cultural studies

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Athletes Are Ultimately Grounded In Sports Culture Cultural Studies Essay

Football vs. Homophobia is an English Football Association endorsed campaign supported by the Justin Campaign and Pride Sport. Its purpose is to offer a comprehensive programme to tackle issues around homophobia, biphobia and transphobia. FvH is an international initiative, with the goal of uniting all those involved in football from fans to players of all levels to challenge discrimination. FvH delivers support, communication materials, education and training to allow fans, LGBT communities, grassroots teams, professional football clubs and football authorities to both communicate and validate the message that football is for everyone. Yet with reference to sport Houlihan 2008 p91 states “perhaps the least understood and acknowledged aspect of exclusion is that of sexuality.” FvH is highlighted in February by the F.A when there is a show of unanimity to stand up against homophobia.

It is important to address the issue of homophobia within football as it is our national game; therefore it has a unique and powerful role which can influence attitudes and beliefs in wider society. FvH was launched in 2010, only 5 professional clubs signed up to the initiative by 2012, 24 were involved. The policy I chose to study is the football vs. homophobia toolkit for professional clubs (2013). The FA sets out the following steps to combat homophobia. Use a FvH splash screen on website, make a P.A announcement about FvH, put a feature on FvH in the match programme, raise awareness of the issue of homophobia through posters and have the players and managers speak about homophobia. Altogether the policy is a resource for clubs with ideas on how to free football of homophobia. Campaigners were hoping that 50% of all England’s current professional teams would join the initiative as of March 2013, only 48 out of 150 professional clubs backed the campaign, so though there has been an improvement each year the F.A have sadly missed their objective. This raises the question how serious do professional clubs take the problem of homophobia.

Homophobia is a key issue in football as Justin Fashanu, the first openly gay male professional footballer suffered bullying and hostility after his sexual orientation became public and he committed suicide in 1998. His own brother and fellow professional John Fashanu stated in 2012 “I don’t believe he was gay.” Moreover “It’s a macho man’s game and I think there are reasons why we haven’t had any gay footballers come out. I don’t believe there will be.” This distorted view of homosexuality is further backed up by AFC Ajax coach, Frank, De Boer (2012) claiming “If you look at the gay man, I think, he is somewhat less sporty, most of the time. The motor skills, normally, usually stand out when you look at gay people.” Also in 2005 managing director of Juventus, Luciano Moggi argued “there are no gays in professional football. These views could reflect “that soccer attracts men by promising 'membership of the heterosexual masculine club itself” Simpson (1994: 71)

According to the policy document people experience homophobia in both grassroots and professional football. 64% of LGB&T people feel that homophobia affects their participation in football, while 70% of fans have heard homophobia in football within the last five years. Clelan and Cashmore (2012) study forwarded an anonymous online survey in 2010 about attitudes towards gay footballers .They received 3,500 replies from both participants and spectators involved in football. The research indicates decreasing homophobia within football both among fans and players. 93 per cent of fans stressing that there is no place for homophobia within football. Supporters also believed that accountability for the lack of openness was agents and clubs responsibility. They also reported that football’s organizations should oppose the philosophy of secrecy surrounding gay players and provide a more all-encompassing environment to support players who want to be openly gay. The study also found gay players would receive support from a wide spectrum of fans. The study also established that supporters believe they are branded as homophobes because it suits the interests of clubs and agents. Campbell et al.(2011) argue “clubs and agents protect their own interests and dissuade gay players from coming out, while accusing fans as being the main inhibitors” A 2009 survey conducted by gay-rights charity Stonewall found more than half those that replied thought clubs and associations did not do enough to tackle anti-gay abuse.

The patriarchy and the ideology of male hegemony are threatened by homosexuality. This is way the hegemonic male has socially constructed LGBT people to be a problem. The hegemonic male is someone who is “macho”, who play sports and who is heterosexual.” (Bhana, 2005, p. 207) Plus “sport is the institution that most systematically promotes the image of ideal masculinity.” (Connell, 1987 Cited in Houlihan 2008:p131.) Consequently Humberstone( 2002 cited in Houlihan 2008 p 130) “sport is considered an arena where traditional gender identities are constructed reinforced and contested” it is not only homosexual men who challenge this ideal but Clayton and Harris (2009) refer to the“emergence of a new kind of sporting identity the metrosexual man.” Coakley( 2009 p305) “men seen as nurturing and supportive of others and defined as weak and emasculated.”The media ridicule footballers who do not conform to the hegemonic masculine role of footballers. ‘Is Ronaldo Playing for the Other Side?' (The Sun, 27 September 2008) Graeme Le Saux is heterosexual yet his football career was dogged by homosexual taunts. In 19== Robbie Fowler stuck his rear out at Le Saux in reference to his alleged sexuality. Roderick (2006) highlighted how the treatment of Le Saux was” evidence of working-class concerns surrounding masculinity, something he claimed remains deeply associated within British football.” In 2006 23.7% of respondents on the British Social Attitudes Survey maintained that homosexuality was always wrong. The bigoted view that heterosexuality is the norm therefore homosexuality is abnormal is how the hegemonic male ideology socially construct homophobia not only as a hatred born out of fear but as a protection of their ideology and a way of staying on the top of the pyramid. "Homophobic slurs are normalized as a way for male athletes to continually prove his heterosexuality/masculinity."(Anderson 2005) Homophobia is used to defend hegemonic masculinity as gay athletes “expose the fallacy upon which heterosexual masculinity is built.” (Anderson 2005 p43)”Studies have shown that heterosexual males generally have more hostility towards homosexual people than heterosexual women” ( Herek,1988) he goes on to explain this is because "By rejecting men who are “different”, men affirm their own masculinity" (Herek 1988). Connell (1995 p77), states “hegemonic masculinity defines normative expectations for men and promotes behaviours such as policing other men, enacting violence to defend one’s position, and participating in arenas such as sport.” The hostility towards homosexuality often starts at an early age Plummer (1999) suggests that “Homophobic terms enter boy’s vocabulary during primary school,” These homophobic terms to young boys have little meaning ,but the power and influence of the language increases and for many men these terms become inherent and used to demean other males.

