Misogyny among male fans rife but progressive masculinities rising

Overtly misogynistic

The most dominant group, however, at 68 per cent of respondents, was overtly misogynistic.

Previously, research has suggested that younger men would express more positive attitudes than older men. However, based on our open-ended questions, our findings show no such generational differences.

Instead, men from across this group thought women have no place in sport. “They are useless at it,” said one Leeds United fan (age 46-55). They variously described women’s football as “not as dynamic, quick, skilful”, “slower and weaker” and “less competitive” than men’s football.

Pegging women as neither as strong or as powerful as men, they expressed beliefs grounded in what gender studies specialists call essentialist reasoning: they maintained assumptions of men’s physical superiority.

They were extremely hostile towards the increasing media coverage women’s sport was getting, repeatedly labelling it as “positive discrimination” or “PC nonsense”.

These reactionary views align with what feminist author and journalist Susan Faludi has described as the anti-feminist backlash. They perceive women’s sport as a threat to what they see as a traditionally male preserve.

One West Ham fan (age 26–35) put it brashly: “It now means there is too much women’s sport on the TV; no one really cares [about it]. Women’s football in the media all the time, women’s golf on Sky and the men’s Euro tour on the red button. NETBALL ON SKY!!! The one thing that does irk me is Women’s Hour on Sky Sports News. No woman watches Sky Sports News! NO WOMAN! I honestly wish they’d just piss off out the spotlight. But it’s all PC bollocks nowadays.”

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Covert misogyny

This group – the smallest of the three, at 8 per cent of respondents – saw men skilfully manoeuvre between progressive and hostile attitudes.

These men could discuss women’s involvement in sport in positive ways, appearing to be behind gender equality agendas. However, they still thought women’s sport inferior.

Men in this group drew on notions of essentialism and biological differences between men and women to explain what they saw as natural inequalities between men’s and women’s sports. But, like this Carlisle United fan (age 26-35), they also wanted the women to be successful:

“I have no interest in watching what I believe to be a lower standard of sport. But then I don’t watch Notts County v Dagenham & Redbridge [lower league men’s teams] if it’s on, either. I wish the girls well. I hope they win every time they play, as I do anyone representing England, but I won’t be watching.”

Organisations continue to face pressure to address gender inequalities. Our model of masculinities may be helpful as a tool for studying other settings – the workplace, education, the creative industries – in a bid to tackle broader societal misogyny.


This article was written by Stacey Pope, Associate Professor in the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences, Durham University. This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article here.