Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Best Brazilian You Never Heard Of

Alex Bellos (author of Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life) writes a nice piece about Marta Vieira da Silva, one of the best Brazilian footballers and arguably the best woman player in the world. Bellos focuses on the sexism which made it impossible for her to play professionally in Brazil (and got her kicked off boys' teams); I don't doubt the descriptions of the deeply entrenched chauvinism, but it's not as though the UK has wonderfully enlightened attitudes toward women's football, either. The US is a bit better, but there's still a long way to go in the English-speaking world before women's athletic competitions are viewed as much more than a consolation prize. In the meantime we need to stop defending or making light of casually sexist attitudes in the same way we would find casual racism unacceptable: earlier this year Steven Cohen on Fox Football Phone-In laughed uproariously (in response to Mike Newell's comments that women officials don't belong on the football pitch) as he remarked that women refs are likely to burst into tears and race off the pitch when they encounter that nasty language footballers are likely to deploy in their direction. People like Cohen rightfully deplore the appalling specter of racism that hangs over the sport while appearing utterly blind to the fact that the (more than) half of the population with a different genital configuration from his don't actually get a kick out of being infantilized, belittled, or stereotyped either.

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