Single or not, I’ve never been one to get caught up in the romanticism of Valentine’s Day. I’ve always believed it’s a tacky commercial ploy, so when it rolled around it was just like any other Sunday for me - work and watching the football.
For Dutch second division side RKC Waalwijk, their clash against FC Emmen on the eve of the international day of love represented a chance to show their supporters just what this ancient celebration meant to them.
With the team warmups completed and the fans seated comfortably across the Mandemakers Stadion, all that was left was to welcome the two sides to the field for kick-off, only they weren’t accompanied by the usual team mascots of adoring little girls and boys.
No, an RKC club sponsor deemed it far more befitting of the occasion to send the teams out accompanied by, wait for it, scantily clad women wearing lingerie.
Dear reader this is not a joke and no, this is not the 1950s - this actually happened.
My immediate reaction when I saw the news was to choke on my cereal and stomp around my apartment aggressively muttering things I can’t repeat in this forum but it also prompted me to ask how and why is this still going on in this day and age?
Haven’t we done enough on this issue? Haven’t we condemned the objectification of women so much so that our ears are beginning to bleed?
The decision to trot these women out alongside the players was not only completely out of context but it was deplorable, draconian and outright laughable.
Whether they liked it or not, in taking this stance, RKC sent the message to its fans, community, state, nation and the world that the only place for women at their football club was dressed in a bra and underwear.
Sharing my fury was former Matilda and W-League commentator, Sally Shipard, who was scathing in her assessment.
“Whose idea was this? How was it conceptualised? This is sexual objectification of women and misogyny at its finest. I’d much rather children holding the hands of their footballing idols any day.”
The questions Shipard posed are important and formed much of fellow former Matilda, Sarah Walsh’s response to the issue.
“This again just highlights the need for more diversity at board, management and operational level in both sport and business. I can’t see how this would have been approved with a woman in the room when the decision was made. We also need to ensure we have more male champions in crucial positions too.”
It is simply not enough to have the support of women in this issue. Men play a very important role in shaping the perceptions of the female gender.
Former Australian International and Professional Footballers Australia Player Relations Manager Simon Colossimo has been frequently credited for his role in assisting the Matildas during the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations last year.
He too, condemned the club’s actions.
“It’s very disappointing, especially at a time, not only in football but in the world, where the contributions women make are highly respected and valued.”
“This goes against everything that we as a football community, least of all society, should stand for.”
However, in exploring the RKC’s brazen publicity stunt, it has inadvertently proven to me that this a far more complex issue than simply blaming those who agreed to employ the models.
I realised that in slamming the decision of the club, could I also be judging the right of the models to participate in a role in which they feel decidedly comfortable?
These women are smiling, appear to be under no real stress and aren’t being held against their will, so is it simply a matter of opinion when certain fractions of society express outrage over things like this?
Speaking FIFA Executive Committee member, Moya Dodd, her position on the matter was clear.
‘I would like to challenge football marketers everywhere to never, EVER use women in purely decorative roles. Ask: is this role only eye candy? Is this a role I’d want my daughter to fill?’
The trouble with this scenario though, is that there are women prepared to fill these roles, which has contributed to a host of mixed messages being spewed out into the public domain like scraps, only to be torn apart by the patiently waiting savages.
‘Don’t treat me like a sex object but you can go ahead and use me like one if I can profit from it’ can often times be the view.
Which is the lesser of the two evils and if you can’t have one, do you have the other?
The point of this argument is to illustrate that perhaps we have been too quick to judge fellow women for their choices just because it’s not the way we would like to live our lives or be viewed.
Just because we don’t agree with it though, does it mean that it’s wrong?