The FA's sexist tweet might as well have read 'Well done girls! Now back you go to the kitchen/nursery/bedroom,' says Now's Stephanie Wood

Come down off that girl power-shaped cloud you’ve been riding since the England team did us so, SO proud at the Women’s World Cup last week, because the FA are here to dump all over their achievements.

Fresh from the women’s squad finishing third following a 1-0 win over Germany on Saturday, football’s governing body in England today posted a tweet that was supposed to be congratulatory – but ended up being downright sexist.

The tweet – shared with the 1.34 million followers of the FA-run @England account – read: ‘Our #lionnesses go back to being mothers, partners and daughters today, but they have taken on another title – heroes.’ SIGH.

It was deleted within the hour, but not before reducing our tough, gutsy girls – and, yes, our heroes (they got that bit right) – to nothing more than stereotypical female roles. It might as well have said: ‘Well done girls! Now back you go to the kitchen/nursery/bedroom.’

Of course, defining women by the (stereotypically nurturing) role they play in relation to others is frustratingly nothing new; that’s why we get stories that refer to female stars as ‘the wife/girlfriend of So-and-So’, and headlines that read ‘mother of three poised to lead the BBC’ – because clearly we couldn’t possibly recognise a woman’s (or in this case a whole squad of women’s) strengths and achievements without reminding everyone that she’s just a girl, too. She’s spirited and strong and a little scary when she’s coming at you in the six-yard box/boardroom, but it’s OK! She’s still a nice, feminine woman! Because she is a mother and a partner and a daughter too, you know.

Almost ironically, until recently it wasn’t actually financially viable for our female players to be just footballers (and mothers, partners and daughters, of course); they were also students, kit washers, coaches, even business analysts (in the case of Claire Rafferty).

And that’s because, as is the case in so many industries, a massive pay gap existed – and continues to exist – between our male and female footballers, making it financially difficult for women to just play football. The FA’s decision back in 2009 to set a standard yearly wage of £20,000 for the women’s national side helped many players to go full-time (when you tot up female footballer’s income from club and country, average total earnings are now £35,000 – £45,000 – enough to cover all those nappies and sexy lingerie sets they probably need to buy to be successful mothers and partners) but there still remains a massive gap between the guys and the girls; the average Premier League footballer earns £13 million a year. Yes, MILLION.

The World Cup has done so much to shine a positive spotlight on women’s football, and – to give credit where it’s due – the FA are doing plenty to encourage more girls into the game. Still, there’s a long road to equality ahead – and, just as the national team inspires us to take some massive steps forward, tweets like this make for one unfortunate step back.

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Stephanie Wood