‘Perhaps women could choose some other sports, where they can look more feminine?’ – OMG MISOGYNIST!!!

Posted: February 22, 2014 in Uncategorized

It’s a hard life being an internet blogger sometimes. Not because I don’t enjoy the work, I love writing this blog, I love finding stories that I can explore and analyse and look at in detail, I love how it constantly challenges me to open my mind and explore new ideas and new ways of thinking. What I struggle with is choosing which stories to write about. As with anything, there are lulls in life where I don’t see anything to write about, or if there is something that does crop up, it would mean me writing an entry that is too similar to one I’ve done in the past. Seen as this blog is only 6 months old I don’t really want to have too many similar sounding blogs already. I revisit the same subject, rape and domestic violence seem to be hot topics at the moment, but they are always from a different perspective so it’s not the same.

I also have to decide if an article is going to have as much impact when it finally gets published. Generally it takes 2 or 3 hours to write an average length article (they’re about 4/5 pages), recent articles have been stretching on to 7 pages and taking a lot longer to write. If something seems to be doing the rounds and I really want to write about it I have to put some serious manpower into getting it finished. If I wait too long in some cases then I kinda feel like I’m too late to the party, like everyone’s left just as I’m arriving. Case in point, the James Taranto article and the Oppressed Majority video. I had to write those blogs in a very short amount of time, lest the outrage moved on to something else and nobody cared about what I wrote.

I’m currently doing another feminist refutation blog, which is taking me ages because there’s so much research to do. I know all the stuff I want to say, it’s just finding the evidence to back it up is tricky. I have a lot of stuff on my computer and on my internet favourites, it’s just sifting through it all is time consuming, Anyway, the point is, I’m currently trying to decide which of the 3 or 4 topics on my agenda at the moment are worth persevering with, and which ones I can dump without any real fuss. I figured this one was worth writing about, so I went with it.

I’ve mentioned Mike Buchanan in these articles before, he’s the leader of a political party called Justice for Men and Boys (and the women who love them. He has a WordPress blog and regularly updates it with examples of feminist whinging and hypocrisy. He posted this one today, which really struck with me:

http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/laura-bates-whines-about-oh-something-to-do-with-women-and-sports-wah-wah-wah/

It links to a lovely bit of feminist victimhood in the Daily Mail. Now, I’m not a massive fan of the Daily Mail, their stories are often baiting and their headlines can be misleading but this time it links to an article in the Telegraph, which is a more reputable paper.

The point of the article is, once again, the feminist shaming of anything feminine. Womens sports has been a sore topic for a while now in this country. We had the Olympics a couple of years ago, we’ve got the Commonwealth games later this year, and the hope was that public perception towards female participation in sports would change. It doesn’t seem to have changed massively, though there has been some progress. Of course, progress of any kind is not enough and the only way for the world to be completely equal is for there to be a 50/50 split in sporting numbers. If 10,000 men play football, then we need 10,000 women to play football as well (I’ve taken those numbers out of thin air, please don’t tell me they’re unrealistic).

The whole argument boils down to one woman, Helen Grant, stating women should only compete in ‘feminine’ sports, such as cheerleading, roller skating, ballet and gymnastics, where they can look ‘radiant’ and ‘gorgeous’. Not surprisingly, this has caused some consternation among equality groups who say we shouldn’t be focusing on the looks of female athletes, but rather their ability.

It’s a statement I agree with, sports people should be based on their ability in their chosen sport, they should choose a sport because they love doing, not because it allows them to look pretty.

So, if I agree with the article, why on earth am I writing this entry?

Simple, because, unsurprisingly, that’s not what she said at all. In my article about Philip Bump and James Taranto I looked at how people twist words to fit their own agenda. Well, it’s happening again here, and this time Laura Bates, of Everyday Sexism fame, are wading in to the argument and, no surprise here, making themselves look daft.

So, I don’t like the Daily Mail, but here’s the article anyway:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2564094/Women-try-CHEERLEADING-look-gorgeous-says-Helen-Grant.html#ixzz2txbf9qyv

It links to an article in The Telegraph that, supposedly, contains the original interview where Helen Grant stated women should do ‘feminine’ sports so they can look attractive.

