You're here because you love football. Or, perhaps, because you love Aston Villa. Calling whatever they're doing "football" at this point is a bit generous. But let's pretend it's the former. You love football, and that is what has brought you here.
As much as I'd love to say that's what brought me here, it wasn't. In 2010 I wanted to love football, and two people I knew from the Internet were starting a blog about some club called Aston Villa. I figured I would follow them and see what came of it.
Eventually, the two of them, Kirsten Schlewitz and Aaron Campeau asked me if I would like to write for 7500 to Holte. Aaron always offered his unfailing support, for which I will be forever grateful. But Kirsten was my editorial guide. I learned to love, write, and analyze football from a woman. A woman who is, to this day, one of the very best writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with or reading.
But she is something all too rare: a woman writing about football. We are part of an industry that is absolutely dominated by men. On 7500 alone, you currently won't find a single female writer. And this is not for lack of trying. In the past few years, I have made it one of my highest priorities to bring women onto 7500 as writers, and I've utterly failed. I'm convinced that it is not because of a paucity of women capable of writing about football, but instead because of systemic problems in the way we cover the sport.
A lot of that failure has to do with the atmosphere surrounding women in football journalism. In the United Kingdom, it is estimated that only about 2% of all football bylines belong to women. For many women who love the game, there doesn't seem to be a way to break into writing about it. They must fight for a position that lets them write, and once there they must continue fighting against bias in the newsroom and ugly abuse online. And that affects all of us.
Editorial staffs are worse for not having diversity. Without a variety of viewpoints, it becomes easy to get built-in blind spots in coverage. Blind spots can eventually lead to stories being published that have no business being written.
And diversity in an editorial staff is not just about preventing problems. Adding viewpoints can only enrich our experience and love of something. If we as readers want better writing, we should demand more diversity in our favorite field.
This is the long way of saying that I am exceptionally excited to bring a new venture to your attention. Unusual Efforts is a new football website and print journal run, managed, and overseen entirely by women. It is the brainchild of the aforementioned Kirsten Schlewitz and Sonja Missio. The site draws its name from Clare Booth Luce's declaration that "Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed."
Kirsten and Sonja are focused on creating an atmosphere in which women no longer need to put forth unusual efforts to be noticed. They will provide a platform for women to showcase high-quality general-interest football content that appeals to a broad audience.
But they need our help. One of the wonderful tenets behind Unusual Efforts is that writers should be paid for their work, and not merely in exposure but in real currency. It's one of the biggest issues in freelance journalism and one that, sadly, even this site is on the wrong side of. In order to achieve their goals of paying staff, running a website, and distributing a high-quality print journal, they are looking to raise start-up funds through Indiegogo.
You can donate and learn more by clicking here. I don't know Sonja, but in the years I've gotten to know Kirsten, I can say with absolute certainty that there is no one better to spearhead this project than her. If you have an interest in promoting good football journalism, please donate. If you want to see more women involved in football writing, please donate. And if you simply want a chance to be in on the ground floor of what will be some of the best football writing around, please donate.
Unusual Efforts will not solve the systemic problems of gender inequality in football journalism but it is, without a doubt, the best effort I have seen yet to begin to correct the issue. It deserves our support because whatever we can put into it will be returned and amplified by making coverage of football better. You're here because you love football, so let's do what we can to do what's best for football.