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I recently tweeted this photo of my football tickets not fitting into my tiny handbag since new NFL rules prohibit purses larger than a clutch in stadiums on game day. My picture was retweeted by a local news outlet and struck a nerve on Twitter. Some questioned my need to carry a bag, while one sports reporter coined the hashtag #waronpurses. Is the NFL’s new security policy anti-woman?

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Over the last four years, the NFL has made a marketing push to football’s female fan base. Jerseys have been shrunk and dyed pink. The league’s “A Crucial Catch” program raises awareness about breast cancer.  September’s issue of Marie Claire included a 16-page insert from the NFL called “The Savvy Girl’s Guide to Football” – the centerpiece of an advertising campaign appearing in half a dozen women’s magazines this fall.

The campaign is working: sales of women’s football apparel have tripled in the past four years.

But the NFL recently announced that bags, including women’s purses, will not be permitted into stadiums. Instead, the league recommends carrying a Ziploc bag full of your belongings, using a small clutch, or buying a clear team-branded bag.

This begs two questions: What woman wants her wallet, feminine products, and medications in clear view of 80,000 of her closest friends?

And more importantly, who came up with this plan?

The answer to the second question is simple: men. The Committee on Stadium Security, the NFL’s operational committee that oversees and develops security practices for game facilities, voted for the new policy this spring. While the league doesn’t make the full roster of stadium security committee members readily available, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said that the committee includes seven men and just one woman.

In fact, of the 32 NFL teams, only one woman, Virginia Halas McCaskey of the Chicago Bears, is the principal owner of a franchise. Carol Davis co-owns the Raiders with her son, Mark, who manages the day-to-day operations. That means that only 4.6 percent of NFL team owners are female. Hell, even Republicans in Congress have a better ratio of women in their ranks.

Decisions are made by those who show up. Unfortunately, the only people allowed to show up for league meetings, where decisions like the bag ban are made, are team executives and coaches. That is an almost exclusively male group.

We heard a lot about the “war on women” during the November election season — one egregious example was a Congressional hearing on birth control with no women on the panel. Female voters said loud and clear that they don’t want men limiting their options on healthcare.

The sentiment toward the NFL’s purse ban among women on social media and in news articles has been similar. We want the option to carry our handbags. Our pants and skirts don’t always have pockets. We don’t want other fans to see our personal items. We are concerned about theft either in the stadium or on public transportation home. We are worried that we won’t be able to fit items like diapers, tampons, or nursing pads in tiny purses. We don’t feel like swapping purses to attend a game. We don’t own a small clutch and don’t want to pay for a new clear bag. We don’t want to carry a Ziploc bag because it has no handle and, frankly, looks stupid.

The new rule was implemented as both a safety measure and a way to speed up the entry process. Those are admirable goals. But they need to be balanced and reasonable. What seems reasonable to a group of men may not to women.

According to the NFL, 35% of those who attend games are women and more than 50% of women say they watch regular season games. The league has made strides in marketing its merchandise to women. But the NFL’s female fans deserve more than lip service when it comes to this war on purses. After all, without our handbags, it will be much harder for us to buy those pretty little pink jerseys.

Sarah Maiellano is originally from Philadelphia and now lives in DC, but she’ll always be an Eagles fan. Follow her on Twitter at @SarahMaiellano


Champions of Wimbledon Andy Murray and Marion Bartoli received hugely differing comments during and after winning Wimbledon. Murray was called a hero, while Bartoli was called other things…

Commentator John Inverdale’s moronic musing on the ‘looks’ of the women’s champion was, oddly, not matched by any word on the Scotsman’s nose

One is a tale of mere triumph; the other of triumph cut with scorn. Yesterday Andy Murray finally won Wimbledon and climbed into the players’ box to celebrate; Saturday on Centre Court was less edifying. As the French tennis player Marion Bartoli climbed through the crowds to hug her father after winning the women’s singles title, Radio 5 Live presenter John Inverdale thought it an adequate moment to comment on her appearance – what else? “Do you think,” he mused moronically, “Bartoli’s dad told her when she was little, ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a [Maria] Sharapova, so you have to be scrappy and fight’?”

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He even had the malice to place the words in her father’s mouth; poor Bartoli, not even pretty enough for Daddy.

Even at this moment of exquisite delight, was Daddy ashamed of Marion’s inability to incite lust in Inverdale? I did not know professional women’s tennis was simply a vehicle for the expression of masculine desire in high temperatures; or that Inverdale had a right to feel aggrieved by Bartoli’s appearance – which is, by the way, perfectly acceptable. (She is, if it matters, and it doesn’t, pretty; but who is pretty enough in these days of dull homogenous beauty?) I do not wish that Murray had received the same grotesque treatment; but that he did not is remarkable.

Inverdale had said earlier that any mocking of Bartoli’s looks was done “in a nice way” and that “she is an incredible role model for people who aren’t born with all the attributes of natural athletes”. I would have thought that winning Wimbledon displayed all the attributes of a natural athlete, except Inverdale did not personally desire Bartoli; in that, she failed. Whether Murray is sexually desirable to individual presenters is not a matter for the BBC, and, in this case, they know it.

