Euro 2022: Sexism in Women's Football Still Rife
Abuse of female footballers extends to the stadium, the media and even to coaches.
Lewd remarks, sexist prejudices and the denial of competence are common and widespread social media themes that many female footballers continue to face, with all platforms awash with such comments — peaking during the ongoing Women's European Championship.
That's according to new research conducted by German broadcasters ARD and NDR and the broadsheet newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, which found that many players have reported being ridiculed, objectified and ignored. Discriminatory and derogatory posts continue to go unpunished, or are even accepted as the norm.
Wendie Renard, France captain and eight-time Champions League winner with Olympique Lyon, said: "An insult is and remains an insult, whether on social media or in everyday life."
Despite the general positivity and enthusiasm for Euro 2022 in host country England and across the continent, governing body UEFA reported almost 300 offensive posts on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter during the group stages.
While 70% of the posts reported were insults without reference to a specific group of people or ethnicity, 20% were classified as sexist, 6% as racist and 4% as homophobic. According to the European Football Union, 55% of the posts were deleted, the majority within just over an hour.
Discrimination goes beyond social media
While the inhibition threshold is low for many on social media, abuse of female footballers extends to the stadium, the media and even to coaches, the research found.
Germany's Almuth Schult has revealed that she has faced prejudice by the media
German national team goalkeeper Almuth Schult, of Frauen-Bundesliga side Wolfsburg, revealed in ARD's "Panorama" documentary that she was once asked by a journalist: "How does it feel to be one of the few in the team who loves a man and not a woman?"
"Here I am thinking, here we are again," Schult said. "The prejudice that only lesbians play football."
Another female Bundesliga player speaks anonymously in the "Panorama" report of a coach's transgressions of boundaries: "He kept making comments about a teammate's butt."
And in the case of another player, the same coach reportedly remarked on "how sexy she was" — comments confirmed by fellow players and coaches.
Amateur German footballer Franziska Bielfeld told NDR: "We have all learned to close our ears to it — especially in football."
'Not specific to football'
The general secretary of the German Football Association, Heike Ullrich, has called for action, but suggested the problem is societal, rather than specific to football.
"Every case of even perceived crossings of boundaries is one too many — this must be addressed," she said.
"It is the task of all of us, not only of football, of sport, but of our society, to draw attention to these transgressions. It doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl, man or woman, you have to say: I didn't like what you just said."
'Every case of even perceived crossings of boundaries is one too many,' said DFB General Secretary Heike Ullrich.
In the report, former German international Tabea Kemme reveals that only recently she experienced a conversation about a female teammate in which the sentence was uttered: "She's really hot, too, isn't she? I'd want to iron her out, too."
The struggle for fair conditions and appropriate behavior remains "frustrating," but she still hopes for a more positive future.
"When you yourself have the feeling that you've always given everything and yet nothing changes…" said Almuth Schult. "It's about building the momentum to bring about change — it's simply about equality and equal opportunities."
Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.