As Neil Armstrong said when he walked on the moon: “You have to see it to be it.” No, just kidding. Obviously he never said that.
Armstrong may have famously walked on the Moon for mankind, but it was Billie Jean King who spoke the above words when taking one “giant leap” for equality.
The tennis icon made the remark in response to Title IX, the US federal civil rights law that was passed as part of the Education Amendments of 1972, that prohibits sex-based discrimination in education facilities receiving federal money.
King famously beat Bobby Riggs in the 1973 ‘Battle of the Sexes’ tennis match in front of 30,000 screaming fans. She was carried into the Houston Astrodome on a throne surrounded by flamingo pink feathers; he was brought out on a rickshaw. It was more superbowl than regular tennis and proved a defining moment in women’s sport.
Since then, feminist vanguards and woke marketeers have made the phrase their own, using it to fight for equity on behalf of those who can’t tie their own shoelaces unless another woman does it first. Anyone watching the European Championships may have noticed an increase in female representation on panels of what was once a male domain. It’s fair enough, women make up half the population, so all being equal they should be represented equally. The only problem is women don’t like football.
Despite ads for feminine products during breaks, female presenters, girls clubs and US player Megan Rapinoe, the pied piper of aggressive guerilla feminism fighting for financial equality, most women’s response to any football game, is: “What match?”
I hear you shout; “How dare you? My niece plays for Home Farm. They cater for all ages equally now. Clubs are packed with young girls.”
Obviously I am speaking broadly. If I were to take a trip to Ireland’s feminist epicentre, Dublin 8 and ask the women of Repeal Country who won the match last night, many would say. “Oh is that on?”
But let’s blame the past. In 1921, the British FA banned women from playing on Football League grounds. “The game of football is quite unsuitable for females and ought not to be encouraged,” the explanation. Previously, women’s games were so popular, a St Helen’s game in 1920 had 53,000 inside Goodison Park with thousands outside.
It was an undoubtedly huge blow that the FA didn’t lift the ban until 1971. We’ve had 50 years to change things and we have. The World Cup in France in 2019 garnered huge attention from media, but passion was muted amongst women. In Germany, the male share of audience was bigger for the women’s than men’s, boasting 64pc to 58pc.
There are many claims about pay inequality and they may be well founded, but there are so many variables it’s not easy to get an exact picture.
Sponsorship attendances and advertising all generate revenues. Mass interest in the women’s game has yet to take off, but what about the state of play for men’s? Our recent performances haven’t helped.
But might women be subject to what’s known as ‘spectator lek’. This phenomenon is robbed from the animal kingdom, where males are more likely to observe gatherings of other males (leks) displaying their fitness and plumage, while females merely visit to select mates, then leave. If you want to conduct a micro study into ‘spectator lek’, also known as aptly as ‘arena behaviour’, bring a football to the park and see who flocks to it.
Despite my obsession with football, I’m a bit of a cherrypicking lek flake. My life’s highlights include singing Live is Life, the anthem of the beer-drinking Austro-German footballing community, while raising my German flag into the summer sky, arms linked with mulleted people, but I won’t loose sleep over Ipswich vs Slough.
So after all that exhaustive talk of inequality, could it be that we are merely abiding by evolution, and not gender division foisted upon us by the policies of our patriarchal overloads?
Maybe it’s wiser to kick that one into the long grass.