Jewish-only football? It’s fair play

As a woman, one of the things I always appreciate when I go to football matches is how short the queues are for the toilets. A football stadium at half time is probably one of the only places in the world where the men have to wait for longer.

Obviously, it’s because football supporters remain more likely to be men than women. But that’s not to say women don’t like football; plenty do, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t.

It would be sexist, horribly chauvinistic, to suggest women had no place to watch football.

But what if I wanted to play football? I could, in any number of arenas, but as a woman, could I play for an all-male football team? I don’t mean physically – this is no time to make judgments about my poor coordination or my understanding of the offside rule (Salt shaker? Pepper pot?) – but would I be allowed? And should I be?

Of course not. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be a male football team, it would just be a football team. Which there’s nothing wrong with, if people want it. But if, in its essence, the team is for men to play in, then it has to be limited accordingly.

That’s not discrimination, that’s just logic.

It would be discrimination to say that because of who they are they can’t play the sport at all. It would be discrimination to, for example, ban women from the stands, or force them to sit in a different area, or charge them different prices for the refreshments at half time.

Now that the story of the great MSFL football identity scandal has made it into the mainstream media – The Times, the Mirror, the Metro and the Evening Standard amongst others – it’s generated a fair amount of outraged comment around the web.

Under the Daily Mail’s story, one person wrote: “How can this be allowed to happen in Britain today?”. Another described it as “unsportsmanlike to segregate people on a religious basis”. The cheerful pundits on the Evening Standard story accused the league of being racist and referred to the “double standards of ‘anti-racism’.”

So, was the Brownie group I went to – all-Jewish – also racist? What about the Jewish summer camps I attended or, for that matter, the Jewish Society I was involved with at university? Were they really, truly, examples of segregation? Of course not.

Religion isn’t only about worship. Just as gender is more than a label – men and women are different, if none other than in the physical sense – religion feeds into the social and lifestyle side of things; what we eat, how we celebrate our new year, where we choose to live, and yes, even the way in which our leisure activities are organised.

It’s not called discrimination. It’s called being part of a community.

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Gossip Girl: stop the Blair and Dan train-wreck

So, I’ve been somewhat rubbish with my Gossip Girl blogging of late. In fairness, the show went on hiatus over December and then I moved into a flat where we had a problem with the internet – in that, we didn’t have said internet.

I’m back online now, and I’ve seen the first two episodes of this year. In truth, they’ve been rather dull. After the Juliette-Ben-let’s kill drug Serena drama of 2010, we’ve moved back to the Gossip Girl standards of ice-queen Lily, clueless Rufus and Serena the absurd-romance chaser. Rather yawnsome, really.

The Chuck mixing business with pleasure is too predictable, and the girl (am too lazy to Google her name, so she will from now be referred to as ‘the businesswoman’) is one cliché after another. Is she supposed to be Chuck’s age? If so, how has she completed her college education (and postgrad, because in America a first degree is worth zilch) and gained so much experience, when she’s supposed to be around Chuck’s age?

I realise nepotism, but surely a savvy businessman would only give his privileged and well-dressed but unqualified daughter the perfunctory jobs, like, ooh, organising cocktail parties and picking out his ties.

Plus, she’s clearly crap, she keeps telling Chuck all the information he needs to take the Chicago duo down.

Eric and Damian, wherever the hell that’s going, is just odd. I like how the writers, in what I assume is a bid to keep casting-search costs down, have just decided Damian will be the villain in whatever implausible scenario they’re running this week. It’s like going to see a play where the ensemble play rotating roles, only in Gossip Girl there’s not even an attempt to disguise the fact that IT’S THE SAME ACTOR EVERY WEEK.

I expect the rest of this series to involve him a) doing something to screw up Blair’s ambitions b) being the other man in the inevitable next stage of the Rufus-Lily implosion and c) kidnapping Dorota’s baby to exact a hefty ransom out of the VdWs.

