Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Theory on Attitudes

So, another footballer has come out as a fellow traveller, which until a (male) top-flight footballer comes out as actually gay, will do for now. Kudos to Matt Jarvis.

On the Guardian's article on the Attitude article (so meta; so, so meta...) there was a very interesting comment from bishbosh about context - briefly, that reaching the heights of football requires a very early start and lots of practice, so it is not just 'homophobia in football' that is relevant, but also the attitudes of childhood, adolescence, the school changing room, etc. Which, however much one can argue that we adults are all/mostly more tolerant/less hitty now, is a more immature place.

So while skipissatan also has a point saying "part of the problem is people asserting that gay men can't be macho. Gareth Thomas certainly is", it should be remembered that in the schoolyard, the fact that Gareth Thomas certainly is doesn't change the prevailing attitude that (for men) gay=wimpy.  A prevailing attitude that, conversely, says that for women, gay=butch. The stereotype that girls' hockey teachers are all lesbians, etc and so on.  And so onto my theory.

These two apparently conflicting attitudes are one and the same, and come from an erroneous conflation of orientation and gender . Basically, gay men and boys get painted with the 'feminine' brush, and gay women and girls with 'masculine'.  As in sport, 'masculine' is perceived as better than 'feminine', gay men and boys therefore drop down the rankings, whereas gay women/girls move up the table.

In top-flight women's football, there are a fair amount of gay players - arguably, they could find it easier to come out because the women's game isn't the sort of high-money high-interest super-sponsored affair that the men's game is, and there are still some stars whose sexuality is rumoured but not confirmed; entirely their business, of course, but demonstrating that there can still be attitudinal problems - see also the ridiculous 'lesbian-free' situation in the Nigerian national team.

But looking back to the school changing rooms - if the stereotype is that sporty girls are a bit gay (this even happened to Sporty Spice, for crying out loud) then, it easier to be in an environment where you meet the stereotype rather than challenge it?  This conflation, therefore, is not a good thing - it's an aspect of wider stereotyping and dismissal of gay people as individuals - but a bizarre side-effect of it seems to be that gay women find it easier to get on in football than gay men.

The 'there are no gay footballers' thing does annoy me, although I know what is meant.  There are, and it might be worth looking at why a) they aren't initially included in 'footballers' without the qualifier 'women' and b) this doesn't seem to be such an issue in the women's game.  Probably because, of course, 'nobody likes women's football'. Uh huh. Like 'there are no gay footballers'.

Got two things a bit entangled there, but there you go.