Exhibition "andererseits - on the other side" | Schwules Museum Berlin | June-September 2011
It's a male ball? The beautiful side of 20Eleven
On the occasion of the Women’s World Cup 2011, 22 Artists explored the field of Gender, (Homo-)Sexuality and Football . The exhibition was shown at the Schwule Museum Berlin and ran from 24th June to 25th September 2011.
On the occasion of the Women’s World Cup 2011, 22 Artists explored the field of Gender, (Homo-)Sexuality and Football. The exhibition was shown at the Schwule Museum Berlin and ran from 24th June to 25th September 2011.
On 23rd of June, right at the beginning of the Football for Equality project , the exhibition “andererseits” opened at the Schwule Museum. Up to 250 visitors came to hear speeches from Birgit Bosold, the curator, the former football-pro Petra Landers and Tanja Ahrens-Walter, also former player and well known LGBT-activist.
The exhibition ran three months and contested the construction of football as a field of masculinity, where neither women nor non-normative sexualities are welcome and gender “is done”. After an Art Contest 22 pieces of art were selected and presented in the Schwule Museum Berlin (Gay Museum Berlin). The exhibition was curated by Birgit Bosold. A publication with background texts and pictures of the art works followed.
In the following sections you can re-read parts of the Introduction to the catalogue from Birgit Bosold, get an impression of the artistic works and we also present a small selection of media reports that covered the exhibition (unfortunately mainly in German).
The exhibition and especially the publication were partly funded by the European Commission (DG Justice) under the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Programme and are part of the Football for Equality II-project.
Introduction to the exhibition catalogue from BIRGIT BOSOLD, shortened by FairPlay
To celebrate the Women’s World Cup 2011 in Germany the Schwules Museum Berlin has invited a number of artists to investigate the complex relationship between gender, homosexuality and soccer. The ensuing exhibition would tag football and represent the pitch as an area of doing gender, a social and cultural arena in which conventional definitions can be renegotiated, often controversially so. Twenty-two artists present their contributions from painting, photography, video, and object art as well as from sculpture, installation and documentary.
“Men play football, women play women’s football”
Sexual equality on the playing field is still faring badly, worse than in other sectors of society. Football seems to be an arena where battles are waged that would appear to have been won long ago elsewhere. The lower economic value of women’s football is a reflection of its
low social esteem. Though increasing, public interest is still too small for the media and sponsors to come up with major backing. For the World Cup 2010 in South Africa the men’s performance earned Fifa 18 million Euros, whereas DFB German Football Federation estimates for the women’s world cup run at no more than 1 million. Women’s football
still is a non-earner, both at club level and for the players themselves. What Boris Becker said of his counterpart Steffi Graf in the 1980’s still applies: “She’s playing ladies’ tennis, I play tennis.” Our artists approach this classic “male domain” often with humour, sometimes with bitterness.
“I’m a football player. I can’t be gay.”
It must be more than a coincidence that another gender inequality in football concerns another equally anachronistic phenomenon, the treatment of homosexuality. German ARD national TV channel recently aired a programme with strong homosexual content as part of its popular crime series Tatort (Crime location) entitled “Murder in the 1st League”. The instalment had 9 million viewers, a huge success, and with a happy ending of a professional player’s public outing, it was very politically correct. The main protagonist comments on media innuendo, saying, “you know, half the national team including its coach are reputed to be gay.” The real life manager of the national squad, Oliver Bierhoff, felt obliged to comment in Germany’s number one tabloid Bild that he felt the National Eleven had been abused,
and his “family” attacked, and he threatened to take measures to be better prepared in future to defend against such defamation. Fuses blow whenever homosexuality is mentioned in football.
But why? Sports represents one of the last bastions of traditional male hegemony. It is defined by the denigration of femininity and the exclusion of women as well as by a firm denial of homosexuality. Hence an article in the Sunday edition of Germany’s quality newspaper FAZ on 17 February 2008 headlined, “I’m a footballer, I can’t be gay”. Whilst a homosexual outing in politics, business, the media or the art world is no longer seen as detrimental to one’s career, homosexuality on the pitch remains blatantly taboo. In spite of official football association efforts, the grounds have not really become reserves of political correctness, and homophobia is often an essential expression of fan culture. It is therefore easy to understand why only two prominent professional players ever outed themselves, Justin Fashanu, (who committed suicide in 1990, in a delayed response to his inability to cope with the repercussions), and Anton Hysén of the 4th Swedish League in 2011.
“Butch” girls get sent off
In the Monster Maiden’s video Go girls Go the only female coach (for Bayer Leverkusen) in the women’s Bundesliga Doreen Meyer not only raves about her team being the prettiest, with players who fortunately also happen to have excellent sporting skills, but she continues to state that the predominantly butch girls of the past had hampered the success of the sport. Seldom has this been put so bluntly. It is an indication of the price that might have to be paid in the name of improved marketability and finances for women’s football: the adjustment of the players’ public profile to male heterosexual norms of attraction. The ambivalent slogan for the World Cup of The Beautiful Side of 20eleven not only refers to the sport as the best pastime in the world, but also infers how beauty – namely male heterosexual ideas thereof – still is a lady’s best capital.
"female masculinities" (Judith Halberstein)
If the strategy succeeds of trying to raise the commercial success of women’s football through the introduction of conformist ideals of femininity another opportunity of pitching alternative concepts of female identity, beauty and desire will disappear, gone a space for all the maligned viragoes, butch dykes, tomboys, femmes, drag kings or other female masculinities as defined by gender theoretician Judith Halberstein. They define self-determined female visions outside the hetero-sexist gender order besides creating a framework of signifiers for lesbian desire that has supplied the tangents for various concepts of an authentic identity within the lesbian community. These variants reveal gender definitions merely as social and cultural constructs, which is why they are still met with antagonism in wider society. Football as a traditionally male domain is an obvious arena for such transgressions as it provides the opportunity for combative women to acquire power and strength, qualities that are considered as alien to the nature of femininity. Perhaps the argument provides an answer to Christine Olderdissen’s 1991 documentary video Was ist das Lesbische am Fußball (what’s the lesbian dimension of football?), and not a lot seems to have happened in the meantime. The acknowledgement of the lesbian contribution to women’s football is still very much outstanding. Tom Weller’s documentary study of the 2010 Cologne Gay Games portrays people who have taken the transgression of sexual stereotype a step further by participating in competitive sports as transsexual women and men. As sports insist on an archaic division of the sexes, those without any consistent biological gender identity are barred from official competitions by all the clubs, or they have to submit to one of the two sexes, as is the case with the Gay Games.
Oscar Wilde so wisely said in the era of football’s inception in the late 19th century: “Football is all very well a good game for rough girls, but not for delicate boys.” In this sense we wish women’s football every success! May the 2011 Women’s World Championships serve to
initiate public debate on hetero-sexist attitudes in sport, and progress towards improved gender equality in football. We hope this exhibition can be a contribution and we would like to thank all the participating artists for their interventions as well as the DFB-Kulturstiftung and the European Commission for their kind and generous support.
Birgit Bosold, June 2011