[References to gendered slurs and misogynistic language ahead. Also, some discussion of domestic violence]
Why does this matter if it’s just dudes playing the game?
1) There are sometimes, and increasingly more often, women on the field in officiating positions.
2) In this particular case (and plenty of others—we’ve all done the rewind, slow-mo playback on our DVRs), you can read their lips. It was Anton Ferdinand‘s girlfriend who told him what she saw when she watched playback of the altercation that made Ferdinand aware of the racial insult in the first place. So, the word doesn’t stay just on the pitch.
3) It’s not just men who play football. Stats: “Almost 1.4 million women and girls play football regularly in England. Women’s football is the third largest team sport in the country after men’s football and men’s cricket, and 843 women have trained as referees.” If girls are learning to insult in the same way they learn to play by watching men’s professional soccer, that’s a problem (I have no proof that women are throwing around this particular word on the pitch, but it wouldn’t surprise me).
4) There is a (tenuous) connection between men in England watching football and domestic violence. Before the Euro Cup this summer, the BBC released a report showing “a surge in domestic violence reports to police during the 2010 World Cup” in order to spread awareness of this correlation. On a larger level, domestic violence generally is a problem in the UK: one out of every five calls to police is about DV.
NO: I am not arguing that because John Terry and Ferdinand called each other “c___s” in a game that it directly caused some man to beat his wife or girlfriend. But to argue that the culture that says it is okay to yell that word as an insult in its most popular sport (a place where there’s a good chance that viewers at home will see it) is not related to the one where men take out their football joys and losses on the bodies of the women closest to them is mental gymnastics (and you’d be foolish to try).
Yes, this trial would (probably) still have happened had Terry yelled, “FB a-hole” or “FB (word for male genitalia)” but he didn’t. He said ” c___.” They both said it. A LOT.
And even if that doesn’t mean something directly to the players on the field (unless you say, perhaps, “you’re sister is a c___”), it means something to the 1.4 million English girls and women who play the sport. It means something to the women who know that their partner’s emotions around a football game may lead to them getting physically assaulted. And it means something to the woman who, just watching a football game with her friends, feels obligated to laugh along when one player lashes out at the other using an insult that makes her skin crawl.
Will this part of football (and indeed, of the culture surrounding it) ever change? I don’t know. But it’s a discussion worth having.
- There’s more than race in this case of handbags by Joan Smith (The Independent)
- At least make your ‘mum’ taunts funny by Viv Groskop (The Independent)
- In defence of the “C” word by Laurie Penny, from 2011 (New Statesman)