The link from the Daily Mail takes you to this article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10652074/Get-more-women-into-sport-through-cheerleading-its-feminine-says-sports-minister-Helen-Grant.html

Which also contains a link that takes you to this article:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10636527/Sochi-2014-Give-British-women-the-sport-they-want-even-if-its-more-Zumba.html?placement=CB1

So there we have it, is it any wonder her words are getting misquoted and misrepresented when I had to search through three different articles, spread across two newspapers, to try and find her original quotes? It would appear that, typically, her words have been misquoted. I actually don’t know which article to tackle, so I’ll focus on the last one, as that seems to be where the original comments were reported, but will look at some of the criticisms from the other 2 articles, as they are a good example of how a misquote can develop ideas of its own that are way off the mark.

Let’s compare headlines. The original headline was this:

Helen Grant MP: Give women the sport they want – even if it’s more Zumba.

Perfectly reasonable I think, it’s advocating that we listen to what sports women want to do and suggesting that, even if they aren’t necessarily competitive team sports, we should look at providing them as options.

Now let’s look at the Daily Mail headline:

Women should try CHEERLEADING so they can still look ‘gorgeous’, says the sports and equalities minister (who was female judo champ!)

Notice how it’s taken a slightly different slant? This one, rather than highlighting the fact that Helen Grant thinks we should listen to what women want, suggests that Grant is telling women what they should be doing, and applying the little extra insult of only doing it so they can still look gorgeous.

The second Telegraph headline is no better:

‘Get more women into sport through cheerleading – it’s feminine’, says sports minister Helen Grant

Nor is the tagline to that heading:

Tory MP Helen Grant has come under fire for suggesting British women should be encouraged to take up ‘feminine’ sports like cheerleading and ballet

Again, is it any wonder that people get the wrong idea and fly off the handle when a headline can be changed so much from the original piece? Simply by making subtle changes to the language and perhaps piecing together two bits of an interview to make it sound like one coherent though these newspapers have managed to completely alter the tone of the original comments and create a nice piece of artificial outrage.

Explain to me how you can go from ‘let’s listen to what women want’ to ‘minister tells women to do cheerleading’ without a serious dose of artistic license? What happened to journalistic integrity? Or does that simply boil down to ‘let’s see how much outrage we can cause, even if we have to twist the truth.’

I’m going to be looking at the third article I posted:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-health/10636527/Sochi-2014-Give-British-women-the-sport-they-want-even-if-its-more-Zumba.html?placement=CB1

Simply because it seems to be the article that contains the original interview and where I could find most of the quotes unedited.

So, getting right to the heart of it, there are still over a million less women playing sports than men, which is highlighted quite succinctly:

‘there is still a gender gap of about 1.8 million between the number of men and women doing sport on a regular basis. “It has actually reduced. It was about 2.2 million a while ago so it is going down,” says Helen Grant, Conservative MP for Maidstone and The Weald and minister of sports, equalities and tourism. “But that’s still a pretty big difference,” she admits.’

I must admit, I love the fact that Grant admits it’s a ‘difference’ and not a ‘problem’. I’m serious, I’m not being sarcastic. There was an article I did a few months ago about how many female and male employees prefer to work for male bosses and one of the ‘experts’ interviewed said it was ‘worrying’ that such a trend existed. Grant seems to have her head screwed on her shoulders enough to know that there being a gap between male and female participants in sports does automatically mean it’s a ‘problem’ that needs to be fixed. Bravo Grant, let’s see if that level-headedness continues throughout.

The next point centers on television coverage, or more specifically the lack thereof:

‘It isn’t as though we are being inundated with coverage of women’s sports either. Recently, England won the women’s Ashes in cricket but hardly anyone saw their victory. “There wasn’t much on TV was there?” says Ms Grant. “Unfortunately there hasn’t been the amount of media coverage we need if we’re going to close this gender gap.”’

