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Brazil, the country of football, but a football that women are not included

When foreigners are asked about the first thing they remember when they hear the word Brazil, they probably say “football”. We are known for loving football and having one of the best footballers in the world, and Brazil is frequently referred as “country of football”. But how a country can be a country of something that 51,5% is not considered of being part of it?

In Brazil, football is culturally considered a men’s thing, and women can’t be part of it, unless if she is a footballer’s girlfriend, clubs muse or game attendees. Since when I was a little kid I was taught that ball was not a girl’s toy. Boys were always encouraged to play football, meanwhile we were encouraged not to play it, because this is not “girly”.

Being a female footballer here in Brazil is tough. Their work is not valued (yes, there are exceptions like Marta, but it’s hard to see other “Martas” in Brazil), they are considered masculines and are called by pejorative names. This prejudicial though is also spread in school (believe or not ). There are very few female football teams in schools compared with the male teams, and even if the girls want to play it, they hesitate to do it because they don’t want to be labeled with pejorative names just because they want to play football. On the other hand, we were more encouraged than the boys to play volleyball in our physical education classes because this sport is more acceptable for girls to play than football. There are several sports programs that focus more on football, almost every single day football game is streamed on TV (open and cable TV), but any female football game is streamed out of the Olympiads or Pan American Games periods (at least I've never watched or heard about channels that stream it).

I’ve never been good at football, I’ve tried to play once but I didn’t like it very much, but what if I did? What if I wanted to improve my skills and be a good player? I’m 100% sure that I would be discouraged and even would be called by prejudicial nicknames. But why do I care about it? Well, there are many social programs that bring boys from risky situations to the football fields in order to play football, eventually earn a career perspective, to improve the physical health, to take them away from the drugs and crime, etc. However, why there aren’t many programs like that focused on girls, too? I believe that a sport can be also a tool to empower girls and women as well.

Nevertheless, we are moving on. I’m seeing more girls saying that they love football, more girls understanding how football works (because it's considered a "girly" thing knowing nothing about football rules), but I’m still waiting to see more girls playing. First, we need to understand that a sport like football is not supposed to be a gender divided thing, football must be encouraged to boys and girls equally. Brazil will be truly the country of football if it’s equally playable by boys and girls.

Comments

LeanaM's picture

Engaging girls

Lara, thanks for sharing this! I definitely know how you feel...I played football/soccer when I was in Chile, and the kind of looks and comments that I got when I brought it up were extremely offensive and cruel. I'm wondering...around the World Cup that's coming up, are there any local organizations trying to include girls in the football craze? It sounds like if there were, you wouldn't be the only girl interested in participating!

KathyG's picture

Title IX in the USA

What does government have to do with sports? with football? with women playing in sports?

It is interesting that in the US there was a law passed in the 1970's stating "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance...." Title IX is consistently pointed to as a primary reason for why girls and women are more highly represented in sports.

In the 1970's when I was in school there was money provided by the US government to schools promoting physically education including "football" or as we call it "soccer" for boys. Whereas many schools didn't provide for these activities for girls. With Title IX girls had to receive the same amount of funding for physical activity in their schools. And after Title IX went into law in the 1980's there was a huge push for more team sports for girls.

One might question if it is governments role to get involved in this kind of issue. But the increase in money towards team sports was an unintended consequence of "giving equally in federal financial assistance". It wasn't targeted towards sports. Yet the shift was huge in the difference it made in the lifes of girls and women and in a cultural mindset. Women are celebrated in football, basketball, and many other walks of life!

I guess my story is one of hope. When I was in high school it was much as you describe in Brazil. But for young girls in the US they get to be girly on the field of sport as well as life!

Thanks for the thoughtful post.
Kathy

laraezequiel's picture

Thanks for commenting

Thank you Leana and Kathy for commenting!

Leana, I don't know any orgazation including girls on football/soccer games around my city/state, but I'm sure that there are a lot around Brazil. However, the organizations are mostly targeting boys.
Last week I was casually in front of the TV and a sports TV show was talking about a selection to choose good young football players in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. I got very happy to see girls included there. There were very skilled girls. I just wish that it happened more frequently.

