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2023 FIFA Women's World Cup: The Unseen Side of the Beautiful Game

Updated: Sep 23, 2023


At the outset, allow me to confess that my knowledge of women's football is quite limited. Despite this, football, a source of joy and passion for many, holds a certain allure. Inspired by my youngest son, my constant source of fresh perspectives, I decided to explore this topic. JJust as he persuaded me to critically analyse the Barbie 2023 movie last week (see my review). I now shift my attention to women's football and its implications for gender equality. I invite you to join this exploration and reflect: Can we challenge the stereotypes and reshape the narrative around women's football? Share your thoughts as we initiate this conversation. Now, we shall delve deeper into the 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup, more than 30 years after the inaugural tournament in 1991.

The Conundrum of the Unfamiliar: Where Do We Start?

How does one begin to explore a topic with which they are unfamiliar? While research might be the logical answer, this blog is more a space for reflection and personal thoughts. Therefore, I decided to reach into my own musings about what women's football represents, rather than reproducing statistics or focusing on the technicalities.

Before anyone suggests that I am not qualified to discuss this, remember that I am, first and foremost, a woman with every right to discuss issues pertaining to women. My first deep impression of women’s football was formed while conducting research on gender portrayal in the media in the mid-90s. The striking near-absence of coverage of women and women’s issues, particularly in sports and most notably in football, left a lasting mark.

As I navigate the world of women's football and the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023, I find myself contemplating the bigger picture—what does the participation of female athletes in this global event signify?

Questioning the Status Quo: Can Football Be More than a Man's Game?

Sports, and football in particular, are traditionally viewed as male-dominated fields. This is a reality to which we have become accustomed, but it is important to examine its implications for gender equality, specifically within the context of women's football. Does the dominance of men in football justifiably define it as exclusively a male territory? Or should we accept this as the status quo? Perhaps it is time we dared to question who sets these rules and the underlying principles that justify such norms.

These lingering questions are not just about football, but about all socially constructed male domains. They challenge us to re-evaluate our perceptions and beliefs. More than that, they push us to consider the potential for change. Can we reimagine a world where football is no longer seen as a 'man's game,' but as a sport for all? Can we pave the way for a more equitable and inclusive future in sports? The answers to these questions may well shape the trajectory of women's football and, indeed, gender equality in sports as a whole.

The 'Invisible' Boundaries: Gender Bias in Football

The age-old narrative that football is a man’s game has, perhaps unintentionally, resulted in the exclusion of women. This narrative shapes our social constructs, with girls growing up watching the World Cup (implied for men) and separately, the Women's World Cup. But why should the World Cup cater exclusively to men, when our world comprises both men and women, with women making up a slight majority?

Reflecting on my own experiences, during my time in all-girls primary and secondary schools, we had a wide range of sports, but football was notably absent. This conditioning could have possibly led me to grow up with the belief that football is a men’s sport. Even though I have watched numerous World Cup tournaments, I have not paid the same attention to the Women's World Cup. Could this be a subconscious perpetuation of the stereotype that football is for men? The possibility that I, Nite Tanzarn, a feminist, may have been unwittingly complicit in this narrative is disconcerting. It makes me question: If even I have unintentionally fallen into this pattern, what does it say about the rest of the population?

The 'Transgressors': Using the Dominant Narrative to Exclude Women from Football

When women venture into what are perceived as male-dominated fields, they are often labelled as 'transgressors', perceived as intruders stepping into spaces not assigned to them. This labelling is not a reflection of women's defiance, but rather a reaction to their presence in spaces that society has designated as 'male'. It is as if they have committed a cardinal sin, breaching an invisible barrier with a stark warning sign that reads, "NO ENTRY HERE". Interestingly, while men may be labelled as weak or effeminate when they enter 'female' spaces, they do not encounter the same explicit barriers. This discrepancy underscores the need to question these socially constructed boundaries and work towards dismantling them, paving the way for a more inclusive future in sports.

