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Sporting a Uterus

Following the Women’s World Cup this year has been an enlightening experience for me. So far, some matches have been heart-stopping (Brazil-USA), and some have been crap (Canada-France), just like any tournament. The Canadians ended up knocked out in the first round bottom of their pool despite (overly) high expectations pumped up to justify the fact that CBC was covering matches at all.

I’m both delighted and disgusted with what I’ve observed so far. First off, watching women like Marta sprint down the field at amazing speeds, swear, cheer, celebrate and just generally express a whole range of human (rather than typically celebrated ‘feminine’) actions/emotions is brilliant. I have to admit at getting fairly choked up seeing all-female teams, officials, and attendants sell out 74,000 seater stadiums for the first time in my life. I love that athletic bodies of many nations are disturbing common tropes of what women should look like. And am happy that, for the first time in Canada, CBC (and Sportsnet) have provided full coverage of all the matches, which is peachy because in many places (like England) the matches aren’t actually being shown on regular TV channels.

I’m disgusted, on the other hand, with the sexism—institutional and socio-cultural—and outright misogyny that the women’s game provokes in (mostly) men. Astonishing displays of athleticism are met with nauseating displays of sexism from many, if not most, sports writers, commenters and, indeed, FIFA’s own president, Joseph Blatter. You’d be hard pressed to find stories with more comments blocked for ‘violating acceptable terms of use’ (where they’re moderated). Some of the tamer critiques proceed along the following lines:

“Women’s bodies just aren’t made to play this game”
“Tennis is a better sport for women, it’s sexy”
“In a competitive marketplace for viewers, watching women is a waste of time”

These are not new prejudices by any means. In the 20th century, one finds that women’s soccer was prohibited and defunded in a number of nations (Germany and England, for example). Women were banned from playing in Germany in 1955 since, apparently, “this combative sport is fundamentally foreign to the nature of women” and that women’s “body and soul would inevitably suffer damage”. You know what’s damaging to our bodies and souls? Sexism. The multitude of messages given to girls and women reminding us continually that we, despite making up more than half the planet, are somehow less. Heaven forbid you run, pass, kick or do anything ‘like a girl’.

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