Do You Even Like Football?

There is still a huge stigma attached to women in football culture, whether that’s players, fans or women in the industry. Although we have come so far in recent years, it’s still not where it needs to be.

‘Do You Even Like Football?’ is an ongoing photographic series aiming to expose everyday sexism and typical presumptions about women involved in football. Stemming from personal frustrations of being a lifelong football fan, who just so happens to be a woman, this series questions and challenges the way women are still slurred, underrepresented and generally not taken seriously in all capacities of football.

In 1921 women were banned from playing football in all FA grounds, the ban lasted for 50 years, which resulted in a huge setback for the women’s game. Even 30-40 years after the ban was lifted football wasn’t in many schools PE curriculum for girls, instead I was ridiculed by boys in the playground for being ‘a girl who likes football’. Even to this day some countries don’t allow women to go and watch football games at stadiums, with many women across the world also regularly being highly sexualised by the male gaze. Although women’s football is finally on the rise (it’s the fastest growing sport in the world) even a high-profile club like Manchester United have only just formed a women’s team. There’s no doubt about it, women are treat very differently in football and it’s more than infuriating that we just aren’t taken seriously.

I went to my first Hull City game aged 4, continuing to support my local team for twenty years, I have a great knowledge of the game. Attending football games with my Father and Brother seems like a safe option, but I have still been subject to more than a fair share of remarks about my gender, even when I was just a young girl.

Since working in a football environment remarks and sexist comments are something I now experience on almost a daily basis. “Do You Even Like Football?” is a common question asked whilst in the work place. By spending a number of months documenting these remarks made towards me, this project came to life. With particular focus coming from my perspective of being a female fan and the frustrations built up over a life time of supporting my local team, this project aims to bring down the stigma still attached to women who watch, play or work in football and raise the question of what does it really means to be a female fan today?

The series mainly documents official ‘girls’ merchandise on sale from Premier League clubs during the 2017/18 season, including a pink lace Tottenham branded underwear set, a West Ham branded wedding garter and a low cut and tight-fitting Manchester United replica shirt. Amongst this I have also documented other over-sexualised products marketed towards females, including a Barbie doll from the careers range who is wearing a tight-fitting kit accompanied by a matching pink ball. By portraying the objects as products, they have been stylised to be highly feminine and uber pink, looking more ‘appealing’ to the eye.

Part of the series is a direct response to the Sussex FA’s recent suggestions on increasing female participation in football. The suggestions are individually found to be degrading and shocking, which included using pink whistles, having Twitter breaks, using female friendly branding and colouring, wearing colourful and nice smelling bibs, not using large heavy balls because “females are put off by the prospect of being hit by one” and having incentives to make girls want to attend sessions to play football, all of which were heavily accompanied by images of pink coloured items.

Pink merchandise, low cut shirts and the need for different branding for women and girls is a prime example of how we are still treat differently in football today. All of these things set us aside from the men and suggest that there’s a difference between male and female fans. We watch the same game, follow the same team, and know the same rules, what’s the issue?

Remarks that have been made to myself whilst in the workplace have been documented alongside some the sexist comments that have stuck with me for years. My most memorable being a young boy behind me at a Hull City game asking “Daddy, why is there a girl here?” I didn’t know how to respond so I simply shrugged it off and felt awkward for the rest of the game. Along with many other remarks made to me whilst regularly watching my team and whilst doing my day job, on occasions I have almost been led to believe that maybe I shouldn’t be there. However, I love football so it has never stopped me, but what if it did? This photographic series is me speaking up and fighting back against everyone who has ever made me feel uncomfortable and wrong for being a women who likes football.

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