Women’s football | In Colombia, fútbol for peace, but what about gender equity?

Other studies carried out by my sociology students (both women and men) at the Universidad di Antioquia where I work, also denounced those actions as insidious violence. The same was true in the interviews I conducted during the empirical research about the game, of the advantages and disadvantages for women and men who play football. Despite all of this, the women are still determined to continue playing football. The integrity of many women has made it possible for more and more girls to become interested in football, and there are now several football schools for girls. Perhaps because of the work of the feminists, relations between the sexes are also changing in the Colombian urban sectors.

GG: You mention the Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano in an article in Alma Mater. He writes about the soccer ball as a feminine object—“la pelota es femenina …”—which you interpret as another way that fútbol operates as an agent of the masculine. In your view, do South American men such as Galeano think this way unconsciously, or is there a deliberate strategy to exclude?

BV: The ball or football seems to have a symbolic feminine value by being the object for which various men from different teams dispute over, because one cannot overlook the fact that football—like sports in general—is an activity which operates under the agency of the masculine identity, the same as weapons. Football permits a man to demonstrate, in front of other men, his virility, endurance, strength, and capacity to develop physical powers which lay dormant, through a regime of training which blends together enhanced bodily hormones—testosterone in particular, but also sweat and blood. For that reason, men—particularly South American men, but not only so (let us remember the work of Eric Dunning about English football players)—whether consciously or not, want to preserve football for themselves.

In Colombia this is very pathetic since some men even reached the point of telling me that women lack “the balls” to play football, that they lacked something, and that something is corporal and refers to the potency of the masculine sex. There are also men who are not sufficient for the sport, according to some.

GG: What is the importance for broader society of women being able to play fútbol in Colombia and elsewhere in South America?

BV: In my judgment it would make society more equitable, less sexist, more democratic, and would put an end to much suffering for women who play football. It is evident that the Colombian girls who emigrate for example to the USA—where the idea that soccer is masculine doesn’t exist since soccer has not been as popular for men as American football or baseball—feel better about themselves when they play soccer. I have interviewed some who confessed to me that they feel proud to play soccer in the cultural milieu of the USA, which is different from that of Colombia, and they openly express their pride, whereas in Colombia they hide their interest in football by lying or keeping silent.

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