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Everyday sexism in sport

On the Edge

Aine Ryan
On the Edge

ISN’T everyday sexism so subtle, girls? It is often so insidious you don’t have a leg – whether that is a stiletto or a kitten heel – to stand on. Stamp it out. It can be so elusive that it is only hours later that a remark, a gesture, a joke, an attitude, an aside, hits home.  
“Ah! sure that is women for you.”
But every now and then it rears its ugly head so utterly unashamedly and exposes its misogyny in such a bald and bare manner that its acknowledgment – even by the perpetrators of this gender prejudice – are forced to blush. Well, some of them.  
At a recent media briefing members of the Republic of Ireland women’s team and their representatives from the Professional Footballers Association of Ireland (PFAI) outlined a litany of grievances about their rather shoddy treatment. They spoke of the humiliation of going into public toilets in airports to first change into, and then out of, tracksuits for international matches, as they had to be then handed back for use by other teams.
Player, Áine O’Gorman said at the press briefing: “We are looking for the basics. In the past we have been getting changed in public toilets on the way to matches, this just highlights the lack of respect, it’s not a lot we are looking for, just the basics.”
Not a lot, indeed, Áine!
On a broader note, team captain, Emma Byrne, said: “We are fighting for the future of women’s international football, this isn’t just about us.”

FAI response
NATURALLY, the FAI defended itself. They were probably furious at the cheek of these chicks speaking out. In a response, they noted that considerable progress had been made already on key demands, highlighted by the women in a document called ‘Issues to be addressed’ last year. Of course, that conciliatory spin for public consumption was issued alongside a wrap-on-the-knuckles email to the women.  
The irony of the fact that John Delaney, the chief  executive of the FAI, was in Helsinki at the time for a UEFA Congress and had just been appointed to the association’s executive committee – which would cream in another €100,000 a year for him – could not be ignored. Compare that windfall with the women’s request for access to Wifi in their hotels when away playing matches.
In an excellent column, written by Sineád Kissane as an open letter to John Delaney, in the Irish Independent in the aftermath of the stand-off, she quotes from the speech made by the UEFA president, Aleksander Ceferin, at the Helsinki conference.
Serendipitously Ceferin said: “We cannot stand up for diversity, gender equality and social inclusion by means of TV spots and good intentions if we ourselves tolerate words and behaviour from another age.”
Ah! wouldn’t it make you laugh? Lol! Not because Ceferin wasn’t sincere, but if put in the context of the concurrent Irish debacle, his expressed principle sounded like nothing more than lip-service.   
On another note, don’t dare use fan numbers and sponsorship levels as an excuse for treating these women as second-class citizens. All that does is beg the question about the fundamental ethos of sport: fair play, courtesy and grace when your team is the losing one.      
I know, especially in these times of the colonisation and corporatisation of literally everything that moves.

GAA coverage
In An Cailín Rua’s column in this newspaper last week, she asked: “Who’s standing up for Mayo?” Anne-Marie Flynn was referring to Eamon Fitzmaurice, the Kerry senior GAA senior team manager’s comments about the ‘lack of balance’ in media coverage of his team while ignoring Dublin’s ‘hard edge’ when playing. This was ahead of the league final in which Kerry pipped Dublin to the post by one point.     
Continuing, Flynn wrote: “What made this intervention even more noteworthy in the eyes of Mayo supporters was Fitzmaurice’s referencing of the ‘orchestrated campaign’ instigated in the media against Lee Keegan last year.”
She encouraged Mayo management to take note.
The thing is though, it is always easier to knock something on the head when the behaviour is overt, out there in the open for everyone to see, witness and record. On the other hand, every- day sexism is often in the closet, covert and undercover. It is such a shame we women don’t have the courage to blow it out of the water more often.

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