Why is football the only sport in which women’s performance is constantly compared to men’s?
Female football players are always nagging about the poor economy. Perhaps they should apply for funding from the disabled association. Women’s football = disabled sports.” (The quote is from VG’s debate forum from 2009)
There is no lack of intimidating and insulting descriptions of female football players and women’s football in the national tabloid VG’s online debate forum.
Female football players are described as slow, ridiculous, childish and physically weak. They are described as either ugly and lesbian or beautiful and sexy and thus worth watching. They know absolutely nothing about technique, they can’t kick the ball properly, and they have no football intelligence. They are so extremely poor players, it is too annoying to watch. A top women’s football team may be easily beaten by a 15-year-old boys’ team.
“You would never compare cross-country skiers Marit Bjørgen and Martin Johnsrud, and ridicule Bjørgen on those grounds. Neither do people compare women’s handball and men’s handball, although there are huge differences in the way they play? Men are faster and they throw harder,” says Professor of sports sociology at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) Jorid Hovden.
But when it comes to football, men become the measure.
“Football differs from most other sports in Norway in this way. Normally popularity has to do with the sports results, but within football, gender decides the popularity,” says Hovden.
The female body’s shortcomings:
The dominating argument in the discussion threads is that women’s football is not proper football. The game is of low quality. The female body is not fit for the game. One debater’s suggestion is to let women play on smaller fields with smaller goals and a less heavy ball.
“In most sportsmen and women compete in different categories due to their different physiological conditions. You can’t compare their performances. But this doesn’t seem to apply for football,” says Hovden.
“Women’s football is presented as something different, something gendered based on women’s physical shortcomings and lack of mental capacity – which can’t measure up to men’s. It is particular for football that women are so explicitly singled out.
The most common objection from the debaters in the discussion threads who defended women’s football was that it is unfair to compare women’s football to men’s football.
“Of course women’s football is of lower quality – but why compare? People never compare women’s and men’s skills when they discuss other sports than football”, one person wrote.
Women’s football in progress:
During the European Championship for women’s football in 2013, the Norwegian national team received a lot of attention from the media. They were both praised and criticized for their play in the finals, which made them silver medalists.
“In terms of the percentage of women’s football is growing more than men’s football. This means that the Football Association of Norway has to take it seriously. Things are happening, but this is mostly in the political arena. We have been looking at supporters at the grassroots, who don’t feel the need to be politically correct. And there we have a long way yet to go.”