Women, keep your kit on off the pitch

By Jemimah Steinfeld Source:Global Times Published: 2012-6-28 19:15:03

Women, keep your kit on off the pitch

For the latest reminder about how chauvinist football can be, look no further than China Buzz. This week the online news portal featured images of a Chinese model posing naked to support the Netherlands during Euro 2012. With a naughty twinkle in her eye, the girl adopts a series of suggestive positions, using only a football and Dutch national team jersey to cover her really private parts. Basically, it's one nipple short of being soft porn.

Some might think it obscure to show your support by taking off your clothes, but sadly any Brit will attest that it fits right into footy culture.

After all, during the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany the British Isles embraced the term "WAG." The acronym did more than just describe the wives and girlfriends of footballers. It referred to an entire breed of perma-tanned, scantily clad Barbie dolls, whose main claim to fame was bagging a football player.

They were simply decoration, appendages to the main story, not the main story itself. And the media lapped WAGs up, directing just as much attention to them off the pitch as they did the men on the pitch. The message that resonates to this day was that a fairy tale ending could be achieved through stripping off, shutting up and marrying a sports star.

England striker Peter Crouch, whose wife is lingerie model Abbey Clancy, was once asked what he would have been if he had not become a football player. He answered, "A virgin."

It was self-deprecating and coy. It was also confirmation that girls are considered one of the rewards of being a top sportsman. The Chinese model who stripped similarly offered her body as a trophy for the Dutch team.  

It begs the question: Why, in the 21st century, when women's options are supposedly limitless and varied, would anyone objectify themselves in such a way? The sobering answer, alas, is that options are far from limitless.

An entire culture exists beyond the football field that still sees women as objects. The media encourages this. Models, WAGs and reality TV stars stare out at us from Chinese and Western newsstands. Their success doesn't depend on intelligence, talent or hard work.

Where are the photos of inspiring female politicians, scientists and the likes? If the icons and images at the heart of a culture reflect its values, it's no wonder some might choose to strip.

The world of football is the epitome of this brand of chauvinism. The only glamor really comes from being a WAG, since female football players are not given the same respect as males. But football is definitely not the only industry that would stand trial for these practices.

Once again, the conclusion drawn is that the pictures of the Chinese model are unsurprising. The girl would have been socialized to believe that the route to self-betterment is through her appearance and promotion of promiscuity.

However, understanding something does not make it forgivable. People need to think more carefully about what images of themselves they publicly promote.

The Netherlands were quickly knocked out of Euro 2012. They weren't the only losers. So long as women continue to strip to catch the attention of football players, we all are.

Posted in: Viewpoint, Twocents-Opinion

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