If you blinked, you might have missed it. Yesterday the FA welcomed the England Women’s Football Team on their return from the World Cup with the following tweet (which was rapidly deleted).
It read “Our #Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes.”
The author of the tweet, James Callow, Content Editor at the Football Association rejected any allegation of sexism. He said, on his own Twitter account, “the piece is intended to sum up a nice moment when players are reunited with their families. Human interest is a big part of any sports reporting. I’d have done the same for England men, absolutely.”
This did nothing, however, to avert the media storm which led to the tweet being featured on the front page of the Metro and covered on other media outlets such as Sky. Allegations of sexism and patronisation of the women by the FA flew.
My take is that the tweet was badly worded but unfortunately hinted at what mothers suspect some men really think of professional women – that their jobs, their vocations, their sporting activities are something done to pass the time when not up to their ears in dirty nappies and pureed fruit.
Are women still defined primarily by whether or not they are a mother?
I have never seen news coverage which suggested that the England Squad were “going back to being fathers” after their last (dismal) World Cup attempt. Nor have I seen male soldiers returning to greet their families to speculation about the amount of DIY waiting for them to get their teeth into.
I worked for over 20 years before having my kids, reaching director level in the last law firm in which I was employed. Now, I’m a full-time mum and there are some who really don’t know how to pigeon-hole me. Am I just a drain on the tax-payer (even though I contributed since the age of 17)? Is my value to society reduced because I am not inputting data in an office somewhere?
I’m sure many of my fellow Stay-At-Home-Mums are familiar with the echoing silence that occurs in conversation when they are asked what they do and reply “oh, I’m at home full time with the kids”.
We can’t win either way, can we? It sometimes seems as if we’re neither valued as mothers or employees (or entrepreneurs!).
Just because I currently am lucky enough to be able to raise my kids full time does not mean that I have become a one-dimensional, cardboard cut-out unable to contribute in other areas.
Has anyone ever asked JK Rowling when she is going to stop writing and go back to being a mother?
Mothers, whether working or not, are all raising the next generation which is endless, tiring but ultimately life-affirming and beyond value.
This does NOT mean that we are unable to stand shoulder to shoulder to our male peers in every sphere – whether professional or sport.
And this is not a feminist rant. I am not tarring all men with the same brush. Today men are often as likely to be at home raising kids as their partners – and risk the same social alienation and identity issues as women.
But implicit in that misguided tweet is the fact that even in 2015 women are somehow expected to choose what they want to be famous for.
The legacy of the Lionesses in this World Cup has been to bring women’s football home to many of us who previously haven’t taken that much notice of it, all without flash cars, ridiculous pay packets and falling out of nightclubs.
The FA might want to take a look at its definition of “sportsmanship” – and avoid any future own goals.