Researchers have claimed that more than two-thirds of male football fans have hostile, sexist, or misogynistic attitudes toward women’s sports.
A study led by Durham University, based on a survey of nearly 2,000 male football supporters, found what it calls “openly misogynistic masculinity,” regardless of age.
While progressive opinions among men were highly represented, they were not as common as hostility and sexism, and the researchers suggest this points to a backlash in progress in gender equality.
The study was placed in the context of the increased visibility of women’s sport in recent years, particularly since the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada, where England took a bronze medal.
dr. Stacey Pope, an associate professor in the Department of Sports and Exercise Science at Durham University, was the lead author, with her team assisted by researchers from the Universities of Leicester and South Australia.
Their analysis was based on the responses of 1,950 male football supporters who regularly use UK-based fan message boards.
“This is the first study to examine British football fans’ attitudes to women’s sport at a time when women’s sport has acquired a significantly increased media profile,” Pope said. “Our research showed that attitudes towards women in sports are changing to some degree, with attitudes more progressive. However, the findings also reflect a patriarchal society in which misogyny is pervasive. There were numerous examples of men from all generations who showed a very sexist and misogynistic attitude.”
A subset of 507 respondents who answered certain questions was divided into three categories: those with progressive views, others with openly misogynistic attitudes, and covert misogynists.
The first group of 24% expressed strong support for equal media coverage of women’s sports, and many said the 2015 Women’s World Cup had been a turning point.
Still, part of the overt group — 68% of those surveyed — suggested that women should not participate in sports at all, or, if they did, would be better suited to more “feminine” pursuits such as athletics, rather than football. Media coverage of women’s sports — an area considered intrinsically inferior — was seen as “positive discrimination” or “PC nonsense.”
The 8% of fans who were secretly called hostile were the smallest group. They typically expressed a progressive stance in public before revealing more reactionary private opinions.
Co-author John Williams, from Leicester University, said: “The increase in media coverage of women’s sports has been openly supported by some men. But it also clearly represents, to others, a visible threat.
“This is at a time when there are more widespread fears circulating among men about how to establish and carry out satisfying male identities. For men like this, there was an outspoken anti-feminist backlash.”