A few nights ago, my Husband and I were sitting together in the living room of our London apartment having a fairly typical Saturday evening. It had been a rather stressful day so we’d settled in with a bottle of wine to enjoy a relaxing evening together. While we were close in proximity however, we were somewhat divided in our activities.
His idea of relaxing on a Saturday evening is living vicariously through groups of very rich Men kicking a ball to one another, every now and then commenting about how they “almost scored there” or some such nonsense while I tend to curl up with a good book, this particular evening’s reading was ‘Getting Even: Why Women Don’t Get Paid Like Men — And What to Do About It by Evelyn Murphy.
A fairly standard Saturday spent together, whilst enjoying completely unrelated activities you might think. However, for once I found myself taking an interest in my Husband’s viewing, what’s more, I found myself internally linking his ‘Match of the Day’ show with the book before my eyes and seeing everything suddenly click into place! These figures on my Television set were suddenly much more than mere footballers, they became the shadowy figures of oppression and patriarchy in our society.
If my Gender Studies degree has taught me only one thing (and it has) it’s that oppression can be found in all facets of Western society and takes a great many guises, many of which might seem inconspicuous, even benevolent in nature, oftentimes we must actively seek out the oppression in places where there appears to be none. If there is nothing to hide then it does no harm to look.
As I swotted up on the gender pay gap while simultaneously watching these overpaid ego’s-on-legs prancing around a football pitch it struck me that Football is practically the very embodiment of the Patriarchy in modern Western capitalist society. I squinted for a moment, looking for signs of femininity and, aside from some rather effeminate hairstyles and headbands there were none to be found anywhere. And so, I began to research:
This rather patronising article from 2014 highlights the difference in pay between Female footballers and their Male counterparts, telling of England Captain Casey Stoney who earns in a year what John Terry (whoever he is) earns in a day! Yes ladies, you read that right. The captain of England Ladies is paid the same for one full year of work as a Male footballer is paid for one day, and let’s not forget that they only play once or twice per week, so the chances are that he was not even playing that day!
The simple fact here is clear to see, the gender pay gap is never going to go away while we have Male footballers out-earning their Female counterparts by such a disproportional amount. Imagine the difference that this sort of discrepancy in pay makes to the average earnings of Men and Women when Male footballers are the country’s highest earners.
What we must ask ourselves, of course, is how we can ‘get even’, how can we redress this outrageous and oppressive level of inequality which we have all simply taken for granted for so long? Of course it won’t be a simple task, but the institutionalised sexism inherent within football must be tackled (if you’ll excuse the pun). I’ve come up with a couple of ideas and I’ll be starting a Change.org petition to the Premier League as soon as possible in order to shed light on this disgusting inequality. Please take the time to sign!
Idea 1: Smash Patriarchal Segregation!
The most obvious change to make would, ironically, be the most difficult to implement. At present, football is a gender-segregated sport (like so many others which we will, of course, deal with in due course), shouldn’t we be done with segregation by now? There are 11 players on any given football team at the start of each match (plus substitutes), now, if we were to implement a rule which simply stated that each 11 person team had to be comprised of at least 5 Females, then progress would have to be made.
Of course, equality isn’t simply about gender and with this in mind we’d also need to address the fact that certain minorities are under-represented in most teams also, so perhaps the rule might state that at least 40% of any given ‘starting 11’ should be comprised of ethnic minorities and 40% should be comprised of Females in order to ensure equality. Of course, the bench would have to have a similar split and a rule may need to be added to ensure equality with substitutions, otherwise a racist or patriarchal coach might seek to simply substitute off the Women as soon as possible and replace them with Men.
The other obvious issue with this idea is that sexual violence and harassment would be a huge issue on football pitches suddenly. We cannot simply have Men grappling, groping and tackling Women on national television every week so we’d need a fix for this issue. Thankfully, one has already been slowly introduced for us since the arrival of continental footballers to the Premier League in larger numbers over the years. Football, these days, has slowly edged closer and closer to being a non-contact sport over the last few years with ‘free kicks’ being given for almost any hard contact and many modern players being somewhat prone to over-acting when touched. It should be a simple enough thing to take this a step further and ensure that contact is quite simply not tolerated at all. A situation similar to netball would work quite nicely in fact, whereby a player can ‘intercept’ a ball but must steer clear of making contact with the opponent.
Idea 2: Popularise Feminist Football
My second proposal for smashing the footballing Patriarchy is much more simple in principal, but might be difficult to finance. Quite simply, we ensure that Women’s football becomes popular. We know that reverse-sexism is not possible because of institutionalised power and oppression. With this in mind we can positively discriminate against Men’s football (or indeed other sports) and ensure that the Women’s game is given equal or (ideally) preferential treatment in order to secure true equality.
Firstly, the amount of televised Women’s matches would need to be increased and TV stations including the BBC. ITV and Sky Sports would have to give equal airtime to the Women’s games as well as equal TV rights pay. The Female footballers would need to be paid on the same level as Male players and so, every football team in the country (or, at least in the Premier League and Championship) would have to run an equal Women’s team which would be given the same level of training, attention and most importantly, pay to the Men’s team.
Of course the major issue would be TV companies and football teams potentially losing money because of political correctness in the name of equality and this would, inevitably lead to yet more oppression and hate, what we would need to do would be to encourage people to watch the Women’s games, therefore creating revenue for the clubs and TV stations, this could be acheived by simply making it mandatory for all football fans to watch at least one Women’s match for every Men’s match on pain of death because let’s face it, if equality doesn’t happen by nature then we just have to force it down the throats of our Patriarchal Western world.
Why should people get better jobs simply because they’re qualified? Why should people earn more for jobs requiring degrees in STEM fields rather than Gender Studies degrees? The wage gap must die, the Patriarchy must be smashed and sub standard, non-contact football simply MUST become the norm. I’m calling the movement “An Own-Goal for Equality” and I hope that you’ll stand with me. Sponsor me on Patreon, give money to my Kickstarter campain and sign my Change.org petition and we’ll make it a hat-trick of affirmative action!
About the Author:
Femme N’hazie is the author of best selling graphic novel “Vagina Gurl” and lives with her partner Dwight K Night in London.