‘Bend It Like Beckham’ dreams dashed after fresher’s football appeal meets sexist backlash

‘Who let you out of the kitchen?’

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First year Emma Blackshaw’s Facebook appeal to change the AU’s rule which prohibits girls from playing intramural football was met with a decidedly mixed response last week.

On Thursday morning, first year Maths student Emma sent out a call-to-arms on the University of Exeter Fresher’s 2014-2015 page after learning that she was unable to play Intramural football, simply because of her gender.

Rather than being bombarded with messages of sympathy and support, the issue seemed to be far more controversial than Emma had first thought.

Comments varied from (hopefully) tongue-in-cheek responses such as ‘Who let you out of the kitchen’ to far more worrying replies which seemed to reveal innate prejudices against women.

Implications that women are the weaker sex infuriated many of the students who entered the debate, with one man (who may have received more than one yellow card in his time) writing: “Because football is a high contact sport, women might feel uncomfortable playing against men and men might feel uncomfortable playing against women, especially when tackling”. 

One commenter even wrote: “Go play football with your friends. NO one is stopping you! But don’t rock up at a men’s league and try inject yourself into their game”

With her post being met with such a heavily divided response, Emma said she felt “utterly shocked.”

“I was also relieved, as I had a big response, from both males and females, supporting my statement that girls should be able to play football in an intramural league.”

“I was utterly shocked”

Yet despite the positive response from some, she still felt infuriated that “No matter how much people supporting my opinion tried to help these people understand my point, they still believed that men and women should be segregated, especially in football.”

However, others felt that the whole issue had been blown way out of proportion.

One of the more contentious male commenters said: “Jumping on the feminism band wagon when the issue actually wasn’t even sexist to begin with is rather silly.

“I am not sexist, but I do maintain that natural physical differences in males and females call for careful thought in matters such as this.

“I would ask feminists to consider that mixed gender competition under the guise of equality may even be counter productive to their goals by solidifying a male superiority hegemony as teams with players chosen on merit will undoubtedly have fewer female players in most ‘contact’ sports.”

Away from the dangerous outdoors and into the safety of the gym, girls.

For some students though, it is not that easy to separate this issue from sexism.

Lucy, a second year Psychologist and women’s rugby player, said: “The comments made by some people showed that many people don’t feel it is suitable for women to be playing with men based on this flawed image of women definitely being seen as weaker and unable to ‘cope’ with how males play.

“It’s generalising that all females are inherently weaker and that is sexist”.

When asked why there was no women’s intramural football team, the Athletics Union said: “It’s just not viable at the moment until we are able to get the numbers up.

“Mixed teams are not an option as it’s a contact sport, hence why rugby is touch rugby.”

EULFC- the only chance girls have to get on the field.

So whether this is a feminist issue, or simply a logistical one, it seems there will be no intramural women’s football any time soon.

Whilst the University of Exeter Ladies Football Club remains open to girls, non-competitive sport is a door which remains firmly shut for the time being.