Only a few short months after her province hosted some of the world’s best soccer players for the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Premier Christy Clark has been found using a sexist insult to infer that the Seattle Sounders soccer team were playing like “princesses”.
On Saturday, during the Vancouver Whitecaps and Seattle Sounders game at BC Place, Clark sent out an ill-received tweet nicknaming the out-of-town team the “Seattle Princesses”.
“The Seattle Princesses are putting on quite a performance tonight. So many miraculous recoveries.
#VWFC #VANvSEA,” she tweeted.
Some of her followers’ were understandably shocked and disappointed.
@christyclarkbc how are you possibly this stupid?
— BrowntoBure (@BrowntoBure) September 20, 2015
While the tweet angered many, there are undoubtedly many who brush this off as sensitivity and a lack of sense of humour. Let me tell you why this is problematic.
As the Premier of British Columbia and a public figure working on the taxpayer dollars of 2.3 million women living in this province, Clark has the responsibility to set an unparalleled example of how women should be described, treated and talked about. Calling someone, or a team, “a girl” should not be an insult uttered from her mouth.
And same goes with the term “princess”. Describing a woman as a princess is one matter, which usually means she is spoiled and sheltered, but calling a man a princess is another, much more weighted insult. For one, in the context of a soccer team, it infers that they are weak, unprepared, subservient and delicate… just like women.
Hopefully in the year 2015, debunking that women are weak and powerless is not needed. But apparently reminding people not to use femininity as an insult is required.
The obvious implication in these insults is that it is bad or wrong to act like a woman. Much like “pussy”, “bitch”, “cunt” or telling someone to “grow a pair”, these insults assert that being a woman is a weakness. Calling a soccer team a bunch of princesses, whether voiced by a woman or a man, is telling women they are inferior to their male counterparts. If only the Seattle Sounders had “manned up”, maybe they would have played better?
All this makes no mention of what impact these sorts of comments have on women’s role in professional sport. In an industry that is archaic in its preference for male athletes, coaches and administrators, there are already far too many obstacles a woman must hurdle to make it as a professional athlete. None of the top 25 highest paid athletes in the world are female and only two are in the top 100 – Maria Sharapova (#26) and Serena Williams (#47) – according to Forbes. This is a list every sport enthusiast should be ashamed of.
Do spectators want to pay money to watch a team of weak and subservient women (or men) kick a ball around? Likely not. So continually inferring that any man that plays sport poorly is playing like a princess or a girl only reinforces that women do not make memorable athletes. And of course, local examples like Christine Sinclair and Clara Hughes are clear evidence otherwise.
As for Clark’s tweet, would it have been more hurtful if she was directing the term “princesses” to a team of women? Joanne Stygall Lotz, the executive director of ProMOTION Plus, a B.C. organization dedicated to increasing opportunities for girls and women in the sport and recreation and partially funded by the B.C. government, says yes.
“If she was calling a women’s team a bunch of princesses, that would be a bigger issue. But this was a misstep on her part,” Stygall Lotz told Vancity Buzz.
She was surprised to hear the premier use such a questionable term to describe a soccer team, considering what Clark’s government has already done for women in sport.
“Generally this government has been very supportive of women in sport. To me, actions speak louder than words,” she continued, citing the FIFA Women’s World Cup and the Women’s World Cup legacy project. In July, the provincial government announced $100,000 investment to encourage more girls and women to take part in coaching and refereeing soccer.
“But if we are going to talk about this issue, then a great example is that there is no Vancouver women’s Whitecaps team anymore. They used to play first before the men’s team at Swangard Stadium until 2011.”
Despite the admittance that Clark could have used a better word, Stygall Lotz says she doesn’t take the insult as a flag against women in sport.
“We don’t take offence,” she added.
While Stygall Lotz may be forgiving, Clark continues to receive backlash online for her remark. Request for comments from Christy Clark and her team were not returned by deadline.