Kathy, just like United States, the law says that, but of course with other words. This is not exactly a constitutional problem, but it's more a cultural issue. Any law said that we couldn't play some sport or do any job because of gender, but culturally there's a division between what should girls and boys play and work. In the case of physical education classes, we've never been excluded of activities just because we were girls, but the cultural issue predominated. When the school was organizating football/soccer championships, they never asked the girls if they wanted to make a team. The same way that they barely asked the boys if they wanted to make a volleyball team. It wasn't the intention of the school to exclude boys and girls to practice a determinated sport. It was (unfortunately) the cultural factor predominating.

It saddens me that we have this sexual division of playing. The girls won't be less girls if they play football/soccer, and boys won't be less boys if they like ballet.

Lara Ezequiel
Brazil Delegate of the G(irls)20 Summit 2013

delphine criscenzo's picture

Love this post!

Dear Lara,
Thank you so much for bringing this issue up and for your perspective.
I was especially interested by the fact that Football is very often used as a way out for boys. What is there for girls? you are right! This is an important question to ask.
I was born and raised in France where football is the national sport! The observations you have made about the sexism that exists around football in Brazil is the same in France.
Gender roles that are predetermined and social culture are simply perpetuating oppression and discrimination.
Thank you for being out spoken on the issue!
Keep writing!

Delphine Criscenzo
Outreach and Training Associate
World Pulse
www.worldpulse.com

laraezequiel's picture

"Gender roles that are

"Gender roles that are predetermined and social culture are simply perpetuating oppression and discrimination." You're absolutely right, Delphine. Not only women suffer with this, but men as well. This post made me wonder not only about women playing soccer, but about boys that like things like fashion or ballet. This predetermined role affects everyone and generate oppression (as you said), and waste of talent as well. Thank you for informing this about France. Didn't know that it's just like Brazil. Now I'm wondering if it happens as well in countries like Italy, Germany and England, where people are very passionate about football.

Lara Ezequiel
Brazil Delegate of the G(irls)20 Summit 2013

rabia.salihi's picture

You've spoken for my heart!

Dearest,
I love football and one of my sole wishes has been that only if I had the chance to play just as my brothers did or any other boy who take this chance as a given. I have started playing for the first time since just a few months ago (though the opportunity to play is maybe 3 time a month which is very less) and I do love it.
And, its not just football that is not "appropriate" for us, girls and can't be our dream. Can you believe it that the first time I rode a bicycle was also just a few months ago. I still am thankful that at least I had the chance to do that... I really am happy that you brought up this topic... Many heartfelt thanks to you, love.
Cheers,
Rabi

rabi

laraezequiel's picture

"And, it's not just football

"And, it's not just football that is not "appropriate" for us, girls and can't be our dream." Yes, that's it! All of the successful female footballers I know here in Brazil had to struggle a lot to get recognition. Marta is the only one that is as prestigious as male footballers here. Here you'll be able to know a little more about her http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marta_(footballer)
Wow! I just can't believe that you rode a bike few months ago. Why did you take so long time to do it? Cultural issues? The best memories of my childhood involve my bikes around my grandmother's town. It was really shocking to me to know that you just had the opportunity to do this a few time ago. Hope you have a lot of chances to ride bikes and to play football. Keep doing that!

Lara Ezequiel
Brazil Delegate of the G(irls)20 Summit 2013

Jacquiline.mogusu's picture

Women tradition in Kenya.

Its from the Kenyan tradition the women and girls do not have say before men. Thus this means that Kenyan women traditionally are there to seen and not to be heard. Their main work in the family is to give birth, to take care of the children and to cook for the family. The GCWGO has taken an initiative of educating our women and girls in Kenya to learn about their rights, and how they are able to live a meaningful life as human beings.We are also teaching our women and girls about HIV and AIDS phenomena, raping, and other violence acts upon them. Respectively we are working hard to make our communities to understand that; " if you protect women and our daughters you are protecting humanity".

Mauwa Brigitte's picture

COURAGE

Laraezequiel,
Je vous encourage au football parceque sa fortifie les muscles que personne ne déroute pas vos idées, les filles et les garçons peuvent pratiquer se sport sa donne beaucoup d'ouverture dans le monde et vous irez dans les endroits inaperçu que vous n'y attendez pas. Le nom "péjoratifs" n'a pas de sens pour la fille qui se decouvre dans le monde au contraire, il faudrais l'orienter de ce qu'elle fait pour aller de l'avant. Quitter dans l'ignorance, optons les changements des mentalités durables, aller dans le monde de la technologie pour apprendre plus.

Brigitte

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