This is one of those catch 22 situations, it doesn’t matter what you do there isn’t a definite outcome that will please everyone. Yes, there is definitely a lack of female sports on TV, and it would appear that that seems harsh, especially considering the achievement of some womens sports (the ashes example above, or the womens England rugby team winning 8 [ish] 6 Nations on the bounce), and especially considering I’ve had the misfortune of sitting through some utterly horrendous matches of mens rugby. However, the reason we get the sports we do is because they draw the money and TV audiences. The womens 6 Nations now gets broadcast on BBC, same as the mens, but only through the interactive red button service. Why? Because the mens competition will see sold out stadiums and large TV numbers. The womens game can’t sell out Twickenham on its own because it’s not popular enough. Do you put it on TV anyway, despite the fact the games will be played in half empty stadiums, and hope that the exposure helps it catch on? Catch 22, the sport won’t develop without money, without exposure it won’t get increased revenue, but who’s going to give it that exposure? Sky are doing their bit as well by showing womens internationals, but Sky is a subscription service. I have the basic Sky package, but I don’t have sports. Everyone has to pay for the BBC so the coverage will be greater, but at what cost to the BBC’s viewing figures? Does it take the risk and put a womens football or rugby game on and run the risk of losing viewers to a rival TV channel? If it was easy, we would have had a solution by now.

Let me get this clear, I do like watching womens rugby, but it’s nowhere near as good as the mens game. Yes it’s fast, yes it’s combative and competitive, yes it can be skilful, but overall it’s not on the same scale as the mens game in terms of consistency. That might sound overly harsh, but let’s not forget the mens game has been developing for nearly 200 years. Womens rugby, as a concept, has been around for nearly as long but has only really grown in prominence in the last 20/30 years. You can’t expect parity in the sports simply because it’s 2014 when one has been around for nearly 10 times as long. It’s difficult, and it’ll take time to really grow with a new audience, but it’s possible, we just need to make sure we aren’t forced to watch female sports due to some government initiative. That’s a cast iron way to drive people away.

 Anyway, back on topic. The next point is slightly worrying and comes from the writer of the article, rather than Grant:

‘You only have to walk into a local pub and suggest swapping the Premier League match to a game of women’s football to find out what Britain really thinks of women’s sports.’

In order for womens sports to be taken seriously we need to change the cultural and societal attitude towards them, not a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the sly implication that simply preferring mens football to womens football is inherently sexist, rather than down to simple personal choice. If you walked in to any house in the UK and suggested changing channels I think you’d get the same response. If you walked in to an 80 year old’s house and suggested turning Eastenders off and putting on World Matchplay Darts I think you’d get some opposition as well. To imply a dislike of female-centered sports is down to discrimination and then providing an over-simplified example is victimhood, pure and simple.

However, Helen Grant does agree:

‘“I think we ultimately need a behavioural change,” agrees Ms Grant. “I think we need to get to the point where women’s sport is looked on and regarded as equal to the men’s game. When we get to that point that’s when we get the balanced coverage.’

There’s that buzzword again; equality. Is mens Rugby Union compared equally with mens Rugby League? No, there are differing opinions regarding all sports. The fact that I prefer Rugby Union to Rugby League doesn’t seem to be a major problem, the fact I prefer mens Rugby Union to womens Rugby Union seems to be of a slightly more sinister reason.

That train of thought continues in the next couple of paragraphs:

‘“To get to that point, we need certainly the media to do more, we need more finance, more businesses getting involved through sponsorship and we needs sports governing bodies and others and schools to be very innovative with ways to get our girls involved.”

Ms Grant believes the real way to change sexist mindsets, and get more women into sport, is obvious. It isn’t about trying to force women to take up football, play netball in schools or join their local swimming club; it’s about asking grown women what they want.’

I really disagree with the idea that it’s sexist to prefer one sport over another simply because of the genders involved. As I’ve mentioned, getting the media to do more is all well and good, but there’s a limit that can be reached before it simply becomes over-saturated and people turn off in droves in protest at being forced to watch something they don’t enjoy.

I do, however, agree with the final sentence – it is absolutely about asking women what they want. What’s the point in forcing us to watch womens rugby, or womens football, if the amount of participants in the sport aren’t going to allow it to develop in any real way. See what sports women want to do, see which ones have higher numbers of participants and perhaps focus on those, see how they develop.

