There is still an awful lot to decry concerning the state and status of women across the globe. One half of the human population still seems to take a sadistic pleasure in degrading the other half.  Whichever way we look, east or west, north or south, the material and social outcomes for women is considerably below that of their male counterparts. Women are on the receiving end when it comes to equal pay, equality in education and employment, and perhaps most telling, their general status in society. In the east women are still battling to rid themselves of the chains of feudal bondage. Women may be formally free but the dead weight of centuries, nay millennia of slavery and feudal oppression still asserts itself. Violence against women is endemic, and the law, such as it is, seems powerless to protect. The situation in the west seems at first glance to be an improving one, but dig a little deeper and violence against women is still at epidemic proportions. And again the law seems unable or unwilling to intervene. Just look at the appallingly low rate of successful prosecutions for rape to get a sense of how entrenched western patriarchal attitudes still are. And in the west the objectification and commodification of women shows no sign of abating.  I think it was Marx that once declared that a civilisation can best be judged by how it treats its women. By nearly all criteria, civilisation, east and west, is failing miserably.

This otherwise depressingly familiar situation of oppressive patriarchy is sometimes made a little brighter by the growing phenomena of women’s sport, or to phrase it a little more accurately, women playing sport, because obviously sport has no gender. And it is women’s football, which we are told is the fastest growing sport in the world, which gives us the greatest cause for joy. If football, as the advertising gurus like to tell us, is really the ‘beautiful game’, then it can only really live up to that hype if the game is genuinely inclusive. The surge of women playing football in Europe, Africa, the Americas and Asia gives some credence to the claim of football being truly a world game. And the more inclusive football becomes the more it can be considered a beautiful game. Of course, with or without women’s participation, football must still rid itself of its endemic corruption, its sickening racism, its homophobia and its many other violent tribal hatreds. Will the growing participation of women help erode these negatives? Possibly.

Does women’s football have its global superstars yet? Probably not. Does it need them? Do we need a female Ronaldo or a female Messi for the female game to really take off? That is debatable. Part of the joy of watching the current Women’s World Cup is the lack of pretention shown by the players. Yes, some of them are involved at a professional or semi-professional club level but as yet these highly skilled and committed players do not put on the airs and graces associated with their male counterparts.   There is a refreshing ordinariness about this competition free for the moment of hyperbole and gratuitous national chauvinism. Long may it last. Women’s tennis has had its superstars but I’m not convinced they added much to the global popularity of the game at the grassroots level. Tennis, male and female, is still largely regarded as a white middle-class pursuit, with the spectacular exception of the William sisters, and global participation levels of women playing tennis are still pitifully low. Women’s football, with or without superstars, promises to do a whole lot better.

But all of this begs the question; can sport succeed in progressing the status of women where political and religious structures have seemingly failed? If we are talking tens of thousands then the answer is probably no. But if we are talking tens of millions of women across the planet creatively engaged in a host of sporting endeavours, then sport can conceivably become an agent of change. The regular sight of women motivated physically and intellectually on the playing field is the very antithesis of servile domestic bondage. It is also the antithesis of the Barbie doll image so favoured by western advertisers.  To participate in sport is, by definition, to be self-confident, independent and outward looking. In short it encapsulates the notion of modernity. The feudal mullahs of the east and the advertising executives of the west will fear such a development and will do everything in their power to retard the process. But the excitement and energy of the Women’s World Cup and the growing enthusiasm for women’s football generally  would suggest that the genie is well and truly out of the bottle. Patriarchs everywhere, beware!

End JPK Copyright 28/6/15

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 28 June 2015 11:21 )