essentially a minority group. I have spoke many times on social media and on my wee blog about how women are under-represented in the stands. As aforementioned, this is not a massive societal issue – if you’re not into football, you’re not into it – but why the female demand for the game is not as high as men is reflective of the wider gender dynamic across society and it’s interesting to consider. Women have always been, and continue to be, the minority. Explicitly, I don’t believe the pressure we sometimes face for following a football team is pressure that is consciously placed on us by male fans or indeed, other females – but it is an almost inherent consequence of being the minority gender.
Another, perhaps trivial, wee thing that is reflective of this issue is the plethora of pink gear for women in terms of football merchandise. I know folk are reading this and laughing, I’m laughing too, but what is that all about?! It almost makes sense. Folk doing the marketing at a football team (and any other enterprise to be fair) are almost instinctively gonny put elements of pink in the women’s merchandise for that respective football team. Gender stereotypes and ‘colour coding’ is a topic for a different blog post in itself, but please research it! It’s the idea that if we raise boys and girls to assign themselves to blue or pink that they will then stick to tasks, toys and roles relative to those colours. Pink linking to dolls, dresses, dressing up, sewing etc. Again, a completely different issue but with an important point to note. There is something a wee bit uncomfortable about how – with the exception of football kits – that your female sportswear, merchandise, pyjamas etc. are all either pink or shimmery or glittery instead of some of the same gear on offer in the menswear section. If you are intae the pink stuff your football team sells then that is absolutely cool – you do you – but there is something to consider about how you might not be into that, and end up buying ill-fitting menswear instead. It is also almost suggestive that the team has to be dolled up to be upsold to the burds. Gees the green taps that are on offer to the guys – in our size!
For people that don’t experience it, the previously discussed points will seem minor and petty – and they are very minor, I agree. However, I still think it interesting to consider how the wider societal issue of gender inequality can be seen within the context of football. Some women and, indeed, some guys will most definitely think differently but I think it’s important for as many voices to be raised when considering any issue – not less when considering the dynamic across football support. I don’t wanty be silenced, and I don’t wanty wear pink to the fitba!