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Archive for the category : Feminisation

September 23, 2013

Surprise, surprise

Germany has voted. And – surprise, surprise – the voters have confirmed the first female Chancellor ever of their Republic for the second time.

Surprising then that there was next to no mention of gender equality among the major topics of the election campaign.

Not so surprising when one recalls that only last April the government of this female chancellor voted down an opposition motion to bring in a legal quota for women in top positions of the German corporate world (a motion which by the way was based on the positive experiences in Scandinavian countries, in other words on European benchmarking).

Very surprising, on the other hand, when one recalls the fact that Angela Merkel herself owes her entire political career to being a ‘triple quota’ woman herself: she was picked as junior member of the last Kohl government for no other reason than being a) young, b) a woman, c) from the East.

In the meantime, while everybody in the Merkel cabinet has just shut up on the issue since last April, Katja Krauss, 42, former goalkeeper of the German national team and only female board member of a Bundesliga club between 2003 and 2011, hasn’t. Thanks to the publicity around her recently published book ‘Power’ – a series of portraits of former leaders in politics and business who had to cope with decline and loss of power – she has been able to promote in numerous interviews the idea of a women’s quota in the ‘testosterone business’ of top football, as she calls it. If there is evidence from the corporate world that mixed leadership teams are more efficient than male-only groups, why should this not be applied to professional football? The football business has the tendency to always reproduce the same ‘old-boys’ network’ in a rather incestuous manner. On the other hand, it is in urgent need of new ideas and better management practices. So…?

Katja Krauss and Karen Espelund. Two surprises.

The ideas promoted by Katja Krauss were well illustrated by Karen Espelund at the recent ‘Football 150 Conference’ in Manchester. Mrs Espelund, the first and only woman ever to have been a member of the UEFA Executive Committee, explained that without having been imposed as “quota” woman, she would never have had a chance to be elected vice-president of this same Committee.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

July 24, 2013

Of Swearing, Pink Lions and Resistance

Post-conference reflexions by Post by Yağmur Nuhrat (Brown University)
and Başak Alpan (Middle East Technical University).

The FREE Conference in Copenhagen saw two days of pithy exchange on the multifarious phenomenon of women’s football – as players, fans, coaches, administrators, wives and girlfriends (not to mention football academics). One particular problematic seemed to arise continually without a concrete or fully convincing answer: How do or how should women cope with forms of hegemonic masculinity in a space which has traditionally been defined as a male realm? Should they actually?

The claw of a Danish football 'Lioness'. Pink, of course...

There was a near consensus among the conference papers about how football in general remains a ‘masculine space’. Moreover, various conference sessions seemed to depict football as a realm firmly under the reign of the socially hegemonic forms of masculine attitudes and behaviour (i.e. hetero-normative masculinity that allows certain masculine forms to dominate over other masculine or feminine forms).

There are certain (albeit limited) alternatives for women in terms of how they might exist in this space. The conference thus included various discussions on the notion of ‘resistance’, since resistance emerged as one of the more conspicuous choices for women who were confronted with hegemonic masculinity. However, when trying to identify possible forms of resistance, it seemed like the scholars concerned found themselves between two equally depressing choices:

a) Women resisting hegemonic masculinity by assuming hegemonic masculine roles themselves, thus perhaps (we would argue: not always) reinforcing hegemonic masculinity in society; and

b) Women resisting hegemonic masculinity by assuming ‘traditionally feminine’ roles in football to highlight the possibility of their presence in football as ‘essentially feminine’.

Post by : FREE-TEAM in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

July 20, 2013

Three out of twelve

On 10 July twelve national teams were lined up for the final tournament of Women’s Euro2013 in Sweden. Only three of them were coached by female head coaches: the host country itself (Pia Sundhage), England (Hope Powell), and Germany (Silvia Neid).

Three out of twelve: Silvia Neid, Pia Sundhage, Hope Powell.

