“People have even gone as far to say I’m a waste of oxygen and I should kill myself”: The Ugly Truth About Women’s Involvement In Football

Woman’s sport successes have become more acknowledged and celebrated worldwide in the last two decades, which begs the question why are female athletes and fans not given the same respect as their male equivalents?

It is common for girls to attend football matches and even play for football teams growing up but unfortunately the silly and childish attitude of ‘football is a boy’s sport no girls allowed’ seems to never grow old, even if the men using these phrases have. Often when a girl says she supports a team she will almost always get asked ‘Yeah but do you go to games?’ ‘Do you actually support them? Or do you only care during derby games and cup games?’, ‘name the full team’ and other demeaning questions.

17-year-old Kayla Murphy knows these questions all too well. She said: “I’ve been criticised so many times for being a Rangers fan it’s a joke! I was brought up to love the team my family supports and that is that. There is no need for people to criticise just because they are a girl, yes, some girls don’t know all the details about their team, but it does not mean they should be judged or made to feel uncomfortable. You should want to welcome other fans into the club, not drive them away.”

A former women’s football player, Brogan McKay shared similar experiences. Brogan said:” I played football from the age of 12 until I was 15 and I always received comments from male classmates at school giving me the usual ‘you shouldn’t play woman are awful at football’, ‘leave it to the boys, girls are pussies’.”

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The Football Supporters’ Association revealed that one in five female fans receive some form of unwanted physical attention at matches, 49% of the 2,000 match-goers surveyed by the FSA said that witnessing sexist behaviour made them angry. It also found that out of that 2,000 44% had been told ‘you know a lot for a girl/woman’ and at women’s football matches 75% said they haven’t heard sexist comments or chants, or experienced unwanted physical attention. As an organisation we wanted to see if this would be the same for fans in Scotland.

After posting a Twitter poll and conducting an anonymous survey we can reveal that 61% of those that interacted with the Twitter poll had experienced a form of gender-based violence relating to football. Those that gave further detail in our survey revealed that 78% of them had received insults about their appearance, 72% experienced misogynistic comments and that 67% had been insulted by men the most. These statistics further highlight just how many women experience hostile behaviour from male fans.

A former female player and avid football fan that wishes to remain anonymous said: “Whenever I play football at school, I was constantly told I’ll never be as good as the boys, yet I would score the most goals in a penalty shootout once.

“Even watching football, I always get told ‘you only do it for attention from boys, yet I grew up with football and constantly going to games.”

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These negative outbursts are also common towards female fans, especially online. Another female fan that wishes to remain anonymous revealed that she had been repeatedly called a tramp, was told she was an embarrassment to her club, a slut and other derogatory insults solely based on her football views. 20-year-old Leah Smith also revealed similar experiences. She said “Looking back you can laugh at it but in the moment, it does really make you feel bad, there’s a difference between patter and insults.

“People have even gone as far to say I’m a waste of oxygen and I should kill myself.”

It is alarming the amount of female on female hate between women using the same misogynistic insults male fans tend to use. Our survey revealed that 28% of women had been insulted by both men and women. Screenshots provided by Leah supports this as they showed grown women calling her a “waste of space” and “ugly.” Within the at times toxic environment seen in Scottish football woman should be able to engage in sports debates with each other without others having the urge to broadcast such hateful thoughts, especially online.

Unfortunately, this incident hasn’t been the only time where adult football supporters, who you would think would know better, have shown complete disrespect to the younger generations. Brogan said: “Two seasons ago I was leaving McDiarmid Park after a St Johnstone VS Rangers match and I had commented on how badly Rangers had played and made a joke about how I could play better, and I had a male rangers fan spit on me.”

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Lauren Rooney has also experienced grown men insult her, Lauren said:” There was once these two old men with grandchildren older than me who were sat calling me ugly because I had said something about the playoffs a few seasons ago.” She also revealed that the most frequent insults her and her friends receive are related to their appearances and assumptions about their sex lives.

Former Glasgow Girls player, and sports journalist Courtney McKenzie has also experienced similar insults. She said: “As a player I have had many insults thrown at me from other players and coaches alike. ‘If you want to look like a man then go and play with the men’ because I am a centre back and have short hair, I get that one a fair bit, could also be because I’m quite tall and muscular so I’m not afraid to make tackles.”

However, it is not all doom and gloom as many girls have been able to form friendships through their love of football with both males and females. Our survey revealed that 89% of those that participated had made friends with both male and female football fans. Although football creates tensions between rival fans it also has a beautiful ability to unite people with a common love. The joy and excitement felt between friends in the supporters’ pub before a game is astronomical and the atmosphere is always buzzing and positive. Women’s role and experience in football fan culture may not always be positive but seeing your team succeed when you are with your friends or sitting drowning your sorrows after a rough game is part of the main appeals of football. Football teams create a sense of community for their supporters and the feeling of acceptance and love felt amongst like-minded supporters and teammates is what makes being a football fan worth it.

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