Talking kitchen? Why a splash of sexism is too much in sport
I forget which wave of feminism we are currently riding but there is no denying that sexism is one hot little potato at the minute.
One area where the potato is particularly scalding is in the sports world.
This was best shown at the end of the Women’s World Cup when the team were welcomed back with a Tweet from the FA which read “Our lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today – but they have taken on another title – heroes.”
There are numerous reasons why this Tweet created a media storm: Do we get the choice to put family roles on hold? Are they not coming back to being professional WSL footballers? Would the men's team ever be referred to in the same way?
Today the BBC have apologised for a comment Peter Alliss made during the Open golf tournament. While Zach Johnson was lining up a shot the camera panned to his wife and Alliss said “She is probably thinking if this goes in I get a new kitchen.”
Now I understand why the FA Tweet is contestable but guys 'n gals, hasn't this sexism court-marshalling got a little out of hand? Is that comment really sexist? Do the BBC need to apologies for a commentator joking about a woman planning to buy herself a lovely new kitchen. If you see a woman and think “preemptive kitchen buying” that surely doesn’t mean you are sexist.
But then again, you are a little bit aren’t you? And a little bit sexist is too sexist - because when women are fighting so hard to be taken seriously in sport, old-fashioned gender stereotypes do not help at all.
Would the same comment have been delivered to a man watching his wife taking a putt? Say the man in question was Gordon Ramsey, same comment? No – I don’t think anyone would suggest culinary supremo Gordon Ramsey would have any interest in buying a new kitchen because we all know the essence of Alliss’ comment stems from a patriarchal viewpoint. One that for many years kept women in the range of the kitchen and off the driving range.
After collecting the Claret Jug, Zach Johnson praised his wife (or in his words “CEO”) and said his success was very much theirs. If he had whispered to her “you get that new kitchen now love!” I doubt it would have gone down particularly well.
Of course, if we had a level playing field between the sexes, none of these remarks would be an issue. Alliss could replace “kitchen” with “boob job”, and the BBC would be all ‘hurrah for boob jobs!’.
But we don’t have equality, do we? And gender assumptions are not conducive to bringing it. Anyway, who is to say we are good mothers and daughters either, who is to say we don’t prefer cheating on boyfriends or online gambling to shopping and pedicures. I have played football for the last five years and if I had a pound for every time a man raised a questioning eyebrow at me, I would be able to afford that new kitchen I’ve had my eye on. (it's so beautiful, peach and cream)
Another thing which can often be overlooked – is that women are different. Some are more strongly aligned to traditional feminine traits and that is lovely, and good for them. Others combine both, which is also nice, and then there are those women who actually have much stronger masculine energy and wouldn't recognise a frying pan if it hit them over the butch head.
Many ‘feminists’ are not jumping on these comments from men because they hate men and want them to be punished for centuries of suppression. I would much rather look at the comments from Alliss and John Inverdale (vis-a-vis Marion Bartoli) and just think ‘nothing to get your knickers in a twist over, let’s worry about more important affairs’. But the thing is – until women's sport is taken more seriously – we need to be vigilant.
I don’t think over-hyping women’s sporting event that few people watch is necessarily the solution but neither is ignoring old-fashioned gender views which look to keep women aligned with domestic duties.
We are just so much more interesting than that.