The events of the last year have clearly shown that the issue of racism in English football is far from resolved. It seems like there have been new developments and issues to be dealt with every few months in the John Terry case and before that in the incident that involved Luis Suarez.
Both these cases will probably continue to be debated widely in international circles. English football has done some pioneering work in anti-racism and because of this these incidents are seen as landmark cases in other countries.
However a more peripheral but not easily dismissed aspect of both incidents however has rarely, if ever, been touched upon: sexism.
One of the stories circulated at the beginning of the Terry/ Ferdinand affair is that the term used by Terry hadn’t been “black c**t” but “blind c**t.” Clearly this claim was meant to free him from the suspicion of racism, but it also cast a dubious light on the perception of discrimination in general. What remains uncontested and unexplained here is the use of the term “cunt”.
There’s obviously no need to explain why you can abase another person by referring to him as a female genital, the denigration is self-explanatory and “c**t” a normal if vulgar term of abuse. You might want to avoid it in your everyday conversation, you might even refer to it as the “c-word” but it is not seen as sexist discrimination.
The same term also figures in the Suárez/ Evra case – as a word in Spanish. In the 115 page investigation of Suárez’s repeated (racial) abuse of Patrice Evra it is noted by the panel investigating the matter on behalf of the English FA that the argument between the two started elsewhere: “Mr Evra told us that he began the conversation by saying‚ Concha de tu Hermana” – which literally means “your sister’s c**t/ pussy” and is according to the experts to be understood as a general swear word.
Now you might say there’s nothing like the mention of female genitals to start a chat between men, and besides Suárez apparently didn’t hear it anyway, so it couldn’t have played a decisive role in the main argument – the main argument of course being one of unacceptable racism, not one of more widely accepted sexism.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting that we now go back and start new investigations into sexism cases against Terry and Evra. This is not the discrimination Olympics or a competition of how many investigations can be opened, and it certainly is not about playing off one form of discrimination against the other, but about what we perceive as discriminatory (versus simply offensive) in the first place.
It is about “c**t” being seen as a common way to debase a man which is not even worth a newspaper comment let alone an explanation. This inherent sexism is a blind spot of the way the recent racism cases in English football have been seen and an indication of the distance we have to travel to tackle all forms of active discrimination.
Nicole Selmer is a feminist and football fan. She is author of ‘Watching the Boys Play’ and lives in Hamburg.