Sex Sells

Yes indeed, there it is a headline grabber to hook you in.

But here’s the real story.

It is an average morning. I am on my way to work. I lock up my bike at the station and throw a few coins to the busker who is playing guitar. He’s quite upbeat considering it’s 7am and drizzly. He’s giving ‘yesterday’ by the Beatles a positive and charming overtone, smiling at all the passengers as they rush by. It’s one of the favourites I sing to my children at bedtime, so it makes me smile thinking of them probably just waking at this moment.

S will probably be driving P mad with his regular morning meltdown about being first to open the cupboard or it could be the speed at which the milk is being poured into his bowl that is all wrong. Small crucial details to a 2 year old that if you get wrong can ruin the morning.

A will be getting ready for school. Putting on her tights and her favourite ‘twirly whirly’ skirt. At the moment she is following a trend amongst the girls in her class. They seem to always wear dresses or skirts. I thought it odd for a while until I had a chat with some of the parents who said that this was what all their daughters wanted and they’d mostly given up arguing. So it seems that gender is on the agenda for 5 and 6 year olds. I have agreed with A that she can alternate between trousers and a skirt every other day.

I pick up the SPITS newspaper as I walk into the station and up to the platform.

P is dealing with the morning mayhem at home, I have made a lucky escape and it gives me the time to relax on the train and peruse the newspapers.

I shouldn’t have bothered.

The headline immediately disturbs me. There is a full page picture of a female football player smiling a big grin under the headline SEXY SOCCER. My heart sinks – another average day and another very average case of sexism. The SPITS may not be the pinnacle of journalism but nonetheless it’s read by about 2 million Dutch commuters per day. An article about women’s sport where the headline has to immediately denigrate all the effort, hard work and skill of getting to the top of their game and simply refer to their body is insulting but unfortunately also not surprising. Later that day I mention this article to a friend and I’m told that I’m ‘reading too much into it’. SIGH…The objectification of women is so normalised that we don’t notice it anymore and when we do we are told that it’s no big deal, we’re so surrounded that we assimilate and overlook.

I flick past page 19, the movie review page which today is a feature on a new release and displays a promotional shot of the movie, 3 svelte bikini-clad young women and their pimp. I find the sports section. I’m expecting the article to continue in the same vein. I’m ready to be outraged by more blatant sexism, more objectified representations of the female form. But it turns out the article is a bit simplistic but ok, mainly focusing on the rise in popularity of women’s football. There’s an interview with American player Abby Wambach, described as the female Messi. Now we could just discuss her as an international football star in her own right but we better throw in a male comparison for our poor readers who are otherwise too simple-minded to understand. Wambach won the best player at the recent FIFA awards but the fact that Messi also won the men’s award is a constant reference point throughout the article, just to make sure we get it. Yes she’s a brilliant footballer because he’s a brilliant footballer.

But hey, I’m sure Messi has the same problem. No doubt he struggles to be recognised for the talent he is and every article about him is peppered with comparisons to Abby Wambach. It must get annoying for him.

There’s a picture of Wambach hugging her team mate. She looks muscular and has short hair. Yes I know, shocking for a woman and especially one with her public profile! The article goes on to mention Alex Morgan, who according to SPITS is talented, successful, good-looking and a media-hit. After all she has more than a million followers on twitter! I look again at the front cover and I notice that it’s the ‘media friendly’ long haired Alex Morgan who is in the picture. Wambach obviously needs to focus more on her hair and make up and less on winning awards for her football skills if she wants to up her social media profile and to be the face of the SEXY SOCCER headline.

But on the whole the article is more balanced than I had expected and there’s not a lot of reference to the sexiness of either Wambach or Morgan. That’s what makes it even worse that they went with such a cheap lazy headline. I have no experience here, but isn’t the headline supposed to be the promise of the article. Here are a couple of my own suggestions next time boys:

Wambach wonder

Fifa la Wambach!

Football’s new heroine!

Wambach winner!

Soccer finally scores big time for US

Shit I’ve been so busy getting annoyed by the newspaper that I get off the train at my stop and realise I haven’t got around to putting on my mascara.

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