Boosting the Numbers: Increasing Women's Participation in Football

Numbers play a crucial role in enhancing visibility and highlighting issues. But how can we ensure more women claim their rightful place on the football field? We need to see more women in mainstream football clubs, participating in regional and global tournaments, including the World Cup.

However, increasing the number of women in football is not just about achieving numerical parity. It is about ensuring that these women are not merely token representations, but are seen as equal participants in this global sport. This includes representation in leadership and governance, where decisions about the sport are made.

Women in leadership positions not only add diversity of thought and experience, but they also serve as role models for aspiring female footballers. By boosting the presence of women in these roles, we not only increase the number of women in football, but we also challenge the notion that these roles are reserved for men.

Moving Beyond the Numbers: Striving for Gender Equality in Football

Achieving gender equality in football requires more than simply increasing the number of women involved. We need to ensure that their voices are heard, their contributions are valued, and they have equal opportunities to influence the direction of the sport. To further advance women's participation in football, we must share successful examples and strategies of how we can encourage more women to break barriers and assume non-traditional roles in sports.

Football is one of the sports that rely on physical characteristics such as height, weight, and strength, where women might not be able to compete on an equal footing with men. In such cases, it indeed makes sense to have a Men’s World Cup and a Women’s World Cup. However, it is worth questioning why, in the 21st century, we still have a World Cup (implied for men) and a Women's World Cup (implicitly labelled the 'other'). This distinction in naming perpetuates the marginalisation of women in the sport.

As we strive for gender equality in football, we must explore and share examples of how we can encourage more women to break barriers, challenge stereotypes, and redefine what it means to be a woman in the world of football. This endeavour involves tackling the structural barriers that contribute to gender inequality, from ingrained societal attitudes to institutional policies. It is about creating a level playing field, both literally and metaphorically, for women in football.

Championing the Dream: What Would Gender Equality in Football Look Like?

  • Equal Representation: This involves ensuring equal media coverage for women's and men's football.

  • Equal Pay: This would mean offering equal pay for female footballers, matching the earnings of their male counterparts.

  • Equal Opportunities: We should provide equal opportunities for women to play football from a young age.

  • Equal Treatment: We must accord equal respect and seriousness to women's football.

  • Equal Leadership Opportunities: It is essential to create equal opportunities for women to hold leadership positions in football.

  • Equal Investment: We should invest equally in women's and men's football, from grassroots programmes to professional leagues.

As we champion this dream, let us consider this: What role can each one of us play in making gender equality in football a reality?

The Final Whistle: Time for Change

In conclusion, it is time to challenge the status quo and make room for women in the beautiful game. The 2023 FIFA Women's World Cup offers an opportunity to start a dialogue and encourage change. Football, like any sport, should be a level playing field for all, irrespective of gender.

Join the Conversation!

I am eager to hear your stories and insights!

1. How can we change perceptions and encourage more girls and women to take up football?

2. Have you encountered resistance in pursuing a passion because it was deemed 'inappropriate' for your gender? How did you overcome it?

Remember, every small step towards equality counts, and every story can inspire change.

About the Author

Nite Tanzarn is an Independent International Consultant in development management, known for her extensive contributions to gender equality and social inclusion within the sectors of transport, infrastructure, agriculture, and rural development in African nations. Tanzarn's expertise in strategic planning and socio-economic policy has shaped transformative programmes across 24 African nations, championing women's rights and fostering inclusive development.

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4 komentarze

05 lis 2023

We need more women in sports to break down gender barriers and challenge harmful gender norms.


05 lis 2023

The 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup was the ninth edition of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. However, it is yet to catch on.


Football is a game for all

Nite Tanzarn
Nite Tanzarn
06 wrz 2023
Odpowiada osobie:

Hi Canisius,

Absolutely! Football truly is a game for everyone, regardless of age, gender, or background. The Women's FIFA Cup is a fantastic example of how the sport unites us and showcases talent on a global stage. It's so inspiring to see these athletes break barriers and redefine what it means to be a footballer. Thanks for highlighting the universal appeal of the beautiful game! ⚽️🌍 #FootballForAll #WomensFIFACup



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