The F.A. are the custodians of football and those who have fought to promote gay rights are critical of the F.A.This is not surprising as they are hardly crusaders for equality and have just voted a woman on to the board in 2012. The launch of its last big media campaign in February 2010 to tackle homophobia, an advert portraying a homophobic fan was cancelled at the last minute. The F.A. citing ‘football was not ready for such a campaign.’ The Professional Footballers’ Association Chief Executive Gordon Taylor was quoted as saying: “The Premier League didn’t think it was a big enough issue . . . we believe the time would be more appropriate when crowds are a bit more civilised.” Stonewall, which works with the FA says they can do more. It cites the work done in the Rugby Football League from supporting gay staff to teams wearing anti-homophobia logos. Stonewall has not had any footballers wear its campaign T-shirts ‘Some People Are Gay, Get Over It’. Stonewall policy officer Alice Ashworth (2013) is critical of FvH campaign arguing It’s all very well to have a glossy action plan, but what we really want to see is concrete output.” She also accused the F.A. of not taking the issue as seriously as racism. Funke Awoderu,(2013) FA equality manager answers the censures by claiming “There’s a bit of work we need to do, the F.A. have always been concerned about homophobia It’s just we never really had a framework or plan in place.”In retort to criticism about racism he argues “The fight against racism began 20 years ago. It’s a long journey and we’re not by any means there. This journey has only just started.” As homophobia has been an issue as long as racism it raises questions why the F.A. have not tried to eradicate the problem until recently. Is it as simple as a person cannot hide their race yet sexuality can remain concealed? “Several Brighton fans were arrested after chanting ‘Town full of paki’s’ at Bradford fans as a response to Bradford’s chant of ‘Town full of faggots’. It seems that the race stereotype was deemed far more offensive than the homophobic chant. This kind of inconsistency can only damage football as any bigotry should be dealt with punitively.

An analysis of the policy shows the F.A appears to putting forward basic strategies for clubs to fight homophobia. When it is the culture itself that needs to change and simplistic policies with no clear direction on how to change a deep rooted problem will have little effect upon a serious issue.There needs to be robust and pivotal leadership from clubs to establish partnerships with gay groups who are proficient in fighting homophobia . There is an absence of a pledge by the F.A. to actively promote inclusion by promoting gay rights via a clear message across all stadia.

If football was truly serious about tackling this issue there would be high profile footballers fronting the campaign at the grassroots level to educate and influence the young as homophobia is still a prevalent problem in schools Stonewall (2012 )The school report surveyed 1,614 lesbian, gay and bisexual youth between the ages of 11-19 the report found that though things had progressed since their original report in 2007 55 per cent still suffered homophobic bullying and 95% said they heard homophobic words such as "poof" or "lezza.” The size of the problem is perhaps best reflected in the following statistic 41 per cent have attempted or thought about taking their own life directly because of bullying and the same number say that they deliberately self-harm directly because of bullying.

“Whilst recent research has found progressive attitudes towards homosexuality by athletes” (Anderson 2009, ) The most significant problem with the policy is the lack of a gay role model in professional football. The Out for Sport survey(2012) was completed by 1722 self-selecting respondents. 85% thought it was significant for sport to have gay role models even though 86% realised it would be difficult for sports personalities to be openly LGBT.An anonymous survey across the divisions by football magazine Four Four Two issued in 2013 found that 62 per cent of players would welcome an out gay team-mate. Kian and Anderson (2009: 810)claim “that men who come out and contest hegemonic masculinity in sport are increasingly met with admiration” according David Beckham in Wahl 2003 “Being a gay icon is a great honour for me. I’m quite sure of my feminine side” The FA says there is a strategy in place should a footballer come out. It would also be commercially advantageous for a gay professional footballer to come out. As immediately through media attention he would become famous globally as a pioneer, yet the silence is deafening. There is only one openly gay player in the world right now and he, Anton Hysén, plays part-time for a Swedish third division club. . Robbie Rogers’

.In conclusion I feel this policy will have very little effect on combatting homophobia, as it is a serious inbuilt problem tof football culture. This policy is not an aggressive stance against homophobia but a simplistic list of suggestion which under a third of clubs has signed up for. The state of football just mirrors the bias that runs unimpeded through society. If the FA were really serious about stamping out homophobia on the pitch and in the stands it needs deal with the hegemonic ideology. Anderson (2009) suggested “hegemonic notions of masculinity can be passed down from generation to generation, often unwittingly” The fact that it’s taken so long to put forward some measures to tackle homophobia shows acceptance of hegemonic ideology by the English football association. The tabloid media must also take responsibility as when the opportunity arises they love to mock homosexuality through suggestive headlines 'Footie's Coming homo for World Cup', The Sun, 23 August 2008 About England's representatives in the 'FA-backed Gay World Cup' is only one of many.The lack of support for this profound problem from all those involved in football could be “football is a male society and actively defines itself by means of homophobia”. Simon Barnes (2006)


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