Years ago I worked with a lady who decided to go away on holiday without her husband because he didn’t want to go abroad. Her son offered to take them both on trip to Spain and she was excited about the prospect as she’d never been abroad before. Her husband point blank refused to go. After deciding that she wouldn’t go, an argument with her other half gave her the drive to say ‘I’m going’ and she did.
On her return, her husband greeted her with relief more than anything. So helpless was he without her he told her he was glad she was home because he’d only had ‘an orange for his tea’ one night. So after a joyful week she returned to her life of domesticity.
I was reminded of this story when I read the England FA tweet about the Lionesses return to being mothers, partners and daughters. It reeked of an attitude of ‘make us a sandwich love I’ve been starving since you went to Canada.’
The @england Twitter feed removed the tweet but not before it had been screenshot enough times to wallpaper Wembley. According the Metro newspaper, the FA have admitted that the tweet was “unfortunately phrased” but the content editor who wrote the message denies that it was sexist.
I reject any accusation of sexism and human interest is a big part of any sport reporting. Id have done the same for England me, absolutely.
— james callow (@jamesrcallow) July 6, 2015
I have no doubts that the message wasn’t intended to be sexist but the unconscious bias is there for all to see.
Mr Callow, the content editor, said that he would have written the same article for the men’s team but I doubt that is true. It may be factual that he would have written about the human interest of the homecoming and the team being greeted like heroes by their wives, girlfriends and family but the emphasis wouldn’t have been on Wayne Rooney returning home to be a father or Joe Hart’s duty as a son. It would have been a celebration of sportsmen not their domestic situations.
Fear of the unknown leads us to label people. We’ve never had to deal with a successful female football team but we all have mothers, so we’ll write about what we know. Is that how it’s going to work for the Lionesses?
It’s actually a good story that these women are multi-talented sportswomen, mothers and qualified lawyers. Maybe we should see that side of the men’s team. They are pigeonholed as just one-dimensional footballers even when their lives take on other roles such as father, husband and son.
Just for once though can the emphasis be on how these women have achieved more in English football than any team since 1966 and not whether they’ve come home to feed their other half more than an satsuma?