The 31/7 email logotype in purple and orange
Hi gang,

Hope this finds you in good spirits. Me? Well, I'm a bit crazy today and it's reflected in the newsletter, hope that's cool! I've been thinking about:
  • partying like it's 1991
  • the inevitability of dickheads
  • how snails reproduce
  • ...and other stuff!
Thank you for reading!

Flora 💘

Take Me Back

I’m sorry to report it’s been another maddening week in women’s football.

Former Lionesses attacker Eni Aluko is famous for promoting equality in football, asking the FA to investigate the racism of her England coach, Mark Sampson, and speaking out against the trolling by Joey Barton and his misogynist followers which was so bad that she was scared to leave her house.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I woke up on Thursday morning to find that she had retweeted a post by JK Rowling saying she felt that she had no reason to be nice to rapists who have no right to participate in women’s sport.

What do we reckon, guys, laugh or cry?

It makes no sense to be challenging discrimination in one breath, then inciting it in the next. Aluko claims that she wants to open up the world of football, which she terms “the last bastion of what people consider to be a male-only space”— but opened up to who?
The public show of support for an extreme transphobe exposes Aluko’s apparently noble intentions to be completely hollow. If she suffered from the strength of Barton’s voice, why is she giving a platform to someone who is, in essence, the other side of the same vile coin?

I heard someone saying the other day that each generation resents the one that came before for having things easier. Whether or not I see my pension before I’m 2090, I’m hopeful that, with time, the already-small minority of people who don’t think of Barton and Rowling as dickheads will shrink and shrink and shrink.

Dickheads have always and will always exist. But these days, I’m increasingly yearning for a time I never knew. No, not the 90s explosion of rave culture, or the fall of the Berlin Wall, or even fucking flower power — it’s far less specific than that. At this point, I’d sooner live in any time before ours, an internet-less world in which dickheads exist but I don’t have to know about them.

Nothing New

I’m horribly bored to report that my next complaint also relates to the web and its proliferation of insignificant events and mindlessly-spouted views that would otherwise be carried away with the wind.

Back in the day, voices and issues would compete for rights to costly paper and ink. This had its own problems, because the expense of paper and ink and its use was afforded and determined by moneyed people with little motive to empower others. On the one hand, it’s great that I don’t have to pay anything to make this contribution to opening up football to a wider audience. The drawback is that with the advent of computers, time and labour are the only limitations that prevent national newspapers from broadcasting the Lionesses’ every fart and cough.

Characters like Ella Toone and Mary Earps are choosing to do that themselves, and this is a good thing. 31/7 got us started, but would so many girls be participating in football today were it not for the rapid growth of the women’s football fanbase online?
Manchester United defender and recent England debutant Millie Turner felt the full force of the fledgling, fibre-optic community this weekend. When Lauren James got one goal back for Chelsea to make it 2-1 in the FA Cup semi-final on Sunday, Turner’s first thought was to protect the ball from her opponents’ wish to restart the game quickly in the eager hunt for a leveller. James was caught by a camera looking a little over-zealous in her efforts to retrieve it, with Turner’s head caught up in her arms reaching for the ball.

This re-ignited discussion of James’ conduct, which originated when she stepped on Nigeria’s Michelle Alozie at the World Cup and grew when she stepped on Lia Wälti in December. With each fresh chapter of the debate comes the question — would a white player, say Katie McCabe, doing the same thing trigger such a barrage of criticism?

Turner subsequently celebrated Man Utd’s progress to the final by sharing the photo of hers and James’ troublesome tryst on her Instagram story with the captions “KAMMOONNNN” and “see you at Wembley my reds”. Her post was then criticised as an encouragement of a pile-on which was already a lot for James to take.

Is Turner racist, irresponsible, stupid, or just a plain old banter merchant? The internet had something else to fight about.
While Turner put down her phone to ride the euphoric team coach home, the Telegraph were looking for stories to occupy but a few of the internet’s infinite column-inches. A social media shit-storm with racism at its heart? We’ll have a slice of that pie.

"Lauren James 'unfollows' Mary Earps and Ella Toone in Lionesses spat," the headline read.

I had to do similar work regularly in my old job as a ‘trending writer’ for an ailing local newspaper. Five hundred odd words spun out of a social media event that everyone who had experienced it first-hand on Twitter hours before would not recognise by my mysterious yet enticing clickable headline. I, too, know the degradation of having to personally undermine your afternoon’s work by an admission which exposes the whole exercise as redundant.

“Club rivalries are nothing new in international football,” the Telegraph reporter begins the eighth paragraph. Why, then, are we writing about them?

One Hundred Snails

I’m delighted to report that there are good times, too. This week, Variety reported that US sport’s most royal queer couple Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe are producing a TV adaptation of Cleat Cute, the best-selling romance novel that went viral on TikTok earlier this year for its familiar depiction of women’s football player-to-player relationships.

This is good news because we (still) need more positive representation of lesbian relationships in books, TV shows, and films. It’s also good news because it gives me the opportunity to share something with you regarding American novelist Patricia Highsmith, one of the first story-tellers to do it.
Her 1952 book The Price of Salt — later republished as Carol — is widely considered to be the earliest example of a lesbian novel with a happy ending. This is surprising when you take a closer look into Highsmith’s life, as I did earlier this week after watching Ripley, the Netflix TV adaptation featuring Andrew Scott of her more famous book The Talented Mr. Ripley.

I’ll say more about Cleat Cute in a future episode of 31/7, but for now I just wanted to share this extract from Highsmith’s Wikipedia page, a moment of light relief amid a troubling account of a life beset with (among a horrid number of other challenges) anorexia, lung cancer, homophobia, and misogyny:

"Highsmith loved cats, and she bred about three hundred snails in her garden at home in Suffolk, England. Highsmith once attended a London cocktail party with a 'gigantic handbag' that 'contained a head of lettuce and a hundred snails' which she said were her 'companions for the evening'."

Coming Up

  • Saturday — the Champions League
    • With both the League Cup and the FA Cup out of their grasp, Chelsea travel to Barcelona to fight the first leg of their Champions League semi-final against the holders.
      • This tie is going to be so huge I'm practically pissing myself with excitement.
    • There's an all-French encounter on the other side of the draw, with eight-time winners Lyon hosting Paris St Germain.
  • Le Weekend — Women's Super League
    • With four games left to play, I am happy to say we have officially reached the Business End™️ of the season.
    • While Chelsea are picking around in Spain, Manchester City could reconquer the top spot with a win against West Ham.
    • FA Cup finalists Man Utd and Spurs will rehearse the Wembley showdown on Sunday with a league head-to-head at Leigh Sports Village.
  • Le Weekend — Le Third Tier
    • The curse of the one promotion spot means that, with two games still to play, the FAWNL Northern and Southern Premier divisions are both completely wrapped up, with Newcastle and Portsmouth having taken their respective crowns and nowt else to play for at the top of the table.
    • Don't give it all up in the name of enjoyment yet though, lasses, as there's a few teams at the foot of the Southern division scrapping to see who sinks back down into the even-more-impossible to escape fourth-tier. Beware, Huddersfield Town, in Division One North, no one can hear you scream.

More at The Square Ball

Leeds United Women players and staff form a huddle before their game against FCUM

Let's hear it for the regroup

by Flora Snelson

Leeds United have nothing left to play for this season, but they're as united as they've ever been, helped by Jess Rousseau getting back in the goals.
31/7 logotype in purple and orange