After England beat Germany in the UEFA Women’s Championships in a 2-1 defeat this weekend, there were packed pubs and parties in the streets. Players slid on their tummies through piles of silver confetti at Wembley. Meanwhile, at home, those inspired rushed to Google ‘Girls Football Training’ to try the beautiful game out for themselves.
But amongst the jubilation was a controversial moment that sparked some sexism online. When Jill Scott came on in the second half, she clashed with the Germany and Bayern Munich player Sydney Lohmann. After a particularly tense tackle that saw Lohmann grab Scott’s chest and trip her up, the midfielder yelled: ‘Fuck off, you fucking prick,’ in response.
Despite intentionally slowing down the moment of unfiltered rage so viewers could better lip read the profanity, BBC commentators said sorry for Scott’s expletives: ‘Apologies to any lip readers,’ Robyn Cowen said. ‘Not sure you need to be one to figure out what Jill Scott thought of that.’
‘I genuinely don’t understand why people think footballers are great role models for little girls,’ claimed one critic on Twitter after the confrontation. 'Why do we applaud women for behaving like men?' But Jill Scott wasn’t behaving like a man—because women can get angry, too.
Female fury has long been vilified and nowhere is that clearer than in sport. When Serena Williams called umpire Carlos Ramos a ‘thief’ and threw her racket in 2018’s US Open she was fined thousands of dollars—despite male athletes often doing similar or worse when disagreeing with officials’ decisions.
The pearl-clutching response to Jill Scott’s loud and proud ‘fuck off’ (not dissimilar to behaviour seen from the likes of Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard throughout their careers) shows we’ve made little headway since then. And what really seemed to rile trolls up was the unapologetic way Scott delivered her cursing, with many suggesting it would have been more appropriate (read: more ladylike) to quietly curse to the ground.
Women getting angry is scary to those with a stereotype-heavy understanding of gender because it upsets the alleged natural order of things. We’re meant to be soft, nurturing and maternal – not powerful and furious. From hysteria to insanity, female rage has long been warped and vilified to prevent us harnessing the force wrath can bring. Note: England were on fire after Scott’s ‘fucking prick’ moment.
Swearing, at the end of the day, isn’t allowed in football. Technically, cursing on the pitch is illegal under the International Football Association Board’s (IFAB) Laws Of The Game if a player is ‘guilty of using offensive, insulting of abusive language and/or gestures.’
But the gendered response to a woman’s outburst shouldn’t have a place in our football commentary either. Jill Scott said ‘fuck’ – big bloody deal. After 161 caps and 16 years on the England team ahead of the Euros final, to say she’s not a great role model for young girls at home after the Lohmann tussle is ridiculous and wrong.
As one fan put it: ‘I hate this “the lionesses should behave like ladies on and off the pitch” crap. Screw that. Give me Jill Scott cursing like a sailor and Chloe Kelly taking off her shirt in absolute ecstasy any day of the week.'