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Women these days are every bit equal to men. We vote, we go to university, we work and have actual careers, we change light bulbs and rewire plugs, we buy our own cars and homes. Some of us who’ve got ‘it’ like to flaunt ‘it’, (and sadly for the more aesthetic among us, those who don’t have ‘it’ do too), some of us like and have casual sex, disastrous though it may be, on occasions. We have boozy and boisterous hen nights and walk round towns waving blow up penises around. Some of us like, play or watch live or televised sport with great passion and knowledge. And some of us really, really love the traditional male bastion that is football. Yes, we really do.
In April, 1885, Preston North End announced that women would be allowed free entry to all home games. Three cheers for them. Over 2,000 turned up for the first game. Free entry for women was so popular that by the late 1890s all the football clubs had discontinued the scheme. Scour any picture of football crowds through the decades and you’ll see women, admittedly not in great numbers but, like it or not, there we are – breasts and all. So bollocks to the notion that women and football go hand-in-hand with Post Taylor all-seater stadiums and the Sky Generation. Bollocks to the idea that the game should change to accommodate us. Why should a football stadium be a ‘safe place’ for women when traditionally they’ve been to a theatre for adult male pantomime? Of course I don’t mean that women should be excluded or discriminated against when working in any aspect of the game; as politicians so often are, let me be abundantly clear on that. But the idea that men should mind their language or we should have any sort of allowances made for us on the terraces pisses me right off. Not because we’re so called geezer birds or ladettes but because it’s football, innit.
You’ve probably sussed out by now that I’m not the most, er, politically correct of women. While I wouldn’t call myself a feminist, the reasons why are certainly not for this article but really, some of them massively alienate with their man-hating, nutjob views. I believe strongly in equality for all. But I also have this rather old-fashioned and, some may say, perverse notion that if you enter an environment that is overwhelmingly male (and vice-versa if you’re a man in a female-dominated arena) don’t expect allowances to be made for you, love.
Yet, somewhat ironically perhaps, I find that I’m treated with more courtesy and old fashioned chivalry at football than anywhere else. I get to the bar really quickly, it’s easy to fight my way through a crowd, seats are given up for me on trains and buses and men are quick to apologise for effing and jeffing. Although I do concede to not being overly fond of the C word, that doesn’t stop me using it in extreme cases. Like when we’re denied a blatant penalty for example.
I like being a woman and all that entails except periods. I love my girlfriends (no, not in that way!) and our ‘are all men bastards’ and whether or not our bums look big in whatever we’re wearing discussions, and I also love men. By default therefore, I love the maleness of football. I like the wit, the humour, the brutal piss taking, and the sometimes hostile atmosphere that only testosterone can generate. I like knowing that the men around me – broadly speaking – wouldn’t see a hair harmed on my head. I like the fact that even though they may have been exhorting some woman in the crowd to ‘get their tits out for the lads’; those same men won’t let you buy a round in the pub. I like being gathered up in a massive hug by a bloke after a winning goal, not because it’s a quick or cheap thrill, but because that’s just what happens at the match. Why should a man feel scared that I may turn round and accuse him of sexual assault if he does that? That’s just wrong.
I know for a fact that my views aren’t unique among loads of match-going females. I know, and am painfully aware, that in many quarters they will be far from popular. Sadly, voices like mine, the counter-argument, don’t get heard often. Instead, ‘stakeholders’ in the game prefer to pander to the bonkers ethos that swearing, anything remotely offensive or a bit rough and ready (aka working class) may put us off from the Beautiful Game. Not only is this deeply patronising, to some extent it takes us back to the days where we “Knew Our Place”, the delicate woman for whom a bottle of smelling salts was a permanent fixture in case fragile sensibilities were harmed and in turn this does men a disservice. Why shouldn’t they have their domain when some sections of society seeks ever more to emasculate them? As long as they carry on buying us the drinks, I say we shouldn’t seek to change the brilliant maleness of football. And if some women can’t stand the heat then they should get the f*ck out the stadiums and leave us who love it for what it is, well alone.
Please, to the ‘stakeholders’, stop assuming we’re all potential victims of offence, sexism or any other ism come to that. Plenty of us are more than capable of standing up for our pretty little selves.
Article by Copa Collective member Stand AMF