Why Chloe Kelly’s topless goals are so significant

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  • “This is a woman’s body – not for sex or show.”

    After a nail-biting match yesterday, England’s women’s team won the Women’s Euro 22 match with a 2-1 defeat against Germany.

    It is the first time ever that either the women’s or men’s team has been crowned EC champion.

    In the 20th minute of extra time, Chloe Kelly scored a very winning goal for England, scoring with a second clearance after a first missed attempt.

    The forward ran around the pitch and tore her shirt off and wrapped it around her head in cheers.

    Her topless celebration soon became one of the most iconic images of the final, marking an important moment for women in sport globally.

    Why? Well, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) dictates that you will receive a yellow card if you take your shirt off mid-match for a variety of reasons. This rule applies to both men’s and women’s matches, but last night Kelly broke that rule (and then picked up a yellow card after celebrating).

    The moment was iconic – pure elation, passion and disbelief that she had scored a potentially winning goal so close to the final whistle. But it was more than that. To see Kelly, topless yet as far from sexualized as you can imagine, celebrating herself, her strength and her competence, was magical.

    A post that has gone viral on social media sums it up. Writer Lucy Ward shares: “This image of a topless woman in a sports bra – hugely significant. This is a woman’s body – not for sex or show – just for the sheer joy of what she can do and the power and skill she has. Gorgeous. #lionesses”

    The tweet currently has eleven thousand retweets and almost 130 thousand likes.

    Crime and Gothic fiction PhD student Vik Gill adds: “I absolutely CHANGED that moment! A strong feminist statement and a well-deserved moment of absolute pride!”.

    It reflects American soccer player Brandi Chastain’s celebration after scoring the winning penalty in the 1999 World Cup final.

    Women are too often judged, ridiculed or sexualized in sport. Just last week, the comments during a Just Eat TikTok ad asked to go back to the “good old days” where women didn’t play. Not only that, but they are often subject to archaic and outdated uniform rules. During the EC last year, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team was fined for wearing shorts, not bikini bottoms, even though the men’s beach handball team always wore shorts.

    There is still a lot of sexism in sport – but that is changing. While the handball team was fined, when similar moves were made in gymnastics a few months ago, the German Federation (DTB) supported the move, citing that women “should always feel comfortable” in their clothes. (Sarah Voss and teammates chose to wear a full-body suit over a skimpy one at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championships).

    While not revolutionary to see a female athlete in a bra – far from it – the moment will stay in my mind for a long time because it literally showed the evening on the playing field. Women are finally seen as equals and the game on par with the male counterpart.

    That the focus is on football, rather than the gender of the athletes who play, indicates a marked change in attitude compared to, say, ten years ago. More along these lines please.

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