By Sam Brocklehurst
I’ll kick this off with a few facts about myself. I’m new to all of this and we don’t know each other yet, so it’d be good to get better acquainted.
I like football (Liverpool, if you’re asking). I also have ovaries. I’ll grant you I don’t like it (football, not the possession of ovaries) as much as the TAW men who manage to find at least two hours a week’s worth of novel things to say about it across both the Monday podcast and City Talk, but I do like it.
I’ve watched games. I’m experienced. I’ve watched all of the exciting games – you know, the derbies and the cup finals – but I’ve also watched the truly bad, dull ones. The ones whereby you’re convinced that after watching Liverpool struggle through twenty minutes against The Kebab and Calculator FC, making a total hash of it, at least nine years must have passed. The ones whereby even as a sensible, rational human being I have been convinced that in that moment, even I could best the efforts of Stewart Downing. So I’m partial to a bit of football. I’m female.
What I’m not is apologetic about it. Unlike the female fans who insist on showing their support and solidarity by buying into the horrendous feminine merchandise – the pink hats, the pink gloves, the pink scarves with the club’s badge discreetly hidden away somewhere (don’t want to scare the horses, afterall). A quick look at the Liverpool FC official merchandise website tells me that the club doesn’t have much in the way of pink merchandise on offer at present because it’s all sold out. There’s clearly been a run on this madness which a stroll down Oakfield Road on match day will attest to.
Not to fan the flames of anything but our Goodison-based neighbours are bigger offenders: armed with (my fella’s) Visa card I could be the proud owner of at least three different styles of pink Everton FC hat, a pair of black and pink gloves, a choice between two styles and shades of pink scarf as well as a pair of fluffy white slippers emblazoned with the Everton badge in fetching hues of strawberry. You can even start the gender-separation off early by buying your newborn girl a little pink Borrower-sized hat just so that the world knows for definite that you – assuming you’re the proud father – are bringing the x-chromosones as well as the team choice.
For the record I’ll accept fitted football shirts, polo shirts, t-shirts etc. – these breasts have to go somewhere, you know – but I will not be happy with them depicting a liver bird post-mixed-wash accident. Just in case you’re one of these enlightened, modern men who goes in for a bit of pink from time to time, both sites helpfully nail the point home by listing them under ‘Gender: female’. No room for interpretation there.
The feminisation of football merchandise is tantamount to an apology for being a female football fan. Stop apologising for your ovaries. By marking yourself out with the pink and the gloves, that’s what you’re doing. You’re cowing your head. Why create that dividing line?
You turn up, you watch the matches, you pay the money, you know the players’ names, you experience the same highs, the same lows. You are equal in this. The man next to you in the red or the blue top with matching scarf and gloves is watching the same thing as you and likely has nothing more to contribute than you do.
All the pink is doing is screaming ‘I’m a fan but I’m also a girl. How zany. How note-worthy.’ Sport at its purest is a means of uniting people, of enabling them to put aside differences in culture, religion, class and yes, even gender, and come together for a period of time behind one common cause. (One common, broad cause. I’d like to think that when watching a game fellow supporters are with me on Liverpool scoring more goals than the other side. I would, however, not expect them to be with me as I will a hairdresser to invade the pitch and quickly sort Andy Carroll’s hair out.)
A kit is a uniform and merchandise a nod to that uniform. It’s how we show we are united behind the eleven men on the pitch. It’s how we show that we’re with them through the thick and thin, through the good times and the bad. You only have to look at shirt sales to see this is true: according to a German sports market research company, Liverpool sold an average of 700,000 – 900,000 shirts between the 2005 and 2009 seasons, placing them just behind former Adidas affliliates, Real Madrid. If you buy into the uniformity then you buy into the notion that this merchandise unites. It’s the link between you and that number eleven, there. It’s your battle gear – what you and the players strap on before you go to war.
By strapping on the pink over the red you’re marking yourself out, removing yourself that little from this process. Why do it? Why emphasise the divide between the sexes in a game which has a hard enough time as it is a) involving women in a capacity outside of the role of WAG and b) taking them seriously when they are involved (see woeful ticket sales for the Olympic women’s football team and dearth of coverage of women’s football full stop)?
This isn’t intended to read as a piece about a women telling other women where they’re going wrong. It’s intended as a gentle confidence boost, a kindly reminder that being partial to the odd game of football doesn’t mean you’re in danger of being mistaken for one of them – even if you do dress like it. If nothing else, these clubs make enough money out of us as it is. Saying no to the fluffed-up merchandise shuts down one tiny, exploitative revenue stream in a veritable tide of them.
So, ladies, whilst this isn’t quite a call to burn your LFC-embroidered bra, I wouldn’t be averse to a ritualistic bonfire of all your pink merchandise. How does that little grass verge by the incongruous cow, Kop-end sound? I’ll bring the matches.
Brilliant. Well in.