In other words: 75% of Europe’s best women’s national teams are still coached by men. This is even more than at the World Cup 2011 in Germany, where ‘only’ two thirds of the head coaches were male.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

July 10, 2013

From footnote to headline

On the opening day of Euro2013 in Sweden, a guest contribution by Kamila Grześkowiak, master student in anthropology at Adam Mickiewicz (Poznań), who is currently completing her master thesis on gender perception in women’s football.
Kamila can be contacted under kamgrzeskowiak@gmail.com

All over June, Polish sports media seemed to be doing business as usual. Which means they were almost exclusively writing about Robert Lewandowski. First about his hypothetical transfer to Bayern (or why not Real or Barcelona). As they had no idea about what was happening, they were mainly quoting German newspapers.

Then they moved to Lewandowski’s wedding. His beautiful wife. His suit by a famous designer. His guests. ‘Lewandowski’s wedding without Piszczek and Blaszczykowski!’, one internet headline screamed. Having no information in what club he was going to sign with, they titled ‘Lewandowski signed the contract of his life’.

There's more to European women's football than Germany and Scandinavia: the Polish U-17 girls are celebrating their first European trophy.

‘Fighting without strong support is very hard’, one of my friends, a female football player, once said. But despite the lack of support, our girls won the final against Sweden. Let’s be clear about it: coach Zbigniew Witkowski created a team that coach Waldemar Fornalik, head of the men’s national team, can only dream about: playing for passion, not for money. It made me think how awesome our female football teams could be if only the Polish Football Association, the sponsors and the fans treated them seriously. Will this recent success change anything? Well, at least, it brought the girls into the newspaper headlines. Now everyone in Poland knows that excellent European women’s football is not only played in Germany and Scandinavia.

No need to interpret too much into this event. But it’s a more than welcome signal in a society that is still dominated by patriarchal thinking. The media echo to the girls’ triumph confirms the findings of my field research: female football slowly begins to be reconsidered, it starts to be no longer regarded as a kind of ‘oxymoron’, but more as an interesting alternative.

Post by : GUEST in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

April 14, 2013

Bibiana’s dream of becoming redundant

For many years now, each issue of the German quality weekly DIE ZEIT, has featured a section entitled ‘I have a dream’, in which the paper invites a remarkable and well-known individual to share a dream with its readers. The column, always written in the first person, is accompanied by a high-quality black-and-white portrait of the celebrity concerned with his/her eyes closed. The sincerity and openness of the invitees is astonishing. Somehow the responsible journalists manage to persuade them to let go and not be afraid of sounding ridiculous. It’s no surprise that over the years the column has become a weekly must-read.

Recently ‘I have a dream’ featured Bibiana Steinhaus. The name of this 33-year-old German policewoman may not spontaneous ring a bell with everybody, but it blows a whistle with many followers of women’s football. Bibiana Steinhaus is not only the referee of the last women’s World Cup and Olympic finals in Berlin (2011) and London (2012) respectively, she is also the only woman who regularly leads matches in German professional men’s football, as main referee in the 2nd Bundesliga and lineswoman in the top-tier. And she is doing so with the successful mix of strictness, humour and respect that suits any referee well, male or female.

In the World Cup final 2011.

Ms Steinhaus, whose recent unintentional physical contact with a player from Hertha BSC Berlin (and her cool reaction to it) had a certain career on YouTube, enjoys enormous respect from the players. It actually makes you wish more games, national and international, would be refereed by women. The effects on some misbehaviour could be surprising. Perhaps UEFA should think about a suitable pilote competition for trying this out. As Ms Steinhaus says in her contribution to DIE ZEIT, ‘my dream is that is doesn’t matter any more whether a man or a woman blows the whistle. Or, for that matter, whether a man or a woman is the boss.’

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

April 4, 2013

Can we speak of ‘the feminisation’ of football?

Guest contribution by Carole Ponchon, international events and campaign manager  (http://www.caroleponchon.org).

No one can deny that women are still trying to find their place in the typically masculine domain of a sport like football. In fact, seen from the perspective of ‘hegemonic masculinity’, sport is a social structure that serves to reproduce and rebuild the male dominance by (over)highlighting ‘skills’ such as strength, power or aggression. And football has long been a proud ambassador of these representations… After all, it has always been celebrated as a predominantly working-class male preserve and it was only in early 1971 that UEFA passed a motion (which became an official recommendation in November 1971) in favour of member countries taking control of women’s football.

