Matchday! A gloriously habitual, familiar recipe for so many. Pehaps less so these days in the current brokenly bonkers Newcastle United cosmos, but generally kicked off with lashings of hope and anticipation, often with an indecently early start and
scramble to get yourself a seat in a local watering hole. Of course, you'll need to toss in a few liveners and something greasy to line the old stomach, before charging off with a bunch of like-minded nutters in a sea of magnificent black and white, feeling
like you and your team could take on the world. Increasingly rowdy chants of local pride, heroes past and present and the obligatory defamation of wherever the opposition call home echo across oft-trodden streets. The excitement deepens and quickens, its flavour
definitely intensifed by those 2 (OK, 4) pints you managed to neck in an hour. There's definitely the unmistakable whiff of Greggs in the air, too.
Now, everyone has their own matchday rituals, and I'd hate to generalise what is a treasured and
personal experiece for thousands of fans and families. My point is, that - in my experience - there's a certain comfort in the pattern and regularity of the day. The build up, the journey, the faces, the passion, the over-priced pints. Aside from whatever
the hell we might be served up on the pitch, in general, there's a sense of the expected, and of belonging.
Stay with me here, as I'm about to drop the F-bomb.
For a while now, I've been thinking about how to marry up the ingrained
sort of behaviour I myself display on matchday, and just what my inner feminist would have to say about it.
Without getting all Germaine Greer on your ass, I definitely think of myself as a champion of gender equality and someone
who calls out any misogynist bullshit whenever I come across it. You know: shouty builders, depiction of women in the media, representation in decision-making positions in business (actually, that's a whole separate blog, isn't it.) So, when I revert to a
slightly different self whenever I wacth my football team, there's often a sort of embarrassed sense of....letting the side down, I suppose.
Alot of accepted football terminology - when really examined with a *seriousface* - does come
off as inherently misogynist. Far be it for me to challenge whatever anyone wants to yell when they've paid good money to watch their team in the flesh, and nor would I ever want to do so. Objectively, though, I do slightly cringe myself out when I catch myself
hollering at 'a load of big girls' blouses' or 'f**king girls'. It's not the sort of behaviour that will get me in there as Caitlin Moran's bestie, is it?
Another traditional and to be honest, amusing, slice of matchday culture
is the swearing. Oh, the words you learn. Let's be honest, it gives all the best chants extra oomph and sometimes the raw rage that swells up at yet another appalling offside decision (watching back on Match Of The Day though, he was definitely a yard off,
obviously) can only possibly be qualified with the most offensive array of expletives known to man. It's standard, and in the heat of the moment, cathartic.
I myself will happily confess to having a right potty mouth. Not just on matchday
- pretty much in most arenas. Sometimes, they're just the only words that will do and my opinion has always been: as long as you have a reasonably rich vocabulary in play the majority of the time, no-one can accuse you of being ignorant when turning the airwaves
blue on occasion.
So why are my impulsively sweary rants often met with disapproval and even outrage in the match-going environment? I can think of countless examples of amused raised eyebrows to full on disgusted looks from blokes
situated within my profanity radius. Surely I'm just as entitled to yell at that bunch of pricks to get behind the effing line as them? Technically, but it always makes me feel a little bit silly, like an awkward 7 year-old being cut down to size by the teenagers
whose game I've just tried to join.
Perhaps this is me being over-sensitive; I wouldn't try to pigeon hole or slight our fan base for the world. I'm just trying to point out that it's always a sligtly different experience from an XX point
of view, and not something the majority of punters have to concern themselves with.
The classic female footy fan truism is the frequently encountered 'oh right..you ACTUALLY know what you're on about?' look. Sometimes it's more than
a look, and it's a patronising comment that people can't seem to suppress. I do understand that it's not the norm, and I must say that Newcastle fans are genuinely the least guilty of this. However, it's just another sort of uncomfortable feeling that passes
over me on matchday; that I'm the subject of some bemused, suspicious scan. This is much more prevalent on away days, and I once had to scurry back to my seat at the beginning of half time after a bit of craic turned a bit too aggro, leaving my Dad on his
own to down the 2 pints and 2 glasses of wine he'd bought for us. That day didn't end well.
It's not just the first hand experience either; just think about media coverage of the female football fan. It's pretty much
in line with the rest of the male-constructed female narrative that we see in mainstream media: hot, smiley girls wearing not very much. I know we're not the biggest coat fans in the North East, but it doesn't help the cause much.
I'm not preaching - just stating what I've found to be true, and raising a discussion on what it is about the tradition of the matchday environment that causes me to leave my feminist card on the turnstile. Perhaps it's subconscious:
when surrounded by a 90% majority, I guess human nature is to follow suit. Maybe I'm just a bit of a lout when I've had a couple of Carlsbergs.
I will say this though: Newcastle fans are a chivalrous bunch. They always let me in
front of them to buy my Foster's. And for that, this feminist is eternally thankful.