Wednesday 20 February 2019

Niamh Horan: Work your sexuality, Stephanie Roche

Goal-den girl Stephanie Roche is the perfect role model for women - she is talented and sexy, writes Niamh Horan

Stephanie Roche. Photo:Gerry Mooney
Stephanie Roche. Photo:Gerry Mooney

Niamh Horam

One of the biggest scams ever pulled off in the history of humankind was convincing women their sexuality is something to be ashamed of. It's perpetuated by men to keep women down because they are afraid of how much power it bestows.

Recently, some women have championed the idea that our gender should repress their sexuality as a kind of twisted pseudo-feminism. They warn that the 'value' of a woman will somehow diminish; that she won't be taken seriously - if she puts it on display.

I saw it last summer when I pointed out that female rugby players can kick ass and still look good on the pitch. And last week Stephanie Roche came up against the same militant feminism.

It started when she proudly walked past Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi at the FIFA Puskas Award at the Ballon d'Or gala last Monday night. But instead of appreciating that she can be talented and sexy simultaneously, they claimed she was reduced to nothing more than eye candy by the national media.

"It KILLS me that most of the papers are making the Stephanie Roche story about how she looked and the other lads 'staring' at her. KILLS me," wrote one young woman on her social networking site.

It wasn't long before so-called 'feminists' joined the cat-calls. "It doesn't matter if you're so bloody good at football - if you reach heights no woman ever has in a competition: you will still be objectified," an Irish Times columnist tweeted.

But when I look at Stephanie Roche in that moment I see strength and I see empowerment.

No amount of Messi's or Ronaldo's star power on the night could have captured the same attention. And don't pretend they didn't put as much effort into their outfits. Messi's suit was plum and velvet, for crying out loud.

The power and influence of female sexuality is vast. Entire industries are based on it. Men want it, women bestow it. At its most extreme it can topple governments and change the course of history.

At the same time women need to learn that their value as a human being is not tied up in it. The clever ones know the game, play it and never buy into it.

Women can use their graces to make headway in the world - without letting it rule their opinion of themselves. When a woman like Stephanie puts on a dress and heels - she should know the kind of reaction she will attract. And if she's smart, she will use that power wisely. Watch now as the sponsorship deals flow in.

But she should also know she is not any less of a woman, bare-faced in her tracksuit on a pitch. It's also important not to equate sexuality with physical appearance. The key component is confidence; look at that image and see Stephanie has it in spades.

The most attractive thing about her in that moment is that she is not looking at Ronaldo or Messi, but something far more interesting out of shot. To her, their opinions are irrelevant.

As for the people claiming we should all be ashamed for not supporting women's soccer all year round, I asked our sports editor why there isn't more featured in our newspaper.

"Simple," he said, "the appetite is there from the sports department, not from our readers."

And how many complaints does he receive in response? "You'd be lucky to get one a year."

Why then are the 1.1 million people who voted for Stephanie so quiet?

Maybe it's because only a mere 95 were on the side-lines as she scored the goal.

Sunday Independent

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