How many of us would have bet on such an evolution five years ago?

For some die-hard traditionalists, thinking about the ‘feminisation of football’ may actually sound provocative.

Promotion for the recent CL quarter final Lyon vs Malmö.

What do we mean by ‘feminisation’? Oxford Dictionaries define the verb feminise as ‘make (something) more characteristic of or associated with women’, other sources define feminisation as ‘the development of female characteristics in a male’.

Can we apply this to football? To me it seems the term makes sense if we consider two main trends: on the one hand, women investing the predominantly all-male football sphere, on the other hand, society being more interested in women football.

Women’s growing appetite for football

Women have shown a growing appetite for sport and football in the last decade and have become great consumers of sport content and sport activities. For example, in Germany there have been more women than men watching the national team’s games since the UEFA EURO 2008! As for sport in general it is also of interest to point out that even if Loechner (2005) showed that online sports destinations are still frequented more by males (62%) than females (38%), there was, according to Sports Sites Traffic (2009), significantly greater growth in sports website traffic for females (37%) than for males (21%) between 2007 and 2008.

Post by : GUEST in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

March 30, 2013

Pots and pans

Bernard Lacombe was a quick striker. In 1978 it took him only 38 seconds to score against Italy in the Argentinian World Cup – still the fastest goal in World Cup history!

But this week he was too quick.

Bernard Lacombe at the 1978 World Cup

As guest on a talk show on Radio Monte Carlo he was confronted with a caller named Sonia who somewhat agressively insisted on Karim Benzema’s apparent incompetence. When Lacombe understood that he would not be able to convince the lady of the opposite, he got rid of her saying

I don’t talk about football with women, that’s how I see things.
They should return to their pots and pans, and things would be better.

When he earned some embarrassed laughter from the all male talk show hosts, he probably thought that the story was over.

He was wrong. His quote made the buzz of the week, eclipsing the match against Spain that had been the topic of the talk show in the first place. There were thousands of comments on all sports web pages of the country (and beyond), overwhelmingly showing indignation at Lacombe’s sexist remark. Some very rare commentators who tried to defend him with a vain attempt at traditional male ‘tongue-in-cheek’ complicity were silenced in no time.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Feminisation, Posts - No Comment

May 14, 2012

A Europe Day Exhibition

Went to a local secondary school on ‘Europe Day’. (For those who live in places where the Schuman Declaration is not likely to be the object of commemoration, it might be useful to recall that Europe Day is the 9th of May). A friend had invited me to the inauguration of an exhibition entitled ‘Le sport et l’Europe’ (no translation needed, I presume).

The exhibition was made up by the works of four classes from four different schools who had worked on different sport-projects over the last months. A large variety of posters traced back the history of the Olympic Games, presented different national or regional sports, or highlighted social issues such as sport as a means to fight racism and support disabled persons. Among some 3D exhibits two nice scale models compared the stadiums of London 2012 and Berlin 1936.

Post by : Albrecht Sonntag in the category : Feminisation, Posts, Public Sphere - No Comment

May 12, 2012

Masters of deconstruction

We feel more ‘at home’ with other people when we do not have to explain to them why certain events were important or unique; when we know that they remember the same cartoons and jokes, and have experienced historical events in a way similar to how we did. This is why education – and not only school education, but also learning through popular culture – plays a crucial role in creating a common identity and providing a sense of belonging.What we did not discuss too much at our first meeting in Angers is that for most of its history football has been a ‘male thing’. It brings excitement, it unites and divides people, but is it not merely the half of us Europeans who really appreciate the beauty of the game? Does knowing nothing about Panenka’s revolutionary penalty kick make nonbelievers less European than English or Polish hooligans? Is football a real European heritage or is it only a male European heritage? Maybe there is more than one way of understanding football and talking about it.

Post by : Gosia Kowalska in the category : Feminisation, Posts, Public Sphere - No Comment