Thank you to all the women in football who have shared their stories – the silence has been shattered

After I wrote a piece this week about the reality of being a female football journalist, so many women have come forward – now let’s strive for something better

Melissa Reddy
Friday 19 March 2021 10:58
<p>Cameroon's Gaelle Enganamouit celebrates at the Fifa Women's World Cup in 2015</p>

Cameroon's Gaelle Enganamouit celebrates at the Fifa Women's World Cup in 2015

The “horrific” stories from women in football continue to roll in, following a piece I wrote earlier this week with the headline, “Unfair and unsafe: The truth about covering football as a female journalist”. In all honesty, though, the more accurate words for these snapshots of our reality are: unsurprising, common, ceaseless.

It has been overwhelming to read each tale. To relate to the fear and unease. To remember so much more that you’ve scrubbed from your “had to stomach and shake off” database. To note the scale of how much we have left unsaid. To feel the depth of how much we have accepted. To stare at what we have normalised.

“Being pinned against the wall by a footballer while he put his tongue in my ear,” recalled Georgie Bingham.

The discomfort on Bianca Westwood’s face and which contoured her body language in a YouTube clip of her doing a “vox pop” among boozy supporters is so awkward and so familiar. One fan approached her from behind, bent down and hooked her legs with his arms to lift her up. She screamed and pushed him off. “Come on, luv, I’m just having a bit of fun,” is plastered over his face.

The Soccer Saturday correspondent is so disturbed by this guy, who she doesn’t know, feeling like he has the right to her personal space and to her body, she ends up using the cameraman as a human shield between her and the group. 

There are so many striking facets in that short reel, but what sticks out is how Westwood is the only one present that is unsettled by what has happened. The chanting carries on, the camera films on and it was ever thus.

“It’s why I always hated doing vox pops,” she said. “I wish I’d said more at the time, but I was just told, ‘that’s the job.’ I wanted to be treated the same as other reporters, but other reporters weren’t subjected to this.”

These are just two recollections of a tsunami shared by women in response to my personal account of what it is like to be a woman working in football. 

That piece only scratched the surface as a word count is restrictive to telling the full story. But the replies from women in the industry, stretching far and wide, powerfully fill in the gaps.

Read it all: like the balancing act when networking, because as much as you need contacts in this field, you are overly mindful that being social or friendly can often be translated into you’re flirty and DTF: down to fuck.

Or the occasions when a player or manager sources your phone number and is outraged that you do not want anything more than a professional relationship.

Being made to pitch for tasks that your male colleagues automatically get.

Signing up for the same talk a co-worker with a penis recently got paid to do, while you’ve not been compensated for it.

Having what you wear, the pictures you post on social media, and how to carry yourself constantly dictated to you.

Read it all and let it all sink in.

The silence has been shattered. The voices are strong, clear and determined: there will no longer be an acceptance of sexist harassment, in any form, as “part ofthe job”.

Thank you to all the women that have courageously shared their experiences or helped highlight that of another.

We have laughed at and laughed off too much for too long, trying to fit into a structure that was never designed with us in mind, damaging us in ways we’ve hidden, learned to deal with, or thrived despite.

Thank you to all the men that have termed our truths “horrific” and have vowed to be an ally: to call out this behaviour, to correct their friends, to be more conscious of what we are subjected to every day.

Let’s start again for something better.

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