A few weeks before the Euros, maybe more, I read an article by Owen Jones in The Independent entitled, “The battle that men who aren’t sexist must fight”. It resonated with me, so much so that I was in instantly compelled to write this (in hindsight, incredibly cringe-worthy) message to the author…
I just wanted to declare that I’m ready for the battle after your article in yesterday’s I. I’m a football blogger and my twitter timeline gives sexism the remit to punch me in the face daily … hourly. I tend to follow anyone interested in football, after a quick check of their latest tweets, who follows me. However, I primarily navigate twitter through a series of private lists, actually ‘following’ only very few, and rarely look at my main timeline. If I glance my main timeline as I log in and happen upon a sexist tweet, usually in the form of someone commenting on having to “give a female sportsperson one”, or a female reference as a default insult, I unfollow them. I confess that I don’t address the issue. I’ve had a few twitter ‘rants’ on the subject, calling for football fans to stop following a respected blogger who regularly uses all kinds of anti-feminist rhetoric for the purpose of a ‘LOL’ along with his knuckle-dragging followers, but I’m a lone voice and it’s incredibly difficult. After reading your thoughts on the subject I feel empowered to make a more concerted effort to be more proactive in fighting back, even if I have no support within my immediate peer group. As Margaret Mead also said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it’s the only thing that ever does.” Thank you.
And then I forgot about it.
I hadn’t forgotten about sexism though; it’s in this New Look t-shirt that was posted up on my Twitter timeline; it’s in the group of arseholes next to us in the pub finding the fact that one of them only watched the Beeb’s Sexism in Football?, because he’d “definitely give Gabby Logan a seeing to” hilarious; it’s not in any way, or by any stretch restricted to these isolated incidents: it’s everywhere. EVERYWHERE. Forgetting about sexism would be like forgetting to put your clothes on in the morning (literally and metaphorically).
I’d forgotten it was up to me to fight it. As I’d written in the letter to Owen Jones, my Twitter time line was wretched with it. I’ve always unfollowed people who were in anyway prejudiced or bigoted, but the sheer weight in numbers of people involved, at differing levels, was in a sense overwhelming.
When David and I set up the Bifurcated Twitter account, our objective was to get traffic to the site, and, for want of a better word, connect with United fans. At the start we indiscriminately added any account with a United interest, oblivious in many ways to the world we were soon to be inhabiting. After a month or so, we unfollowed most of the accounts that hadn’t yet followed back (if they don’t follow you back, they’re not interested in you right? Right). Over the past year we built up more followers (as happens) and like I said in the above letter, after a brief check of the previous few tweets of a new follower, we would follow back, but I just navigated Twitter through a handful of people on private lists anyway.
After I had begun drafting this post, I happened upon one of my followers tweeting a picture from a site called @dailygirlz or something equally as grotesque, adding a ‘lol’. You can probably imagine what the picture was of (actually no, you probably can’t, no really). As I unfollowed, it suddenly dawned on me that you can see exactly who else follows that account by checking the header on the profile. That was the start. Anyone who we were following who were following such accounts too, were swiftly dispatched. I searched for Nuts, Zoo, FHM, Loaded, Playboy, you name it, and did the same. Within an hour or so our ‘following” had halved. The cultural sexual objectification of women, there, right there; in front of me. I didn’t say anything, like I said I would in the letter to Owen. I mean, how exactly do you go about giving a perceived misogynist a dressing down anyway? Especially as it’s likely that they’re completely oblivious to the oppression they’re perpetuating. There was another consideration – what would moralising achieve?
In the case of these ‘lads’ it would be ignorant and extremely unsympathetic to their individual experience to disapprove of them publicly and attempt in some way to shame them as a punishment for a crime they haven’t knowingly committed. Doing it in front of a Twitter audience would make it as much about me as them. They didn’t ask to be born into an inherently sexist society. The only way we can effectively shift the moral compass is through an exchange of thoughts, feelings and careful consideration. Trying to achieve it aggressively by calling someone out in 140 characters, ultimately only widens the divide.
Here’s where it starts. In a couple of weeks we’re going introduce a section on the site entitled Biopsy: Examining Sexism in Football. We hope to include testimonies from football fans, as well as various and wide-ranging posts on the subject. If you have an idea, please share. If you want to contribute, please get in touch. It’s a work in progress and needs support from as many people as possible. I am going to be more proactive on Twitter when I witness something. Hopefully armed with a deeper understanding myself, through what we’re doing here.
Okay, it’s not going to bring Hugh Hefner’s empire crashing to the ground by the year end, but I’m going to be trying real hard to do my bit. I can’t change history, but I can change Our-story.
Time may fly, and dreams may die. The shaking voice that tells him “Go”,
Still thinks he might, he knows he won’t.
I’m missing the war.
Ben Folds Five, Missing the War, 1997