Bartoli understood him perfectly. I do not know if she is aware of the comments made about her on Twitter as she played – calling her, among other things, too ugly to rape. (In fact, the blogger made a factual error here, which compounded his psychopathy. No woman is too ugly to rape, because rape has nothing to do with desire.) But she was told of Inverdale’s comment and said: “I am not blonde, yes. That is a fact.”

Ah yes, blonde. Blonde is considered an attribute in a female tennis player, if you don’t care who wins, and I am not sure Inverdale does; it’s only women’s tennis, after all, and if the game is so uninteresting, being played by women, why not discuss the more important matters? Who can forget the fantastically blonde Anna Kournikova, who failed to win the Wimbledon singles title, but looked so lovely losing that front pages of newspapers clung to her, as if she was painted with honey?

What to say? Some will call it a throwaway remark – if the calls for Inverdale’s replacement with a broadcaster whose eyes do not immediately rise to the sportswoman’s hair colour, or fall to the sportswoman’s crotch, grow louder, he will be handed the victim mantle. He will be posited as the scapegoat of a radical feminist plot to obliterate lust, joy, blonde hair, pigtails (why not?), miniskirts, lollipops, a beguiling sheen of sweat (nothing terrifying or mannish) and so on. So many young female tennis players look like dolls, the confusion of woman with (sex) doll is almost natural for the broadcaster swimming in the miasma of his own idiocy.

Except it is a remark, throwaway or planned, that exposes the wider culture. Sexism and the explicit discussion of the female body is still acceptable; that it exists in the sporting arena, where women thrive because they are strong, is only more offensive. Women are judged on their appearance everywhere, the better to ignore their skills; in a male, ugliness is always more forgivable.

It is well established that men’s sport is more exposed, more prestigious and more lucrative, although Wimbledon has had parity of prize money since 2007; in the 18 months to August 2011, women’s sport comprised only 0.5% of sponsorship and 5% of TV coverage. The cyclist Lizzie Armitstead, who won Britain’s first medal in the 2012 Olympics, called the sexism she faced “overwhelming. It’s the obvious things – the salary, media coverage …”

2012 was a bitter triumph for sportswomen – they were patronised, objectified and insulted. Boris Johnson yearned for more sport in schools, mostly because it would produce “semi-naked women … glistening like wet otters”. The heptathlete Jessica Ennis was called fat by an un-named UK Athletics executive; Frankie Boyle compared the swimmer Rebecca Adlington to a dolphin. This is a culture where Holger Osieck, the manager of the Australian football team, can say “women should shut up in public”; where the former boxing world champion Amir Khan can warn female boxers, “When you get hit it can be very painful”; and where the American network NBC can air a slow-motion montage of female athletes wobbling, like Olympians who have wandered, obliviously, into porn.

It is a foul pottage of denigration, inadequacy, spite and lust; consider this, and Inverdale’s remark is barely strange. He should have been fired; instead he waffled excitably yesterday, commenting on Murray’s win. He did not, of course, disclose whether the exact size, or shape, or site of Andy Murray’s nose is a grievous personal disappointment to him, to Murray’s mother, to the world.


USC (US) / U. TORONTO (CAN) — The 2012 Olympic Games in London was the first time all participating nations allowed women to compete, but there were still 1,233 more male athletes and 30 more medal events exclusively for men.

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A new report shows that in what was billed as the “Women’s Olympics,” international rules severely limited the number of female competitors who were allowed to compete in 11 of 26 sports.

For example, in boxing, as many as 250 male boxers were allowed to compete but the number of female competitors was capped at 36. In water polo, up to 156 men could compete as compared to 104 women. Judo allowed for up to 221 male competitors and 145 female competitors.

In men’s racewalking, canoe/kayak, rowing, shooting, boxing, and wrestling there was no matching event for women.

“The perceptions of equality that led to London being called ‘the Women’s Olympics’ by some commentators are inaccurate,” says Michele K. Donnelly, a post-doctoral fellow in sociology at University of Southern California.

“The focus is almost always on medal counts and success stories, but it’s important to point out that the experience of men and women athletes is still substantially different.

“Following the celebration associated with women’s involvement in all sports for the first time at the London 2012 Olympics, it is now time for those sports to more equitably represent men and women competitors.”

The authors credit the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for the progress to date, especially in the last 15 years, but they argue that the organization can still do more.

“The IOC is ideally located to be the moral leader in taking these final steps towards gender equality and to persuade the international federations that only gender equal events will be permitted at the Games,” says Peter Donnelly, director of the Centre for Sport Policy Studies at the University of Toronto.

“We have called on the IOC, as the gatekeepers of the Olympics, to make a final commitment to gender equality at the Games in terms of an equal number of events for men and women, and near equivalence in the number of participants.”

The report was co-authored by researchers at USC and the University of Toronto’s Centre for Sport Policy Studies.

Source: USC