But all that is small fry. Now, I realise that since the dawn of unrealistic but fabulous teen drama, there’s been a tradition of romantic swapsies. Joey Potter had flings with everyone – Dawson, Pacey, random guys, even Jack before he came out) and I think they paired Jen with a fair few. But it’s not necessary to do it when it gives the viewer a desire to either vomit, or throw heavy objects at the TV.

Buffy, for all Xander’s adoration, never returned the sentiment. And Marissa didn’t go off with Seth, nor Summer (except, for a brief second in the first episode) try it on with Ryan.

I realise that the idea of a fine line between love and hate works well in a show so centred around witty barbs and disparaging insults. But Blair and Dan. No. NO. JUST NO. Yes, they are funny together. But only because they hate each other, not because of any underlying passion.

It is not necessary to complicate the unadulterated snobbery and rivalry of the Blair-Dan relationship with, as I expect will happen, a secret, purely physical fling, that will then be discovered (probably at a fancy party) and cause yet another rift between B and S.

To refresh; Dan has been with all the girls except Blair (and Jenny, for obvious reasons). Blair has been with all the guys except Dan. Serena has been with all the guys except Chuck (and even that’s not certain) and Nate’s been with every girl who even made a guest appearance on the show except Georgina.

Writers, dear writers. This is no longer a Dawson-Joey-Pacey love triangle. This is just the start of a bad comedy film where the groom has had flings with all the bridesmaids, the mother, sister and cousin, and possibly the wacky aunt too.

There is a reason why such films are critical and box office flops. DON’T DO IT.

Words matter: Greenslade, Desmond, the EDL

When Jan Moir wrote that inflammatory column about the death of Stephen Gately, there was a Twitter campaign and public outrage almost immediately, Likewise, Liz Jones’ rather tasteless piece retracing Joanna Yeates’s final steps prompted web-wide consternation.

Roy Greenslade has admitted he was somewhat amiss to write in his blog about media baron Richard Desmond and the Daily Star’s English Defence League coverage: “As a Jew, he may well have negative views of Muslims”.

It’s an outrageous, idiotic line, a slur against all moderate members of the Jewish community and particularly offensive to those engaged in interfaith efforts, of whom there are many. Some Jews may well have “negative views” about Muslims, likewise some Muslims may well have negative views about Jews.

But there is no causal link; some is not all.

Greenslade was lucky enough to have prompted the ire of just one newspaper with his careless stereotype, rather than the masses out there in the blogosphere.

And as he told the JC, it was a “stupid”, thoughtless comment. He didn’t intend to insult Jews, he said, and he was glad the switched-on Guardian moderators had swiftly removed it.

So why did what he wrote matter? We all say stupid things, all of us, all the time. A flip remark, one made in the heat of the moment, so why not let it lie? Why cause a fuss.

Here’s why. Let’s look at where Mr Greenslade made the comment – in a blogpost condemning the intolerance and bigotry of the EDL.

An informed reader might well have recognised the wider point – that Jewish people, given the history of the last century, should be at the frontline in the fight against fascism.

It’s an important and logical argument. But here’s the thing. As the famous quote goes: “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.”

History teaches us as Jews not only to stand up in the battle against bigotry, but also that bigots don’t always read newspaper articles in an informed way.

The generations of ordinary people who hated the Jews did so not least because of the ugly and cheap stereotypes peddled by respected writers and commentators.

They learnt intolerance from the politicians – in Tsarist Russia to Nazi Germany and beyond – who blamed public woes on Jewish conspiracies, from the caricaturists who saw in Jews an easy target, and from journalists who didn’t recognize, or didn’t care to recognise, the power of their words.

Words matter. As Greenslade knows (and blogs about regularly), especially online they have a life beyond themselves.

A throwaway headline in the Daily Star can become another tool in the EDL’s war-chest, regardless of what the story actually was.

A news article about a “Muslim’s” actions – when religion is of little relevance to the story – is fodder for the bigot’s cause.

And an unnecessary line about Jews having “negative views” about Muslims, from an informed and respected writer, is yet another piece of evidence for the antisemitic extremist as to why he hates Jews.

Words always matter.