Just to go back to Rugby Union. There are teams in the north of England; Sale and Newcastle being two in the premiership, who are struggling not only to recruit players, but also to get fans. Rugby Union is just not as popular up north as it is in the midlands and down south. It’s just one of those things, it’s always been that way and always will be. To start forcing people in the north to watch a sport they don’t like is not going to suddenly get them to change their minds, I’m pretty sure it’ll do the exact opposite.

I’ve just realised this article has gone way off track and is now talking more about the merits of showing womens sports and the difficulties of getting it to develop. I shall now try and get back on track by highlighting the paragraph that seems to have caused most consternation:

‘“We really need to take a step back and actually ask women what they want and give it to them,” she says. “That can be whether it’s a Zumba class or a game of Rounders after they’ve dropped the kids off. That’s the approach we need to take – what works for them.

“It’s having a good spread on offer. For example some girls may well not like doing very traditional hockey, tennis or athletics, others might, so for those who don’t want to, how about considering maybe gym, ballet, cheerleading? It’s not just schools, it’s clubs, it’s being innovative. Actually looking at our women and our girls and asking, what do they want?”’

Ah, there it is, there’s the paragraph that’s been getting the feminist’s knickers in a rather large twist. So, let’s look at the headlines from the other two articles on this subject:

‘Women should try CHEERLEADING so they can still look ‘gorgeous’, says the sports and equalities minister (who was female judo champ!)’

‘Get more women into sport through cheerleading – it’s feminine’, says sports minister Helen Grant’

Yeah, I notice it too. Can you tell me at what point, in that original introduction of ‘gym, ballet, cheerleading’ she suggests that a) she suggests cheerleading is feminine, and b) she says women should do cheerleading so they can still look ‘gorgeous’? That’s right, because she doesn’t. In fact, there’s no mention of the words ‘gorgeous’ or ‘feminine’ in that quote, none at all.

So where does the word ‘feminine’ come in? Well, here:

‘“You don’t have to feel unfeminine,” stresses Ms Grant. “There are some wonderful sports which you can do and perform to a very high level and I think those participating look absolutely radiant and very feminine such as ballet, gymnastics, cheerleading and even roller-skating.”’

Again, can anyone point me to the part where she says that the way to get women into sport is through cheerleading simply because it allows women to stay feminine? Nope, because it’s not as simple as that. What she’s saying is really, really clear, and I will repeat it here:

‘“There are some wonderful sports which you can do and perform to a very high level and I think those participating look absolutely radiant and very feminine.’

He italicised bits are the important bits – she says that, yes, you can look radiant and feminine while doing those particular sports (although, unless it’s in direct competition with other teams, some people have queried the use of cheerleading as a ‘sport’, sports generally involve some kind of competition and winner), but that is not the sole reason for doing them. She also, quite clearly, states that those sports she recommends can be performed to a very high level! So, not only can you do some very competitive sports at a high level, you can look feminine while doing it if that’s what you choose to do!!

Why am I the only one who seems to be seeing this? Interestingly enough, the idea that sports are ‘unfeminine’ and that sweating is not ‘lady-like’ comes from another article that is linked to through this one:

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/education/education-news/unfeminine-school-sports-leave-girls-on-the-sidelines-7704402.html

This article states that nearly half of school-age girls find ‘traditional’ sports too competitive and see sweating as ‘unfeminine’. By losing our shit at Grant for suggesting we perhaps find more ‘feminine’ sports or activities for women to do, we subtly imply that the girls who don’t want to sweat are wrong, that their dislike of being shouted at in competitive sports somehow makes them weak, makes them a disappointment to their sex.

I’ll let you into a secret – I fucking hate sweating. I’m one of those people that sweats a lot when I work out. It goes in my eyes, it goes in my mouth, I can’t see, I have to spit it out my mouth, when I’m done with a workout I have a sweaty arse, sweaty balls, my T-shirt is dripping, my socks are dripping. Yes, when I work out I’m a sweaty man, and I hate it, but I push through it because I know it’s the only way to get myself fitter. I have absolutely no problem with people not wanting to sweat, with girls thinking it’s ‘unfeminine’ because I know how absolutely disgusting I feel at the end of a session. So, when someone actively tries to discuss finding other options, other sports or activities where you can look feminine, why do we actively take them down a peg and accuse them of sexism?

