Football fever not for women fans?

Date: January 19, 2010
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Recent passion for the game shown by Ana dos Santos, the First Lady of Angola, during her country’s match against Mali set many tongues wagging – including my friend Rita. Rita agrees with the so-called etiquette experts who subsequently came out in the media against this buoyant expression of enthusiasm.

They say the First Lady disgraced herself by showing too much excitement, jumping up from her seat to cheer her national’s team’s goals. After four goals, Rita says she lost all respect for Ana do Santos, who lacked etiquette as a woman in her position- the President’s wife. How damning! So what is wrong with that picture?

Apparently, too much zeal is not acceptable, especially for women holding positions of higher authority, such as dos Santos. Commenting in the media, the custodians of “politeness” deemed her behaviour out of order. Evidently she needs to be aware of what the etiquette and image coaches refer to as “image stereotypes.” With media and photographers around high level people, one needs to behave accordingly.

There seems to be a bit of mixed messages here. As we all know, men usually shout loudly, throw objects to the opposing team’s supporters, and yell in the ear of the person sitting next to them. When a goal is scored by their team, some men even jump up and down, yell, and even kiss and hug each in celebration.

In some cases, men are even known to take off their shirts and wave them in the air, cheering and become even louder. I have seen this on television and on my first attempt to watch live soccer. I myself was a bit offended that the man sitting next to me during my first live game took his shirt off when a goal was scored.

But that is fine, I guess it is all part of the game. Now, it seems “dignified” women on the other hand cannot do any of this, whether it be the shirt waving or the jumping up and down, especially if they are considered to be of a certain status.
What in the world is this categorisation?

Did the First Lady rip her dress or skirt off and wave it above her head? (If so, accidents happen and I am sure the Angolan government can at least afford another outfit, but no, that just did not happen).

I guess some women watching fell let down? Buts just what is this supposedly poor impression she gave? All she did was be human and enjoyed a soccer game, like anyone else, without these labels of judgement.

We all watched the inauguration South African President Zuma when he danced and jumped with Solly Muhloli and his gospel group who jump so high they can hit the roof. Where are these deportment gurus when he dances? No one makes noise about the lack of grace.

And, these expectations of women and girls as pretty, polite and poised is not just limited to the politically famous. For example, boys can throw stones at girls and girls need not retaliate by returning fire.

Society dictates that girls must talk sense to the boys or lie low in a foetal position looking vulnerable. At some point one of the boys will hopefully get sense in his head and rescue the girls, keeping the girls’ images clean from any accusations of rowdy behaviour.

I guess women are not supposed to have too much fun. Rita even says it is not lady-like to laugh out loud, especially if people actually get to see your epiglottis – that bell like thing at the end of your mouth by the root of the tongue.

She adds that people can actually tell the size of your vagina by how wide one opens their mouth when they laugh. This is unreal, and now it makes sense as she often sucks her lips in when she laughs or covers her mouth.

Really, what standards do all the etiquette coaches, and Rita included, want for women. I am sure Rita will be furious when she reads this, but it is often fellow women who cruelly undermine other women for the sake of poise and refinement. This truly perpetuates the stereotypes of how women should behave.

Why not let people enjoy the games and dance as they wish, jump up and cheer on a goal of their favourite team? Maybe Rita and the etiquette coaches should laugh out loud every once and a whole, it might do them some good.

Glenda Muzenda-Raftopoulos is the Care Work Coordinator working with Gender and Media Southern Africa. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service.

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