Howay the lasses
I am many things. A woman. A mother. A daughter. A sister. A student. An activist. A football fan. A domestic violence survivor. A rape survivor.
I am passionate about many things. My children, who I hope will become strong, independent women. Women's rights. Smashing the patriarchy. Crimes against women. Newcastle United. Rangers. Buying as many mad socks as I possibly can.
I was first taken to Ibrox as a tiny baby. It's a common sight up in Glasgow. Teeny weeny babies among the crowd. It's something that starts from the moment you are born. I can't remember my first trip to St James' Park. My dad took me, passed me over the heads of those in front of him at the Gallowgate and I sat at the front with other children while behind us a sea of Geordies roared on the toon.
Women at football, despite what Sky Sports would like us to believe, is not a new thing. I know many women who have been making that trip up to Strawberry place every other weekend for the majority of their lives. They are just as passionate as their male counterparts, just as knowledgable, just as loyal.
But women still experience immense sexism at the game. Chants of "get your tits out for the lads" are commonplace. There is one female official in professional football, Sian Massey, who I believe to be one of the best assistant referees in the game. She had to endure pathetic comments made by former Sky Sports presenters Richard Keys and Andy Grey, who were sacked after Andy Grey stated "Can you believe that? A female linesman. Women don’t know the offside rule.” Keys replied: “Course they don’t.” They also Wolf whistled at another Sky presenter Clare Tomlinson and directed that awful "get your tits out" chant to her. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/news/get-your-ts-out-for-the-lads-andy-gray-and-richard-keys-direct-sexist-chant-at-clare-tomlinson-in-new-footage-9098633.html
These are only limited examples of what goes on in football. It was no surprise when reactions to Ched Evans' rape conviction was met by declarations that the victim was a "slut", a "slag" and a "money grabbing tramp." What was horrifying was the sheer amount of abuse that this victim of rape received. Over 6000 tweets in the immediate hours after the conviction was announced. Since Ched Evans was jailed a constant stream of victim blaming has ensued, usually complete with derogatory sexist insults towards the victim from both men and women.
Now TV presenter Charlie Webber has become a target of some of these misogynists. Her crime? Being a lifelong Sheffield United fan and Patron of the club, a member of the Ministry of Justice's victims panel, an ambassador for Women's Aid and a sexual assault survivor. She has been the only person involved with Sheffield United to have stood up and give a clear response to the Ched Evans quandary.
Charlie Webster spoke to Radio 5 Live, her opinion being “You will have young people cheering him on when he scores a goal. Not under my name, under my club or community.” I cheered when I heard that! Someone actually say "No! This isn't right. We can't have an unremorseful convicted rapist representing our club!" after the men who represent the club, Kevin McCabe and James Phipps have fudged the issue, making no definitive statements on the re-signing of Evans.
Some Sheffield United fans have reacted to Charlie Webster's opinions with venom. She was targetted with tweets, including one from Ched Evans sister, Kylie, calling her a hypocrite as she had once tweeted she should have asked Mike Tyson for an autograph. Webster responded about that particular tweet "In hindsight, I’m not proud of that tweet but the response has been another unfortunate example of berating someone for speaking out against rape."
A quick Twitter search of Charlie Webster's name brings up the following tweets as some examples of the abuse being flung at her.
Can't stand Charlie Webster the hypocritical cunt
— Ryaaaaan (@ryryutb) October 24, 2014
@bbcthisweek Did that bird Charlie Webster make decent sandwiches for the blokes?
— Dave Turner (@cmdocker) October 23, 2014
Charlie Webster is a twat
— daniel (@fuckoffdanny) October 21, 2014
— marc (@barhamm) October 23, 2014
Now naked pictures of Charlie Webster have been circulated on social media. The Twitter user responsible for distributing the photos was immediately rebuked byl Sheffield United Co-chairman James D. Phipps who tweeted Webster an apology and promised to ban anyone involved in tweeting the photos from Brammall Lane football ground. The Twitter user subsequently deleted his account.
I totally agree with Charlie Webster's stance. Her Tyson tweet was stupid but we have all said stupid things that we later regret when we think them through properly. Charlie Webster is ensuring that the victim is not being forgotten in this media circus. She realises that in this furore a young girl has had her live irrevocably changed. Her concern is not whether an overpayed, over-entitled man puts a football in the back of a net, but how a young woman is coping with the continued pressure of living life as a rape survivor whose assailant is present in the media spotlight. And so I stand beside Charlie Webster, as a woman, as a sexual assault survivor, as a football fan, as a female who has received vile messages on social media for publicly supporting a rape victim. We cannot allow a rapist who hasn't learned his lesson back into football. We need to put victims before rapists!
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