On the pitch and off, Arsenal are making some of the biggest moves in women’s football.
In January, they made headlines as one of the three European clubs to cop an U.S. women’s international: Heather O’Reilly.
Then, in May — right before she turned into a WEURO winner — they added yet another Holland international to their roster with Dutch star Vivienne Miedema.
But in perhaps the biggest news, at the end of July the club announced that they would be changing their name: gone were “Arsenal Ladies” and in their place the “Arsenal Women” or, more accurately, just “Arsenal.” Although this might not seem groundbreaking — Manchester City also changed from “Manchester City Ladies FC” to “Manchester City Women’s FC” in 2014 — City’s rebrand was part of an entire relaunch of their ladies’ side, while Arsenal’s change is focused specifically on the name.
“Video and pictures will make it clear which team we are talking about. We will wherever possible refer to our Women’s team as, simply, ‘Arsenal’ – just as we do our Men’s team,” the club said.
The debate about naming teams ‘women’ vs. ‘ladies’ has been ongoing, but what’s more is that Arsenal were vocally making the change to promote “togetherness and unity” and, of course, “equality.” After all, the women’s team is still Arsenal — and to prove that they’re completely a part of the club mentality and identity, the long-running joke about Arsenal and the FA Cup extends to the women: they’re the title record holders at 14, one more than the Arsenal men.
(The only difference is that the Arsenal women are actually the most successful English club when it comes to pretty much every other trophy, too.)
And when it comes to progress, Arsenal fans seem to be right in line with their team’s mentality.
Arseblog, a hugely popular Arsenal blog, recently put up “With regards to posts about the Arsenal women’s team” in response to the “unfortunate interactions” they seem to always get when they cover them — in other words, when they treat the Women’s team like the part of Arsenal that they are.
To paraphrase, they told the haters to sit down, shut up, and stop being “tired, boring old sexist[s].”
On the bright side, the response to this article was majority positive; the four most upvoted are “really sad that this even needs to be written,” “Good stuff,” “Amen!” and “Well said.” Many even encouraged increased coverage from Arseblog — who in the post acknowledge that their women’s coverage is “probably less than 1% of [their] output” — and expressed hoped that soon they’d be able to catch the women’s games on TV.
Even those that aren’t as supportive don’t as often stoop to the disastrous misogyny level that women’s football comments sections — including, it would seem, Arseblog Arsenal women’s comments sections — usually breed. One user innocently brought up a common false equivalence:
Adam’s comment came from a genuine, if not misguided, place, and it seemed to be posed with the intent to understand rather than to entrap. And, in an all-too-infrequent moment of true comment section discourse, Jeremy was able to help him do so.
This might be surprising considering the usual nature of the general, mainstream conversation around women’s football, and considering the fact that Arseblog felt compelled to write the piece in the first place. Perhaps there wasn’t ever that much sexism to begin with, and Arseblog was just doing their best to shut down whatever there was, however little.
But despite any members of the Arsenal community needing Arseblog’s callout, plenty seem to already be on the right side of history when it comes to women’s football — or, at least, willing to get there.
Other fans and clubs: keep taking notes.