Why it’s childish for men to be irritated by women’s football – Kevan Christie

The middle-aged men who seem to be upset by the existence of women’s football should stop getting their knickers in a twist, writes Kevan Christie as Scotland’s international team prepares for the World Cup in France.

The World Cup-bound Scotland team defeats Brazil in a friendly in Spain (Picture: Lorraine Hill)

She was only a fishmonger’s daughter but she knew her plaice – so the old joke goes.

However, more and more middle-aged male commentators are now encroaching into areas where their opinions are neither valued nor wanted.

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The latest ‘hero’ to rush into the penalty box like Roy Keane on steroids looking for an injury time winner was sociology lecturer Stuart Waiton who last week had a right pop at wummin’s fitba’.

The gist of Dr Waiton’s argument, in an article in the Herald, was you’re not allowed to slag off the women’s game and it’s in the best interests of anyone with a penis to pretend to like it, lest you be burnt at the stake.

He said there was a “conscious attempt” by the BBC to shoehorn stories about women into sports headlines to the detriment of major men’s sporting events watched by millions on television worldwide. Because men’s sport doesn’t get enough coverage, right?

He then had his Einstein moment and pointed out that women themselves are far more interested in the men’s game – because it is “so much better”.

Like-for-like comparisons between men’s and women’s sports are tedioius, pointless and belong in the playground. Comparisons should be avoided and instead both fields should look to compliment and learn from one another.

This type of negativity achieves nothing but gives instant gratification to the person spouting boring old tropes like “women tennis players shoudn’t be paid as much as the men”.

Sir Andy Murray has rightly hit out on this very issue in his support for equal rights in tennis.

No doubt Dr Waiton is now expecting a Purple Heart for bravely speaking out against this “affirmative action” taking place in women’s sport and even managed to throw the Paralympics into the mix as another example of things we have to “feign interest” about.

Okay, that covers sportswomen and disabled folk ... high fives all round.

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The crux of his argument is that there are certain issues where you’re not allowed to say something ‘most people think’, a catch-all phrase used a lot these days – mainly by gammon-faced Brexiteers on the verge of having a stroke because the UK is not leaving the EU without a deal.

However, all of this got me thinking about the sheer number of middle-aged men who feel it is our duty to furnish the women of the world with enlightened opinions on their interests and issues. Like they haven’t already had a lifetime of that.

Having never been a woman I know my limitations in this area. This reflects in my day job as Scotsman health reporter where there are certain subjects I feel more knowledgeable about than others – alcoholism and obesity over period poverty and transvaginal mesh implants, for instance.

But I’m also aware that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason, so I listen to women more knowledgeable than myself on things that impact upon their daily lives. The space that Dr Waiton inhabited, in expressing his opinion, is a comforatable place that I know only too well. It’s the lads down the boozer, watching the football results on a Saturday afternoon, it’s best mates meeting up for a coffee and a chinwag and it’s the 19th hole of any golf club.

It’s the safe places men go to as they inceasingly struggle to make sense of gender-neutral toilets and deal with the daily fear of saying the wrong thing in a world we increasingly struggle to understand. It is, all joking aside, an emerging mental health issue – but that’s for another day.

No doubt, some of us feel a bit irritated about the prevalence of women’s football, especially trying to work out what Champions League fixtures are what – but it’s not worth getting your knickers in a twist over. So wind your neck in.

To my knowledge, no-one has thrown a coconut onto the pitch as happened at the recent Edinburgh Derby match or attacked a player at a women’s football match.

On a broader note, the relevant voices that need to be heard and the irony of writing this, as a middle-aged man in a column in a national newspaper, is not lost on me – are female ones.

Having men of a certain age write opinion pieces about topics like the #MeToo movement, which shines a light on sexual abuse, doesn’t add much to the debate.

These types of columns are invariably along the lines of “I witnessed it but did nothing or I wouldn’t fancy dating much these days – it must be murder for young guys trying to pull a burd”. Unless it’s from the likes of Harvey Weinstein explaining his alleged bad behaviour and the reasons for it ... we’d all like to read that.

Now, please don’t get the wrong impression that I’m writing this as some kind of big sook attempting to curry favour with the female population.

I’m a caring sharing 90s new man who genuinely believed lasagne was something only women ate until I reached the age of 25 as I gleefully tucked in to my steak pie.

I still ask young people if they’re going to the “dancing” and – unlike one male colleague, who shall remain nameless – refuse to start using the term “men’s football” ... gies peace. Have we to start saying female models as well?

No, the point I’m making is that it feels a bit snidey to be standing there, waiting to burst the bubble on not just feminist issues but more mundane things that women like and enjoy.

I was going to write something about the hit TV show Fleabag, loved by women everywhere, but thought better of it as no-one wants to hear my opinion on that – like the first series, not sure about the second, there I’ve said it. Damn.

But, perhaps it’s time for men of a certain vintage, and I include myself in this, to realise women aren’t hanging on to our every word, they never were. We’re increasingly redundant and no amount of chiding will change that. Right, I’m off to Dobbies for a traybake.