Phil Neville was confirmed as the new manager of the England women’s football team on Tuesday 23 January. Hardly a day had passed before he was in the middle of a ‘sexism’ storm due to tweets that he had sent several years ago. A female who was interviewed for the news said that the tweets look bad taken out of context… Let’s look at the tweets.
One tweet (now deleted) stated:
“Morning men couple of hours cricket be4 work sets me up nicely for the day!”
He was asked why he failed to mention women and replied: “When I said morning men I thought the women would of been busy preparing breakfast/getting kids ready/making the beds – sorry morning women!”
Isn’t this kind of generally true? Don’t we sometimes hear women bemoaning the fact that they are the ones who have to get the kids ready and make them breakfast? Don’t studies suggest that women do more of the domestic work in the home (whilst men work longer hours outside the home)? Aren’t there more stay at home mums than dads? Wouldn’t these women be the ones who are more likely to be getting their kids ready, making the bed, etc in the mornings, than their husbands/partners who are getting ready to go to work/having to leave early to get to work?
A few years ago Sheryl Sandberg campaigned to get men to “take more responsibility for housework and childcare.” So this is ok, but when Phil Neville assumes that women are the ones too busy doing these things to look at twitter he is sending a sexist tweet? It’s perfectly ok to say that women are making breakfast and getting kids ready if this is part of a complaint against men or if it’s showing how disadvantaged women are but if Phil Neville takes this into account and just says good morning men (because women don’t have time to look at twitter in the mornings) then it’s sexist.
Edward Bennett reported at caughtoffside.com “Screen grabs from the Daily Mail show some of Neville’s worst offences, including… a woman’s role in the home being little more than to serve as a housewife.”
Firstly, they are interpreting his tweet this way. Secondly, they are devaluing the role of a housewife by putting it this way. In reality, all his tweet actually shows is that Neville assumed the women of the house would be doing these jobs in the morning. That’s it.
“Relax I’m back chilled – Just battered the wife”
Looks bad right? However, context matters. This is what Phil said: “I can explain it, it’s the one, it’s the words that probably don’t sit well with me, not happy about them. I was on holiday at the time. In isolation they look terrible but it was, over, relating to a game of sport, table tennis, basketball on holiday with my wife. I am a competitive person, so is my wife. But in isolation, those words were wrong and that’s the reason I apologise.” Surely this tweet had been responded to at the time. Surely he had made it known at the time that he was referring to a game of sport. Why bring this up now, out of context? It just seems to be part of a witch hunt.
Another ‘sexist’ tweet was: “you women of always wanted equality until it comes to paying the bills #hypocrites” Sure, this is a generalisation about women. But if this is sexist then isn’t Sheryl Sandberg’s campaign, mentioned above, also sexist as it’s making the generalisation that men don’t take enough responsibility for childcare and housework? If Sheryl Sandburg’s campaign is based on stats which show men to be shy in pulling their weight at home then perhaps Phil Neville’s tweet is also based on stats showing women’s attitudes towards equality and about who should pay for things.
In fact, a survey conducted by California State University, Wellesley College and Chapman University, which was published in 2015, showed 84% of men and 58% of women stating that men paid for most expenses, even after dating for a while. Over 50% of women said that they offer to help pay but 39% hoped that their offer would be refused by the man. Despite some women using the excuse of ‘the gender pay gap’ to justify why they want the man to pay, almost half of women surveyed said that they are ‘bothered’ if men expect them to help pay for a date, regardless of who earns more! In 2013, a survey conducted by the financial planning company LernVest found a majority of men and even bigger majority of women think that the man should pay on a first date.
Self-defining feminists have stated that the man should pay on a date, such as Emma Johnson: “Men should pay on first dates and that does not undermine feminism”
In another article in Bustle, Maria Yagoda mentions ‘the gender pay gap’ and ‘universal male privilege’ as excuses for expecting men to pay on dates. She also cites a friend saying “I think the reality is that I am totally a feminist – I just really, really like free stuff. And if culturally accepted double standards facilitate me receiving said free stuff, I’m probably just gonna roll with it.”
Neville’s tweet itself actually turned out to be a reply to his sister Tracey, who’d tweeted him: ““bring your purse tonight lost my wallet!” Lol! Nearly as bad as my millionaire brother asking me to go Dutch at a meal!!”
It wasn’t even a tweet he’d sent out to his followers.
Even if he made a sweeping sexist generalisation here, is this an offence that warrants questioning his suitability to be the female team’s manager? Edward Bennett (caughtoffside.com) wrote “…old tweets of his suggest even more that he was an inappropriate choice for the role.” Seriously, bringing these old tweets up in order to question whether he is the right person to manage a female footy team is beyond ridiculous. It’s not as if he’d made sexist comments about women’s ability to play football! At this year’s Baftas, Salma Hyak presented the best actor award. No fuss was made about the fact that she’d previously told magazine The Edit, “Men do a lot less,” “they are less demanding on themselves and their standards are lower, yet they feel entitled to ask for a raise or a promotion.”
Neville has issued the following statement: “Following comments made a number of years ago I would like to clarify that they were not and are not a true and genuine reflection of either my character or beliefs and would like to apologise.” He had already explained the context of the “battered the wife” tweet, and there was nothing to apologise for. Thinking that women might be busy in the mornings also needs no apology. As for women wanting equality except when it comes to paying, well there’s plenty of evidence to suggest this is generally correct.
Kick It Out, the anti-discrimination group, questioned whether Phil Neville should be charged by the FA for his discriminatory tweets. FA chief executive, Martin Glenn said his tweets “would not meet the threshold for issuing a charge against any participants.” Thank goodness there’s someone out there with common sense.