Opinion

We love this Scottish dad who spoke out against sexist football kit advertising

Posted by
Elena Chabo
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While shopping for his family ahead of the Women’s World Cup, Simon Kemp wasn’t happy with the female kit’s fashion styling

Father of two Simon Kemp has won our hearts today. While shopping for new kit for his family ahead of their trip to France to see Scotland Vs England in the Women’s football world cup, he noticed something on the official kit retailer JD Sports’ website.

While the men’s and boy’s kits are portrayed with classic fitness model shots in the full strip, not to mention a free flag, the women’s kit image wouldn’t look out of place on Topshop or Misguided. Sat on a stool with ripped jeans and a messy ponytail, this girl was clearly not expected to be dashing about the pitch any time soon. As we all know, us gals don’t actually play football, we don’t even cheer from the stands too vigorously in case we break a sweat. (That must be why the women’s kit doesn’t come with a free flag).

Someone might want to email the Women’s World Cup to let them know.

Kemp, the father of a keen female footballer, saw how insulting this portrayal is to female athletes and how damaging this messaging is to young women.

In a tweet to the Scottish FA, he said: “Looking forward to taking my kids to the Women’s World Cup and thought I would buy new shirts for us all. So please explain why the official seller @JDSports has presented the boys and men as athletes, yet the female model is more “traditional” #everydaysexism.”

It seems like a pretty clear issue – the suggestion that girls wear football kit as fashion whereas boys buy football kit to, well, play football in. But some people have seriously missed the point. 

Just look at how Kemp’s tweet has been covered in the media. The Mail said “Sexism or snowflakes? Row as JD Sports take down photo of new Scotland kit for using a female model in a suggestive pose – but Twitter accuses them of overreacting”. 

The Times reported: “JD Sports used an image of a young woman in the kit in a provocative pose”. The BBC wrote “Scotland’s official football kit retailer has removed a suggestive photo advertising women’s football strips after a father complained.”

The focus in all of these examples is on the model’s “provocative” or “suggestive” pose, when what Kemp in fact called the styling was “traditional”. The issue here is not just a photo of a woman making a football kit look sexy. The problem is that the model should have been photographed looking ready to play, just like the male models.

Women’s sport has to fight for funding, air time, and let’s not even start on equal pay. So when the official retailer for Scottish FA team kit – an organisation committed to encouraging more girls to play football – puts out these images, it sends out a clear message that women are not taken seriously in football.

Conscious or not, the decision to portray the kits in this way shows that this attitude prevails.

For those struggling to grasp what the problem is, Kemp continues to spell it out gloriously, responding: “That’s because we’ve been desensitised to this stuff, mate. It’s everywhere. Women are presented as ornaments. And in this context, it should be women as serious sportspeople, especially as role models.”

The Scottish FA contacted JD Sports and the picture was replaced. This is where the story should have ended with a “Hurrah!” 

But Twitter users are calling Kemp’s criticism an overreaction and dubbing him a snowflake. So we’re going to explain why this misogyny-busting, Scottish dad of the year is nothing of the sort. 

Women were banned from playing football on many club grounds right up until the seventies because the FA deemed the sport “quite unsuitable for females”. Fast forward to 2018 and for the first time all 11 teams in the women’s super league are finally operating as full-time professional teams.  As the fastest growing participation sport for girls in the UK that is so crucial. Girls need to see sport as a viable career. 

Women’s sport makes up only 7% of UK sports media coverage, so the image of professional careers in sport is heavily male. Research found that girls and boys get the same amount of enjoyment from sport despite boys spending considerably more time playing. If our culture idolised sportswomen in the same way it does sportsmen, girls’ participation in sport would surely skyrocket. A good start toward this goal would be taking female sport seriously.

The Scottish women’s football team (no jeans)

Women In Sport found in 2014 that only 0.4% of all the commercial investment was going into women’s sport. Sponsors won’t invest without coverage, but with exposure and marketing of female athletes the demand for coverage would grow. 

In short, there’s minimal coverage because of  lack of demand, but demand is held back by limited coverage. It’s a vicious cycle that needs to be broken.

The idea of female footballers as household names may seem a hard push, but you just need to look at tennis to see that sportswomen are more than capable of garnering fame and popularity.

The BBC’s head of sport Barbara Slater told The Guardian that the audience for the Women’s Football World Cup grew from 5.1 million in 2011 to 12.4 million in 2015 and that almost half of the 2015 viewers were watching female sport for the first time. Major breakthroughs in coverage of women’s sport are happening and audiences are growing. People are watching.

Little girls need to see that there is a place for them in the world of sport.

Simon Kemp has a daughter who loves football and he’s not going to let anyone make her feel like her passion isn’t as valid as that of little boys. (As if we didn’t already love him enough, he’s also a prize-winning marmalade maker.) 

Our perception of the world is shaped by what we see in the media and advertising. One little picture of a model in a football shirt and jeans may not seem like a big deal, but next to images of boys wearing the same kit as sportswear, it’s one more reinforcement that female sport isn’t serious. The kind of reinforcement that has held women’s sport back.

Now that we’ve explained, can we please let this man get back to making marmalade and raising his daughter to know she deserves as much respect on the pitch as any boy… and a free flag.

Images: Getty

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Elena Chabo

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