Of course, there is the argument that even Zumba, roller skating and cheerleading gets you sweaty, but that’s not the point, the point is the Independent article linked above actually shows us that girls want more choice in activities, yet when Helen Grant suggests we should ask women what they want to do, and has the temerity to offer some choices, we shoot her down and misrepresent what she says. She can’t win.

Putting all that aside, I want to focus on Laura Bates. Founder of the Everyday Sexism project, surely Laura Bates has a vested interest in listening to what Grant has to say, especially as it seems to finally be listening to what women want, offering them to chance to say we want this sport to be offered to us. But no, instead of reading Grant’s actual words, it would appear Bates just hears what everyone else hears – women must do cheerleading to stay sexy. This is why I take Laura Bates with a grain of sand. If I, an ardent anti-feminist, have a better grasp of this particular situation than an actual feminist, what does it say about Bates’ agenda?

This is what Laura Bates has to say in response to Helen Grant’s comments:

‘Laura Bates, founder of the Everyday Sexism project, insisted Miss Grant was wrong to focus on the looks of sportswomen and suggest the purpose of sport is to be ‘girlie and feminine’.

“We shouldn’t say women should only do sports while they look radiant and beautiful. It’s actually discouraging for a minister to say this. It suggests the problem is coming from the young women themselves, when I think a big problem is societal responses.’’

Hands up who’s surprised? No, didn’t think so. Here’s a quote from Bates that shows how much she actually wants to play the victim:

‘We shouldn’t say women should only do sports while they look radiant and beautiful’

In all the quotes I’ve provided throughout this entire article, can you give me one example of when Grant says women can only do sports while they look radiant and beautiful? I’m looking round, I’m waiting and I’m getting nothing. That’s because she doesn’t actually say that. The key word that Bates uses is ‘only’. At no point does Grant say that the ‘only’ way for women to do sports is while looking radiant and beautiful, she suggests that for those women who don’t want to sweat there are other options where, if they choose, they can look radiant and beautiful. All matters of whether you still look radiant and beautiful at the end of a Zumba session aside, the point is that, for someone who wants to banish ‘everyday sexism’ Bates has taken the easy road to victimhood. Instead of reading the original comments and thinking ‘actually, maybe she has a point’, she’s automatically believed the misquotes, gone straight to victimhood central and made herself look silly.

Then she comes out with this gem:

‘It suggests the problem is coming from the young women themselves, when I think a big problem is societal responses.’’’

There you have it, ladies, nothing to do with personal choices, nothing to do with a lack of options for those women who don’t want to do hockey or tennis or athletics, nope, it’s everything to do with society. Well, how about that for a great big dollop of victimhood.

Apparently, women are not choosing to do tradition sporting activities like hockey, athletics or tennis. I wonder why, is it because lots of school girls find competitive sports to be undesirable, is it because school girls don’t want to sweat too much, is it because they simply don’t like those sports? Nope, it’s because we live in a sexist society.

So, Laura Bates, rather than listening to the comments of a woman who makes a good point, who also happens to have a rather illustrious sporting past, rather than looking at the statistics that suggest girls themselves are looking unfavourably at the available sports you go straight to victimhood central and claim it’s all because of big, bad society. Is it any wonder people can’t take your project seriously.

I’ve just spent 8 damn pages trying to defend Helen Grant, defend her from the people she’s actually trying to help. Yet, this isn’t a victory for me. Helen Grant is the short-sighted imbecile who came up with this proposal while she was Justice Minister:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-21900779

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/plight-of-women-in-jail-tackled-with-new-policy-on-sentencing-8544846.html

So really, what on Earth am I doing wasting my time on this article?! Well, as I said with James Taranto, it doesn’t matter what they’ve said in the past, it doesn’t matter how moronic they’ve been, or how damaging past comments may have been, they’ve said something positive that has been misquoted, distorted and presented as something it isn’t, that’s the important thing to take away from this article.

A male anti-feminist listens to women more than a feminist, is that possible?

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