I love soccer. Like, love soccer. I’m an avid supporter of clubs Liverpool FC and the New York Red Bulls, and of the US national teams (men and women) as well. I can’t say why I love soccer – maybe it’s the fast pace, maybe it’s the beautiful passing, maybe it’s the thrill of knowing that a well-fought game can end in a scoreless tie – but I love my teams and I love the sport. I’ve never felt the need to justify that.
Also, I’m a woman (surprise, surprise). And I’ve never really felt like an outcast within the soccer community for my gender – aside from the occasional douche bag, but hey, those exist everywhere. I’m happy to say that (at least in my experience) American soccer culture isn’t discriminatory; from my own outings to professional soccer games and just from watching them on TV, women are as equally represented in the stands as men. Last summer saw the absolutely amazing triumph of our women’s national team in the World Cup, where they made it to the finals. For that final match, I actually went to Times Square to watch it on the big TV screen, and the bleachers were a wonderful mix of boys and girls of all ages, some suited up in full USWNT (and USMNT) paraphernalia.
So I find it very troubling when senior editor of Major League Soccer’s (the top tier of US men’s soccer) website decided to take a fairly egalitarian fan base and dump a steaming heap of sexism right on top. While responding to a fan e-mail regarding relationships with fellow soccer fans on the official MLS podcast, Extra Time Radio, he said (starts at around the 58th minute),
“OK, it’s fine if you're a female and you want to be a super-fan. Clearly go for it, that's your choice. But there is something to be said for how appealing that might be to the other sex. Having a woman that's such a fan, like you’re painting your face, you’re tuning in to every podcast. You know…I don't know how many males would be into that.”
To which another commenter promptly responded, “You think there’s a lot of females who do that?”
This is so many kinds of wrong, I don’t even know where to start. I guess I’ll start with the hugely sexist assumption that women somehow exist solely for the benefit of men. That if we don’t please them, then we’re to be cast aside as un-dateable or “turn-offs.” First off, Borg, we don’t fucking care if you like us or not. Not everything we do is centered around what you consider acceptable or a turn-on. If we’re passionate about something, it’s for ourselves and not for you. Deal with it.
Next, the inane response. Because the first bit wasn’t insulting enough, they had to take it a step further. In addition to telling women to not become “hardcore fans” because it’s un-sexy or whatever, they’re denying their existence. In rebuttal, I offer the above 4 photos. Upper left: my sister and I – painted faces and all – at a USA-Argentina friendly; upper right: a friend and I, also painted and in head-to-toe gear, go to a USA-Brazil friendly; lower left: me with my Liverpool scarf; and lower right: my high school graduation cap, which I rhinestoned with the US Soccer Federation crest. And many, if not most, of the truly dedicated soccer fans I know are women. So, to the claim that ardent lady soccer fans don’t exist, I call bullshit.
He’s also painting all men as narrow-minded pinheads who all are turned off or intimidated by women who are big soccer fans. I don’t know about you, dudes, but I wouldn’t want this guy speaking on behalf of my gender.
This podcast asshattery garnered quite a bit of attention – and it’s not hard to see why. It’s not just some random idiots spouting sexist comments, but an official employee of the MLS, speaking on an MLS-sanctioned outlet. Everything that he says, he says as an official representative of the entire league.
In light of the controversy, the Extra Time Radio podcast extended an invitation to Women United FC, an online community of MLS fans that’s oriented towards women. I don’t know about y’all, but I’m looking forward to how Borg’ll respond to what Women United FC has to say.
Are any of you BUSTies ladies sports fans? Do you ever have to deal with shitty sexism like this?
(Image via bikyamasr.com; @WUnitedFC)