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Sexism: A standard we refuse to accept

Photo: GSP Stadium, venue of England v Australia: 


If I am to be brutally honest, I wasn’t going to write this story.

Not because there wasn’t disgust and disappointment in the behaviour of some members in the crowd last night but because I report and photograph stories; not involve myself in them.

Sophie and Rachel from Girls on the Ball were infinitely braver in immediately speaking out.

However, in the  cold light of day, one statement from the Chief of the Australian Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, kept playing in my mind.

“The standard you walk past, is the standard you accept.”

Last night during an international between England and Australia, players and officials were subjected to offensive, derogatory and sexist running commentary.

It started in the first half, although, due to shooting down the opposite end where Australia were attacking, it wasn’t audible to me.

It was however audible to several people in the small crowd of spectators and photographers.

It was certainly audible during the second half when I moved to the other end to continue to report and photograph the match.

The commentary was offensive not only to those involved in the match but to women in general.

“If you become aware of any individual degrading others then show moral courage and take a stand against it” – Lieutenant General David Morrison

I refuse to categorise it as “banter” as banter should not be sexual in nature, should not include the use of derogatory terms for women and should not make people, male and female, in a stadium feel uncomfortable.

Whether the players and officials heard it or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that it was said in the first place.

What was remarkable was that it came on a day when there was a FIFA Women’s Football & Leadership Conference discussing the issues women face in women’s football, including discrimination and when a major campaign was launched against sexism in football.

Women in football (players, coaches, administrators, support staff and journalists) put up with a lot.

We learn early to ignore or shrug off disrespect, intimidation, abuse, sexist comments and even threats of physical and sexual violence.

We learn not to react, not to report to “leave it alone” and to “just get on with it”.

I love football. Heart and soul.

It has provided some of the best experiences and memories of my life, introduced me to friends for life and a link to network of talented, passionate, intelligent and knowledgable women and men in the game.

Football is one of the most inclusive games in the world but it can also be very exclusive; particularly to women.

Every now and then it can feel like a club in which women are just about tolerated and the language in the stands can be a vocal manifestation of that feeling.

This is not a sweeping generalisation on the plethora of wonderful men in the game (on and off the pitch) and significant majority of the time there isn’t an issue, but isn’t one occurrence of sexism one too many?

I dislike confrontation intensely but last night was a standard of behaviour I was not prepared to walk by and be complicit in accepting.

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ANN ODONG

Ann is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of TWG.
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