Settling in for bed last night, I did the usual scroll of my Twitter feed to see if I’d missed anything noteworthy from the day.
What I came across troubled and saddened me all at the once; ‘Why I don’t want my daughter to be a footy fan’ by best-selling author Kasey Edwards.
In the article, Edwards poses the question ‘why would I want my daughter to join or support something that, at best, will consider her inferior and ancillary?'
I would be lying if I said that I haven’t felt both of those things during my career at some point but then it would also be totally foolish of me to suggest that I never overcame it or that it has ever threatened to stop me from doing what I love.
So what are we really dealing with here?
A mother denying her daughter an opportunity to do what she has taken a liking to purely because she’s going to be discriminated against, challenged and made to feel like she isn’t worthy?
If going through high school, having different coloured skin or observing a particular religion doesn’t already do that, then taking an interest in a sport isn’t going to change what we’re already dealing with as human beings on a daily basis is it?
Forget what heartbreak, body issues, bad skin, social media, airbrushing and the Victoria’s Secret annual fashion show can do to a person’s self-esteem, no the real devil here for young girls everywhere is sport.
The fact is, you will never be able to shelter your child from pain, hardship or judgement - it’s the periods of adversity after all, that encourage personal growth, teach us empathy, compassion and above all, resilience and strength.
You should also never teach them that when the going gets tough, then just quit.
I took serious issue with the stance that Edwards presented for several reasons:
- she is suggesting an entire sporting code is responsible for sexism
- by opposing her daughter’s decision to take an interest in AFL, it’s not the sport that loses out, it’s her daughter and,
- she perpetuates the very thing that women have been fighting to achieve for decades and that’s the freedom to choose who and what they want to be in spite of what ‘men’ say.
Would we be voting today, allowed to hold down a job or heaven forbid, leave the kitchen if it weren’t for women like Emmeline Pankhurst and the British suffragette movement?
More importantly, by having this defeatist view, we are stooping to the level of bitter keyboard warriors everywhere who still believe that the only sport women should be participating in is Lingerie Football.
Suggesting that women withdraw their contributions to the game altogether is not only ludicrous but how does it make us any better than the men who are busy trying to take it away from us?
The solution to pushing through these perceptions and archaic views held by a handful of drongos is not to shy away from them but to continue to defy the odds, rebel and swim against the current.
Furthermore, inferring that a few bad apples are a representation of the entire orchard sets up a dangerous and hostile ideology that our daughters will adopt and carry into their lives long term.
Not all men are the enemy, just like not all women who choose to go back to work after having children are ‘bad mothers’.
I grew up with two professional footballers, a sister, a strong father and an even stronger mother.
Wherever my brother Ivan went I followed and that usually meant to a football pitch to watch him train and play at the Australian Institute of Sport with my father who drove us.
It was there and in the backyard knocking a ball about with Ivan that I developed this unshakable love for a game that has enriched my life beyond measure or any stretch of the imagination.
Not once though did my father say ‘don’t you be kicking that ball around with the boys’ or ‘you can’t be a sports journalist, you’re a woman.’
Quite the contrary in fact.
What he did say was ‘you were born to do this, I am so proud of you’
I wouldn’t be where I am today without football or the right kind of men in my life and that includes both at home and on the job.
Every sport has the ability to teach not just children but adults about the value of teamwork, being humble in victory and gracious in defeat - skills applicable to everyday life.
When my sister told me she was enrolling my niece Zara into football last year my response was ‘that’s bloody brilliant!’
At about the same time, the Matildas were embarking on their strike of the USA tour which subsequently saw them emerge with an historic pay standard entitlement.
Not once did the Collective Bargaining Agreement dispute dictate my attitude towards the game, or deter my sister from enrolling Zara.
And not once, did the Matildas sit back and say ‘hey, we’re never going to be treated the same way as the dudes so let’s not bother with the fight.’
They fought and they won and there’s something to be said about that because without the grit, the guts and the Pankhursts of the world we’d all still be chained to a kitchen somewhere dreaming of a better day.