Last week, Between The Lines with Melissa Reddy released an exposé titled ‘No More Silence: Women in Football Speak Up.’ Prompted by her recent article in The Independent, Melissa spoke to football reporter Bianca Westwood (Soccer Sunday) who has worked within the industry for many years and has been a victim of both sexual and verbal harassment. The pair discussed women’s experiences working in such a male-dominated, gender-exclusive field - an environment which facilitates the constant questioning of women’s abilities, women feeling unsafe in their work surroundings, accusations of intimate relationships with players and managers they knew and women being passed up for opportunities.
This reportage is an intimate and candid look into the realities that so many female sports reporters face - both as a result of their male-dominated field and their gender. Melissa and Bianca discuss how women are expected to brush off such harassment as ‘banter’ and are frequently told to laugh it off. “[As a woman,] you’re already in the minority,” Melissa explains. “You want to fit in so badly, you don’t want to stick out any more than you already do - so you try and blend in as much as possible.”
Dotted throughout this raw discussion are the voices of other women in the industry painting a picture of their experiences. Melissa and Bianca describe the ‘constant battle’ of working in the football industry: you are told what to wear and how to look each day, you receive harassment from players before and after matches - and yet you have to spend your entire day putting on a brave face as you’re constantly in front of cameras, and then come home to the same abuse on social media. There’s no escape.
The Football industry has a responsibility to foster a safe and welcoming environment for women. As does every industry. Women should be able to participate in the sport they love without being forced to accept sexist and predatory behaviour as just part of the job. The first step is holding space for the women bravely coming forward to share their experiences and to bring awareness to the problem. No more silence and no more women feeling like we don’t belong in football.
Between The Lines is a podcast that talks to the biggest names in football, discussing the subjects most interesting to fans – including the behind the scenes insight that underpins everything across the top of the game. Click here to listen to the whole episode of Between The Lines.