FEMFACTS
28 Feb 2019

No poems for female sports reporters

Following controversial remarks by two Italian sports figures, February 17 was dubbed  “sexist Sunday” on Italian Twitter -- and Monday wasn’t so great either.

Editorial Team
Iris Pase NewsMavens, Europe
No poems for female sports reporters - NewsMavens
Dante, PixaBay

On Sunday, February 17, two Italian sports commentators sparked outrage with comments they made about women.

The first was Fulvio Collovati, a former football player and World Cup-winning defender turned pundit. Collovati appeared on RAI’s programme “Quelli che il calcio” which featured a field report from Sara Piccinini, a sports correspondent married to Sassuolo’s player Federico Peluso. After Piccinini commented on the match between her husband’s team and Empoli, Collovati stated that hearing a woman talk about football tactics makes his stomach turn:

I can't do it. If she talks about the match and how it went, okay, but she can't talk about tactics. A woman doesn't understand that like a man does," Collovati said.  

On the same day, another former footballer, Billy Costacurta, shared his take on the case of player Mauro Icardi, who was recently dropped as Inter captain after Wanda Nara -- who is both Icardi’s agent and his wife -- made harsh comments about other players on his team. Commenting on these developments on “Sky Sport”, Costacurta stated that he would never "allow" his wife to say such things “...otherwise, I’d kick her out of the house”, he said.  

Both RAI and Collovati have since apologized and he was temporarily suspended from RAI’s sports programmes. However, the hashtags #Collovati and #Costacurta are still firing up on Twitter and they were soon joined by a third one -- #giancarlodotto -- for a very good reason.

WHAT’S THE CLAIM?

On Monday, February 18, the Italian newspaper Corriere dello Sport published an article by Giancarlo Dotto, a well known sports journalist, who came to Collovati and Costacurta’s defence. In the article titled “But it is a tribute to women”, Dotto wrote that he agrees with Collovati, although not with the way he voiced his opinions, which he found “too caveman-like”. According to Dotto:

A woman who talks about football does not make [my] stomach turn, but she ceases to exist at that very same moment.

How and why does a woman “disappear” if she talks about football? The problem, according to Dotto, is not women’s incompetence -- on the contrary:

The more knowledgeable she is, the more she disappears when she talks competently about it and you catch yourself thinking "Well, she's better than Beppe Bergomi". At that point, I can't stand her. I begin to detest her, because of how much she departs from her aesthetic and her ethical duty of being different from a man, vanishing in [a bizarre imitation of] men.

To make the point more clear, he provides a personal example:

I could never have sex with, or court a female whose job is to talk about football. I could never kiss a woman -- even if she’s beautiful -- who has just asked Gattuso if he applied the tactics of the offside, or asked Chiellini if he marks his player in corner kicks.

Dotto further illustrates this by quoting American author Charles Bukowski’s poem "Yes Yes" about “God creating a woman lying in bed”, but also mentions other famous male artists, asking:

Would Petrarch or Dante, let alone Catullus or Roger Vadim, ever dedicate a single verse or a [film] to a sports reporter?

Finally, the issue of competence reappears in the text, with a somewhat different angle. Women who debate on football, even if they know what they’re talking about, are not doing it for the right reasons, Dotto claims:

She doesn't care. She's there by chance. For something else. A good example is Melissa Satta on [the tv program] "Tiki Taka". Or Diletta Leotta, anywhere. They talk about football, but it could be botany, cosmetics, or astrophysics. They talk about football without having the faintest notion or lotion, they’re simply [happy to seduce the entire world]. Excessively "female". Uncompromising. Unreliable.

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

Although the comments which prompted this article have been strongly criticized -- including by a lot of women who are professional players or sports reporters -- Dotto chose not only to side with Collovati, but to defend his point of view in the belief that he was “paying homage” to women, as the headline suggests. However, the article is far from a tribute to women -- it’s rather a tribute to male chauvinism.

Dotto suggests that women are ethereal creatures, “created” to satisfy the male gaze, or to be muses for male artists. Such delicate beings are not meant to talk about football, unless they want to become “invisible”. According to Dotto, this happens because they’re not fulfilling their “duty” of being radically different from men, both ethically and esthetically. Consequently, women are portrayed as valuable only as sexualized or romanticized objects, for whom a lack of knowledge is an advantage, more true to his idea of what it means to be “feminine”.

But the essence of this article is not in the random hypotheticals about whether a 14th Century poet would write about a female sports reporter. It’s in the resentment of women who succeed in traditionally male professions -- especially if they prove to be better at their job than men. The fact that women can and do have a genuine interest in things like football is further downplayed by the argument -- quite contradictory in itself -- that even knowledgeable women reporters aren’t “truly” interested in sports, but only in the “seduction” of the viewers.  

These arguments echo past times when women were getting the right to vote, enroll in universities, or enter high-skilled and well paid professions. Each of these steps was followed by protests from some men who felt that they are being “robbed” of something that rightfully belonged to them, and not to the women who were previously denied the same rights and opportunities.

Conclusion

Talking about “the duty of difference” Dotto adopts an essentialist view on womanhood, perpetuating the stereotypical and patriarchal ideal of women as shy, submissive, beautiful, and naive beings, whose main (if not only) purpose is to be sexually attractive to men. We therefore rate this article as both biological determinism and sexual objectification of women.

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Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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