It happened like this:
- First, British tabloid newspaper ‘The Sun’ nicks a whole lot of pics from the social media pages of Laura Merrin, kiwi footballer currently playing at Everton, and labels her “the world’s hottest footballer?”
- Then the New Zealand media picks it up, writing about it with a ‘naughty, naughty Sun’ angle, but not missing the opportunity to republish all the photos…
- After that, unfortunately for me, I broke the golden rule of Stuff: ‘never read the comments’.
- Predictably enough, they consist of a gigantic mass of (presumably) old men presiding over a court of public opinion to pass judgement on Merrin’s looks as if she’s a piece of meat.
- Searing insights like “I’d hit that” or “Yeah, nah” are followed up with existential questions such as ‘is she wearing too much make-up?’
- As soon as a commenter points out that the feeding frenzy is a bit gross, the inevitable charge of “you’re just jealous” is laid.
- And then to top it all off, we get the all too predictable “it’s not sexist because if it was a man it would still be news” type comment. – That one is from the Yellow Fever forum…
The Sun sucks but we already knew that and just because the foreign press writes about a New Zealander, doesn’t mean the New Zealand press needs to pick it up like a panting dog who’s had a stick thrown for them.
The other thing that sucks is this annoying trend of the lazy gutter press, not just The Sun, who can’t be bothered writing about actual women’s football (amongst other things), thinking that because somebody’s social media is set to public it means it’s fair game for them to help themselves to. Legally it may or may not be true, but it’s morally dodgy. Would The Sun, Stuff or the NZ Herald accept the same argument if I helped myself to photos off their sites and published them on my blog without permission? It’s public too so…
But the thing that sucks the most is the way people react from the safety of anonymous handles – where they can say things they really think but wouldn’t otherwise say out loud. I shouldn’t be shocked but I am guilty of living in my little bubble of lefties where all my friends think the way I do. This leads to an unrealistic perception that New Zealand is a nice enlightened little country. It does come as a bit of a disappointment to occasionally be reminded that Joe Average Kiwi is still operating with an 1816 view of ‘a woman’s place’ rather than a 2016 one.
Let’s clear up a few misconceptions.
Firstly, women do not exist for men to ‘rate’ their ‘hotness’ and nobody cares whether or not you would ‘hit that’ because, trust me, you’re creepy and probably single for a reason.
Secondly, what a woman posts on social media is none of your business and she doesn’t need your advice. If you think you’re so perfect, hit me up with a link to your Facebook profile and I’ll happily make a few public judgements of my own about your appearance…
Thirdly, if you think I’m jealous, you’re quite right. I’m jealous of anyone who is better at football than me, let alone people who get paid to play the sport they love. Instead of getting all defensive, maybe think about how you would feel if she was your daughter.
And fourthly, it’s not relevant whether or not the same stories would have been written if people thought a male New Zealand footballer was ‘hot’.
Let’s say The Sun published a similar article about Winston Reid. The difference would be huge. For one thing there are thousands of other articles published in New Zealand and all over the world about Winston Reid as a footballer and the West Ham men’s team as a good football team. A single article about his ‘hotness’ might be annoying but it would be a drop in the ocean compared to all the legitimate stories about him. How many legitimate stories are there in the mainstream mass circulation New Zealand media about Laura Merrin – one of our best footballers?
Men getting a raw deal every now and again is not comparable to the raw deal women get all over the place so stop comparing the two like it’s apples with apples. It’s just not.
Finally – Hey New Zealand media, cover women’s football properly! Not everything that’s ‘entertaining’ should be in the news and, in case it has slipped your notice, the Football Ferns are still 16th in the world.
A grassroots sports photography enthusiast based in Auckland, New Zealand, and a fan of the most magnificent football club on earth - A.S. Roma.