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22nd Jan 2022

More than 2/3 of male football fans harbour misogynistic view of women’s sport, study finds

Daniel Brown

The study was based on a survey of almost 2,000 male football fans

A study has found that more than two-thirds of male football fans harbour hostile, sexist or misogynistic attitudes towards women’s sport, as reported by the Guardian.

Researchers from Durham University conducted a study based on a survey of almost 2,000 male football supporters, which detected what it terms “openly misogynistic masculinities”, regardless of age.

While ‘progressive opinions’ among men were strongly represented, they were not as common as hostility and sexism, which led to researchers suggesting that it indicates a backlash in advances of gender equality in the sport.

The context of the study was based around increased visibility of women’s sport in recent years – examining sporting events such as the 2012 London Olympics and the 2015 Women’s World Cup in Canada – a tournament in which England came third.

Dr Stacey Pope, an associate professor from Durham University’s department of sport and exercise sciences, was the lead author in the story, and her team was assisted by researchers from the Universities of Leicester and South Australia.

The study’s analysis was based on the responses of 1,950 male football supporters who regularly use UK-based fan message boards to communicate with others.

“This is the first study to examine UK men football fans’ attitudes to women’s sport in an era in which women’s sport has experienced a significantly increased media profile,” said Pope.

“Our research showed that attitudes towards women in sport are, to some extent, changing, with more progressive attitudes.

“However, the findings are also reflective of a patriarchal society in which misogyny is rife. There were numerous examples of men from across all generations exhibiting highly sexist and misogynistic attitudes.”

A sub-group consisting of 507 respondents answered particular questions and were then divided into three categories: those displaying progressive views, others harbouring overtly misogynistic attitudes and covert misogynists.

The first band of 24 per cent conveyed strong support for equal media coverage of women’s sport, with many suggesting that the 2015 Women’s World Cup had represented a watershed.

However, some members of the overt group – 68 per cent of those polled – argued that women should not participate in sport at all, or if they are to compete, they would be better suited to more “feminine” sports such as athletics, rather than football.

The 8 per cent of fans branded covertly hostile, which comprised the smallest group, typically communicated progressive attitudes in public, before later revealing more reactionary opinions in private.

The co-author of the study, John Williams, from Leicester University, said: “The increase in media coverage of women’s sport was openly supported by some men. But it also clearly represents, for others, a visible threat.

“This is at a time when there are more widespread anxieties circulating among men about how to establish and perform satisfying masculine identities. For men like these, there was a pronounced anti-feminist backlash.”