Young Chelsea loanee Lucas Piazon chose an interesting way to celebrate International Women’s Day – he tweeted a picture of himself receiving kisses from three girls at once with the caption, “Happy Internacional Women’s Day! Enjoy your day ladies! Can not live without you.” Cheers Lucas, glad to know you were thinking of me.
However, as exercises in point-missing go, Lucas is pretty much a radical feminist in comparison to the team at mcfc.co.uk, who chose International Women’s Day to launch a new section of the website aimed at their female fans. CityWoman, as they’ve called it (why on earth they wouldn’t go for WoMan City is only the first thing about it to totally baffle me) features recipes, the opportunity to win tickets to see One Direction at the Etihad, and health and fitness tips. It smacks of those “creches for men” they have in department stores; little areas with XBoxes and dog-eared copies of FHM scattered about, like the waiting room at a chauvinist doctor’s surgery.
I don’t believe that to have a women’s section at all is inherently sexist or insulting – City are a business, and seem pretty committed to engagement of their fanbase generally, so not to attempt reach out to a big chunk of their fans would be foolish. It’s just so old-fashioned, and almost, but not quite, too archaic to be offensive.
The recipes section is probably the most irritating part. It’s not just that it’s implying only women cook, a view that these days even Jim Davidson would probably dismiss as a bit outdated. The problem is that it is interesting to anyone with more than a passing interest in sport and nutrition what top-level professional athletes eat to prepare themselves for games, and to keep good fitness. To suggest that this content is on specific interest to women is just bizarre. It seems such a big misstep for a club who are usually very careful with their digital content in general.
For me, the biggest real difference in the way men and women appreciate football is that, generally, men are more likely to have played it a lot than women. A much better, though more difficult, way to engage female fans would be to encourage them into playing football, perhaps by offering free beginner sessions, rather than treating them as a different species. A section of the site aimed at women, but focusing on the women’s football and the ladies team would be much more inclusive.
The feature posted in the section introducing it say it’s “designed with our female fans and women in general in mind.” On first reading, this made no sense at all – why would women who aren’t even football fans be on the website in the first place? I quickly realised why. The aim of it will almost certainly be to attract more women to the website in order to make the advertising space on there more valuable. If City have more women visiting the website, they can sell ad space to companies who want to target them. Cynical? Maybe. Surprising? Not really. However, It’s sad to know that City are prepared to risk insulting their female fans in the hope of getting more women who aren’t even football fans to visit the website.
I consider myself very fortunate that I very rarely meet people who think that just because I am female I don’t understand football, or couldn’t possibly be a real fan. That’s why I find it all the more strange and irritating that the club I support seems to feel that way.
Written by Caroline Hatwell who is on Twitter