There has been much media amusement recently at Liverpool FC’s directive for fans to cease shouting expressions such as “Man Up!” “Don’t play like a girl” and “That’s gay. ”
The ‘Political Correctness Gone Mad’ brigade have predictably gone er, mad (itself an offensive word) yet such expressions are surely out of kilter with modern society. As a football fan who grew up on the terraces during the 70s and 80s, blatant racism and homophobia were not only tolerated but actually encouraged in a culture where white working class males watched other white working class males perform in white working class estates.
The homoerotic nature of football supporting was perhaps masked by fan attitudes towards players who displayed what they perceived as ‘unmanly’ traits; these included the following :
Shitting out of a tackle
Having long hair
Not sporting a muzzy
Groaning after your leg’s been broken in three places
Responding to abusive taunts about being a) the big girl or b) a big poof from fans
Now, as a red-blooded heterosexual and father of two (OK, I’M STRAIGHTER THAN A ROMAN ROAD, RIGHT?) I find all these phrases offensive but not the obvious ones. Ofcourse ‘playing like a girl’ and ‘that’s gay’ are misogynist and homophobic but it’s ‘Man Up!’ that really gets my goat (no offence to the Capra aegagrus hircus family.) ‘Man Up!’ is offensive on many levels. Firstly, anyone who utters such a preposterous phrase are exactly the type of people who call people ‘guys.’ The ‘Man Up!’ mob have probably never had a fight in their lives and desperately want to be seen as tough by having ridiculous tribal tats and drinking expensive bottled lager just like the ‘lads’ in the lager adverts (always three white, one black you’ll notice).
Secondly, it makes no grammatical sense. I’m not sure how one does ‘man up’. I’ve heard of Man Down!’ in the military sense of losing a soldier (or player) but to ‘man up?’ If by ‘man up’ it is assumed that the male in question must adhere to some collective orthodoxy of manly qualities, then I’d like to peruse this list myself.
Perhaps it’s Kipling’s multitude of virtues from his mawkishly sentimental poem, ‘If.’ Then, my son, you won’t be a man, you’ll be fucking perfect and as we all know, no-one’s perfect, not even The Big Man himself, God.
Ah, God. He made mankind in his own image didn’t he or is the other way around? We made Him in our own image. White fella, big beard, looks like he can handle himself if push came to shove. This is our model of manhood or at least one model. The Greek and Roman Gods were also fine physical specimens although they had tiny knobs. The Greeks and Romans also went in for bi-sexual relationships in a big way. Indeed, the hand-picked, crack battalion of Theban warriors who conquered the Spartans were known as the ‘Band of Lovers.’ Plutarch hints at the reason when he explains that this name is derived from ‘their devotion to each other’ but really, they were bumming each other senseless and who’d pick a fight with an angry Theban hoplite? Not me!
The Judeo-Christian hypocrisy regarding homosexuality persists to this day. The new Pope is edging towards ‘acceptance’ despite the fact that his priests have been practicing sodomy and rape for millennia. Jesus himself hung around with twelve fellas and never got married. As far as I know. Suspect?
Footballers and all sportsmen and athletes operate in the gayest arenas of all (apart from battlefields of course). Overwhelmingly male, the crowds tend to adopt a kind of herd mentality regardless of age, race, religion or class. As more and more black footballers entered the game in the 80s and 90s, so racism became less overt. Whether this was due to the Kick It Out campaigners or just common sense (why barrack an opposition black player if half your own team is black?), doesn’t really matter. The disgusting racism of the 70s and 80s has largely been eradicated. Homophobia is still a taboo that needs confronting. It’s all too easy to laugh off Liverpool’s attempt at defining insulting words and phrases as political correctness gone mad or ‘nanny state’ Newspeak.
What is ‘gay’ about a bad pass, a missed penalty, a poor free kick? Why are players ‘gay’ if they don’t jump into every 50/50 tackle without a care for a career ending injury? What is ‘girly’ about reacting to an elbow, kick, stamp or punch? Girls are tougher than men and that’s ‘a scientific fact.’ Emotionally and physically, women have to cope with far more than boys and men who largely remain in a state of permanent infanthood.
That they are indulged in this by other men in positions of power only highlights the use of language as a method of camouflaging reality. Many footballers are gay. We know that. Many football fans are gay. We know that too. If either players or fans still feel that they have to hide their sexuality because of the culture of football, then perhaps instead of sneering, we should be applauding Liverpool FC in their stand against prejudice.