There has been a lot of controversy recently related to comments Simon Borg made on the MLS-sanctioned podcast Extra Time Radio. The podcast has since been pulled, but here are his comments:
It’s fine if you’re a female and you want to be a super-fan. Clearly go for it, that’s your choice. But there is something to be said for how appealing that might be to the other sex. Having a woman that’s such a fan, like painting your face, tuning in to every podcast. I don’t know how many males would be into that.
It’s great that in Kansas City there are a lot of women in the stands, it’s great, but for the guy who wants maybe a serious relationship… If you are following just casually, but if you’re such a die-hard, I don’t know, it comes a point that it is a bit of a turn-off.
I’m not really interested in commenting on what he said – that has been beaten to death at this point. My comments are on the reaction of the community, and particularly as it goes through Women United FC since they are acting as the female voice on this issue.
Let’s start with how I became a soccer fan. In high school, I took stats for the boys’ varsity soccer team, traveling with them to away games and learning from Lars Richters, an amazing coach and player. In college, I attended games at the University of Michigan and even dragged my dad to a Stanford women’s game one year during spring break in San Francisco. I didn’t start playing myself til I was an adult, but I’ve always loved the game and it never occurred to me that women were ever not supposed to be fans. When WUFC was formed earlier this year, I appreciated the effort and mission to educate women about the game and bring people together to support their club and national teams. I saw opportunities for women to support other women playing the game and create a community to encourage others to support their teams.
Then the Twitter accounts for each team appeared, and while there is a lot of useful information in them, there are also frequent examples of the various admins tweeting things about how hot players are or things related to attractiveness. The door was opened by WUFC members to bring attractiveness into the debate. Enter Simon Borg with his douchey-but-personal-opinion comments, and the crowd goes nuts. MLS suspends him for 7 days and apologizes and women are defending their role as fans like the world is ending. I completely respect all the work the women who started WUFC have done to grow the conversation, but defending us as being sexy by saying we bake cookies, wear lingerie and heels and spend money on merchandise? Really?
If there’s a desire to defend the group or women fans as a whole, why not focus on our love for the beautiful game? Our desire to see soccer as a sport succeed, whether it’s MLS, our national team or the little league team in the neighborhood? There is so much more to this than questioning our attractiveness, and coming back with arguments like that just demonstrate an insecurity that we have to be considered equal to male fans AND we want them to think we’re hot too. Until physical appearance and gender roles get taken out of the conversation entirely, we won’t be equals. Screaming with outrage over a man not finding a behavior attractive is just doubling down on the reasons women were marginalized in the first place. A comment was made on the Ladies of SKC facebook page that said, “I’ve never known a man who had to choose between being a serious fan of the sport or oogling the beauty of Hope Solo.” I totally agree – but the conversation didn’t start about the women saying players were hot, it started with the attractiveness of women who are “superfans.” Attractiveness is relative, and just because one man thinks a behavior isn’t attractive, it isn’t an indictment on that behavior. Besides, given comments he’s made on other topics, who is actually trying to attract Simon Borg anyway?
Smart is sexy. Confident is sexy. Interest in fostering community is sexy. Let’s not get so in the weeds on one man’s opinion that we begin to be defensive about our own role in growing the game. We know who we are and where we came from – let’s act like we belong here.