Monday, January 31, 2011

Beyond Sian Massey

Currently, I’m stuck in a broken subway car, and as I look around, I can’t help but wonder how many people on here are (or were) soccer players. I, for one, was not. Due to an athletically incompetent older brother and a father who would disown us if we weren’t the best, my brothers and I never set foot onto a soccer pitch (except once when I was at the FIFA headquarters in Zurich and I ran around the one outside the main building). Or, maybe it’s the old immigrant-parent-rule, put your kids in North American sports. It’s the second generations and on that play soccer. (Please refer to one of my favourite quotes by Simon Kuper: “When immigrants from Europe landed in the U.S., their children were teased on the streets for their funny accents, clothes and parents. The last thing these children were going to do was play a funny European game on the streets and be teased again, so they took up baseball. That is why Americans don't play soccer.”)

Sure, I played baseball for a good decade (being neither good nor bad), basketball throughout my teens (I was better), synchronized and competitive swimming (probably my best) and the usual summers and winters of tennis and skating (which, I would lock myself in the bathroom to avoid going to. Now you understand my hatred of hockey!), but never was I allowed, or given the opportunity, to play soccer.

Actually, ultimately, I think it was probably just my dad not wanting to hate us/disown us if (and when) his kids were terrible at soccer. Which is fair enough.

Anyway, back to my subway (I have since switched to a working one). I realize, as I look around, it is probably an even match of people in this car that played; as in, the guy : girl ratio. You see, in North America soccer is, for the most part, considered a girl sport. Now hold your horses there friend, I know all you second-wave and on generational kids are going to jump on me for that. But the truth is, girls play co-ed teams here and keep playing up in the ranks. More girls seem to stick to Timbits soccer than they stick to Timbits hockey. And before you start commenting, “I’m a girl and play hockey!” that’s not the point I’m making; obviously girls play hockey, just not in the same way they play soccer. Also, if you feel the need to make that point, you’re just going to prove my argument a few paragraphs down.

This is for several reasons. One could be due to this douchbag here: (seriously, this guy is a douche. That headline should read “Hockey Dad Should Be Ashamed After Girl’s Humiliating Departure. And He Is An Asshole”). Another, and this goes for more than just girls, is equipment and space costs. Soccer can be done anywhere; in my backyard using lawn gnomes as goal post and that one ball we have where the dog chewed off half the paneling. Hockey, well, you can’t just pick up a hockey game in the same way (despite what Tim Horton’s commercials tell you). It’s easier to join a house league in or out doors, because at most you need are shoes and shorts. Even basketball isn’t that convenient. I mean, being able to play with just peach baskets is a wrong, AND OFFENSIVE, stereotype that is often applied to Canadians. Plus, no one ever has a needle for a pump when you need one.

FUCK! I need to change subways again! Are you kidding me? We’re going to be up to FOUR changes by the time I get to work! You know, if this were a Nike commercial, we would have started a pickup game on the platform by now. Or is that just at airports?

So there is a point to this. I’m not straining my thumbs and eyes on my blackberry for nothing. Where are girls place in sports? ON THE SIDELINES WITH POM POMS! Just kidding! Cheerleading isn’t a sport! Just kidding again! Don’t worry; I’m a post modern feminist, which means, me referring to them—or us—as “girls” this whole time isn’t actually sexist! Ha! You thought you had me there, didn’t you? (But seriously, it’s not a sport). Anyway, the point I am trying to make, and the reason why I am writing this, is to discuss the hot topic of women in sports, and one Sian Massey. You see Massey, I once was subjected to similar controversy you face, so I know how you feel:

This one time, I made the mistake of being a girl while playing Football Manager, and all of my interviews became about me being a girl (a girl who is “cagey” at that). So, despite putting together a totally STELLAR Young Boys team (and making Marco Wölfli happy to stay with the club) all anyone could focus on was me being a girl! Kind of like, how all anyone could focus on was if an offside goal could be called by a girl.

Bare with me, I am going somewhere with this.

So in Football Manager, I made a point to say how girls could do anything, and we could do it, and I was going to do it and I am the symbol for modern sports management feminism and all that bullshit. 

Yes, bullshit. 

Because, you see my friends, by calling attention to the fact that I am a girl, by stating how I am special and unique, I am furthering the idea that I am different. Yes, I can do the same job, but I am also different, because I am a girl.

That’s bullshit. 

I can play Football Manager (editor’s note: actually, I can’t. It constantly freezes my computer) because I know a bit about the game, not because I am a girl who knows a bit about the game. I am not going to put “a feminine touch” on things, nor bake cookies for the team, nor tell them that it doesn’t matter if we win or lose, all that matters is that we have fun. No, my girl-hood in no way would affect how I play; in fact, I am not sure why it’s even under debate.

So let’s apply this to Massey, shall we? Yes, she is a minority due to her gender in soccer, that can’t be ignored. But that does not mean people should call upon her as some sort of leader of a footie feminist movement. Maybe, just maybe, if no one pointed out, “it’s so weird that a girl is a linesmen,” then maybe it wouldn’t be so weird! And yes, I am sticking to linesmen. Currently, that is what the role is called, not linespersons.

Well, you may argue, I am furthering to enforce stereotypes by making women accept their role in male dominated worlds. Well, actually, yes, I sort of am. If you wave your hands around and complain, of course people will notice, and that can bring both positive and negative attention. If you let things just go naturally, then they will happen naturally. It’s unfair, and unrealistic, to put the burden of change on one person. That’s not how life works. You’re just sticking Massey into a corner, pointing, and turning the wattage up on the spotlight. And that's BOTH with pro-female positions and anti-female positions. That’s not the way to do it. Instead, ignore the fact that she’s a woman and focus on the fact that she made one helluva a call, outside any point of her gender. In other words, she’s not a good linesmen despite/in spite being a girl, she’s a good linesmen because she does the job right.

You know what makes this story sexist? The fact that it is even a story. By anyone. Including rah-rah females trying to point out that we “shattered through the glass pitch.” If the glass pitch has been shattered, or at the very least, been chipped, articles pointing to the fact that Massey is female are doing a good job at repairing it. Just let it be, and pretty soon, there won’t even be a glass to break.

As for the boys at Sky TV? Well, they’re no better than the previously before mentioned hockey douchebag. Quite frankly, they’re not worth my time, effort, or blog space.

Girls, do what you want. You’re entitled to it.


Ps. As someone who was formerly a Women Studies major, if anyone who has some sort of wmst background or interest is thinking about contacting me with the “this is such a western point of view!” or “you don’t know what post feminism is!” type lines, I say, please don’t; just deal with it.

Pps. This post is dedicated to a Scot in England. Actually, right now, Brussels. 

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