So today I heard something that properly got my hackles up. I know what you’re thinking – “it doesn’t really take much does it?” I have a bit of a reputation of being loud and opinionated (and probably not always right) about matters that affect women so sometimes I worry I come across a bit “crying wolf-y”. But my officemate Lucy was bothered by it, and she is generally pretty laid back about things like this so that gives you some idea of just how bad it was. When she told me what had happened our conversation went something like this:
Me: silence – mouth open in shock
Lucy: “I know.”
Me: silence – mouth open wider in shock
Lucy: “I know.”
Me: “What. The. Actual.”
Lucy: “I KNOW.”
So let me show you what happened. The Cambridge University Women’s Rugby Football Club (CUWRFC) appeared on Heart Cambridge Radio this morning to talk about the Rugby World Cup. So far so good. Getting these amazing women out there into the public view is a great thing. But then “Kev” happened. Listen to the opening of his brilliantly professional interview:
I know right? In case you couldn’t hear him clearly he starts by saying – STARTS BY SAYING – the following:
“You don’t look like what I thought you’d look like. You’re all like really attractive, sort of fit girls”.
I’m actually finding it hard to organise my thoughts as I type this. In what universe is this an acceptable way to start an interview about sport? Can you imagine him speaking to the men’s team this way? “Oooh you’re all quite thin with lovely straight noses! How unexpected!” Of course he would never do that. And therein lies the problem. No matter what women achieve in sport – they thrashed Oxford 47-0 in their last Varsity Match by the way – how about doing your research and opening with that “Kev”? – they will still be judged by their appearance and patronised by those who should know better.
This is just a smaller scale – but no less important – version of what the England Lionesses experienced on their return from the Football World Cup. Tweet in point:
This awful, AWFUL tweet rightfully caused an uproar online. The idea that our incredible female footballers – their performance was the second best by an England team following the 1966 win by the men’s side – should be defined by the roles they perform for others rather than by their own achievements was so patronising as to verge on hysterical. Some even questioned whether the tweet was a joke. I think Jo Liptrott, someone my alter ego has followed on Twitter for a while, put it perfectly when she said “”Maybe they go back to having actual jobs & lives which DON’T revolve around them being subservient to other people???”
But if the official governing body of a sport is coming out with this junk, then surely we can’t be surprised when the local media does the same? The problem goes so much higher than some misguided DJ on a local station.
While a little bit of me was frustrated that CUWRFC didn’t pull “Kev” up on his dreadful comment, it’s easy for me to think of something to say in reply outside of the stresses of live radio. One of the players can be heard shouting “strong, strong” over the nervous laughter of the others, but I would have loved them to say “I don’t see how our appearance is in any way related to our sporting achievements.” I suspect “Kev” would have been more than a little flustered with a response like that.
And these are the responses we need to keep coming back with. We need to continue ridiculing patronising tweets and comments and to keep pulling people up when they behave like this.
I tweeted Heart Cambridge Radio and “Kev” about this earlier but unsurprisingly I didn’t hear back from either of them, but I didn’t really expect to either. I just hope that the next time they get a team of such incredible sportspeople in the studio, they’ll start off by talking about their achievements and their sport, rather than their appearances.