female football fans are just as fanatic as the lads
And this zine is out to prove it.
This article originally appeared on i-D UK.
Football games: crowds chanting, spit flying, ears combusting. Half-eaten pies congealing on concrete. A throbbing, pulsating swell of testosterone. Pints. Grown men weeping like little kids, little kids cussing like grown men.
Also: women. Yes, really. Women actually like and attend sport. Women can actually discuss the merits of Kyle Walker’s summer signing to Manchester City and if it is really truly worth the outlandish expense (it is). Sure, not all women (see also: not all men), but a decent enough percentage for The Lads™ to actually acknowledge our presence during Friday night’s after work pub projections.
Enter Jacqui McAssey, a lecturer in fashion communication at Liverpool John Moores University. In 2013, she flocked to Anfield along with another 50,000 disciples of the beautiful game, and “realised that there were so many women and girls around me, but they were so underrepresented [in relevant media]”. So she created Girlfans, a zine documenting football’s most fervent female followers. Her aim? “To give female fans recognition and visibility, and to establish their rightful place in football culture.”
“Of course sexism still exists at football matches,” Jacqui continues, “but we’re moving in a positive direction. There has never been a better time to be a female football supporter, or a female football player.” She points to Women at the Game, an initiative aiming to encourage female footie fans to get among the sweat-smothered action in an inclusive, supportive environment.
There’s also the issue of merch. After trawling through football paraphernalia that was “gender-specific and patronising”, Jacqui was compelled to document how women actually dress up (or not) for the match, which generally doesn’t involve the too-tight-scoop-neck-hug-all-the-wrong-bits ‘female’ shirt iterations on offer. “There is a desire among many fans to want the same shirt the players wear, not a feminine version of the shirt,” she elaborates. “Many young women wear boys’ shirts, because they prefer a normal neckline but want a tighter fit. Some women wear their colours head-to-toe, or none at all -- just as men do.”
That’s it, really. From football to tiddlywinks, sport is massively male skewed, whether it’s unequal pay, media representation, or the sudden fervid fascination with a miscellaneous object just past your right shoulder that a guy typically gets when you ask who they support. Honestly, fuck that. At the end of the day, women just want to wear and wang on about whatever we want to, without any patronising presumptions. We just want to go to any damned game we desire, “safe” Jacqui concludes, “in the knowledge that nobody will urinate on our Balenciaga trainers”.