Brilliant article! I could not agree more. The women’s section of all LFC shops and the web store are an embarrassment. Do they really think we want to all look like sugar candy??? What a lost opportunity by the marketing guys to boost revenues. Get your act together Reds Marketing people….! Oh….but who will decide………no CEO, no comms director, no DoF, oh and…..do we still have a King?
I quite like a lot of the pink stuff they sell at the shop – maybe that’s becuase I live in Brighton :-0
I assumed this was going to be about homosexual fans.
But then I noticed John Gibbons hadnt written it.
Good point well made. Slightly different kits for women, accommodating narrower waists and bigger t*ts (in general) – good. Prominence of pink I’m-a-girly stuff = bad.
The former is about being inclusive, the latter is somewhat patronising/segregating.
However, I’ll confess to buying some pink stuff for my little lass – she’s young and impressionable, so if wearing something pink will help ward off the influences of other-club-supporting people, then it’s a worthwile concession, IMHO.
Good article – interesting that in the last year the NFL have had a huge marketing push towards merchandise for women, making the merch available far more like the men’s stuff that’s available and showing that we are all fans despite our differing chromosomes!! :)
I agree with the sentiment that women shouldn’t feel so insecure in their femininity that they won’t wear red. But at the same time, maybe they just like pink. And if pink sells, the club will cater for it. The only LFC merchandise I own is an 80s Candy shirt which only gets worn to finals. I wouldn’t be seen dead in the pink abominations that they serve up in the official store. And while I agree there’s no need for us females to mark ourselves as such (“I’m going to the football, better wear something pink just in case someone mistakes me for boyish”), it’s really just another exercise in marketing our club to the widest possible audience. It’s not too dissimilar to the bit of blue on the third kit last year (people like blue, blue sells, let’s put some blue on our kit, completely forgetting the fact that we’re Liverpool FC…). If rumours are to be believed, the third kit this year will be pretty awful, and all because someone, somewhere, has decided that it will sell.
So there’s a market for pink gear? So what? All it really tells us is we have female fans who have taste as poor as some of our male fans. Some of them might just feel too insecure to wear anything other than pink. But I’m not sure that’s something we can change.
And at the end of the day, all that shit is for wools anyway. ;)
I hate pink. Pink for women seems to be predominant among sports clothes in general. Women’s trainers, tshirts, trackies etc have pink swooshes etc (or as an alternative, try baby blue or lilac). I think men’s sports clothes (including the LFC branded items) are generally nicer, but they don’t fit right.
Don’t get me started with men and kids getting a free tshirt with the new kit, but women are not. Why not?
There are many things that could be regarded as concerns in today’s modern game, hell in today’s world. Pink shirts are not one of them.
As I was walking around the club shop after the Chelsea game I had similar thoughts (although I find the glittery foil which is emblazoned over otherwise decent tops just as offensive as the plague of pink ). I love football and I don’t need pink or sparkles to reassure myself (and those around me) that I am still feminine.
The footballing world seems to be *slowly* coming to grips with the concept that we can understand the off side rule, and support a team based on the style of play and ethos of a club, rather than the merits of the captain’s thighs. I just hope that the club shop realises that Liverpool are RED and that supporters (with or without ovaries) want to wear red-based (and whatever matches the 2nd/3rd/keeper kits) merchandise to show their support.
We womenfolk like red and understand the offside rule: what an amazingly progressive world we live in….
(As an aside:
It was not until circa WWI that pink became designated a feminine colour. Previously it was deemed masculine, as it is a derivative of red which is regarded as a strong/powerful/passionate/violent colour. That is why the Virgin Mary is traditionally depicted in blue (a nice peaceful colour reminiscent of summer skies and still lakes) not pink. I do not think the merchandise designers are aware of the history of engenderising colours so they cannot use the defence of ‘come on girls we are recognising your strength and passion for the club’ by offering us candy coloured goods that look like they belong in the Barbie aisle. If anyone can find an historial defence for glittery foil sh*ite I would be interested to hear it though…)
I hate that women get different clothes than the men get. It’s insulting and condescending. I’d like the kit that the players wear in my size. Is that too much to ask?
I always thought the pink stuff was for men to buy to their girlfriends – that you could get your bird wear something footie related even though she’s not into football – as long as it’s pink it’ll do and she’ll agree to wear it. Like showing off your kids in a LFC kit you can show off your girlfriend/wife too.
Good article. I have supported LFC since the time before they started selling stuff for women. I wear a red and white scarf to show my allegiance when I go to go to the game, the same one I have worn for years. In some ways it’s a step forward for them to acknowledge that female supporters exist in many numbers, but some of the tat that is on offer in the club shop is so horrendous it hurts the eyes to look at it!! This week has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that LFC is a money game now so while girls are buying it (or having it bought for them), it looks like it’s here to stay.
Haha! Class article, could not agree more.