A while back there was a great discussion over at Pitch Invasion about female fandom and football, provoked by a characteristically stimulating article by Jennifer Doyle. The discussion centred on male attitudes to women fans, and the sexism which is directed at women taking an interest in sport.
I said then, and I shall say again (since it's true) that I have almost never encountered hostility to my interest in football. In all honesty, I tend to wipe from my mind encounters with pathetic sexists so it's possible that I am forgetting one or two wholly uninteresting small-minded arseholes who I may have come across. But so far as I remember, no-one has ever told me or indicated by their behaviour that they didn't think I had a "right" to be interested in sport.
On the other hand, plenty of people don't quite understand the difference between 'love football' and 'love footballers'. Ah, they say, you support Roma, bet you love Francesco Totti, eh? Yes, I say, I love his vision and reading of the game, his superb ability to spot and create the perfect pass, the way he links play with midfield, the way he creates space with his off the ball movement, his unpredictability, his audacity, his total commitment, the way he can create a goal out of nothing, his willingness to play through the pain barrier. Shame about the petulance.
Oh. You mean, you don't just, like, fancy him?
Italian men in the most part then fall into one of two camps: either they look impressed/delighted and launch into a long story about Giuseppe Giannini; or they groan in horror and say, christ not another bloody football fan, why does everybody in this country have to bloody talk about football all the time, can't we talk politics/have another glass of wine instead? In extremis, they might demand to know who my English team are and then criticise me for apostasy (in which arguably legitimate endeavour they would be joined by my mother). But never for being a football fan.
I think it's the same syndrome as "serious intelligent women can't care about clothes and make-up". It's about how being taking seriously means eschewing femininity and above all girliness. I'm not, incidentally, arguing that this is exclusively a male position; it's as much about self-censorship as anything else. Actually I think this is very typical of the ways in which women try to mould themselves to fit into preconceived categories of the acceptable.
But of course, this is a nonsense. We are not all so one-dimensional that we can't enjoy sport in the same way as a man AND fancy (some of) the players. Just because men can't multi-task… A number of female bloggers demonstrate this truth amply. This issue was recently discussed in some detail at the excellent (if somewhat American) Ladies... It's made me realise that sometimes, on my own blog, I am guilty of what is I suppose simply cowardice. I hardly ever mention the attractiveness or otherwise of a footballer, because quite simply I fear that people (my largely male, largely intellectual readership) wouldn't take me seriously. But I regularly read and enjoy, for instance, This is Extra Time, which is super-girly and yet clearly written by someone with excellent knowledge of the game. The same goes for all the bloggers at Ladies... as well, in their respective sports.
So, fair warning, in a spirit of liberation there may be more ogling on here from now on. I shall try not to fill the place with an excessive number of pictures of toned and shapely male thighs. Just, you know, one or two. In a spirit of frivolous feminism, or possibly feminist frivolity.