Fans of the England women’s football team today expressed fury over suggestions their ‘Lionesses’ nickname was ‘sexist’ – pointing out that the animals in the wild are more powerful than their male counterparts.
Sarina Wiegman’s side made it to the final of Euro 2022 at Wembley on Sunday – but not all supporters are keen on how the team is referred to in reports of their skillful displays.
In a discussion about the game on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour yesterday morning, presenter Emma Barnett read out a message from a listener who questioned the use of the nickname and suggested it had sexist connotations.
But speaking to LBC this morning, Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said the idea to rename the Lionesses was ‘nonsense.’
And Coronation Street actress Dame Maureen Lipman also waded in on the debate, adding: “Cheetahs, never mind lions,” of their performance.
The Lionesses themselves remain focused on their Wembley final this Sunday, rather than worrying about what the nation calls them.
Lioness Beth Mead celebrates with Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway of England after scoring their team’s first goal during the UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 Semi Final match between England and Sweden
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said her household would not be calling the team anything other than the Lionesses
Ms Dorries told Nick Ferrari today. ‘Rubbish. Nonsense. They are our lionesses and I love everything that is encapsulated within that word.’
She said having lived in Africa for a year, she knows that ‘lions are the lazy ones, who lay around in the sun all day.’
Ms Dorries added: “The lionesses don’t just go out and get the food in, they actually look after the cubs and the entire pride.
“So I actually think they should be called lionesses and I am proud to call them the lionesses.
‘Call them lions? No, I’m sorry but that’s not going to happen – not in my house anyway.’
She added that the word “encapsulates so much that is powerful and positive and good.”
Why would some people try to denigrate something that is really positive and really great about women’s football in that way?
Members of the public have also pointed out that lionesses do most of the work to look after their pride in the wild
Coronation Street actress Dame Maureen Lipman also voiced her objections to the idea
It’s England vs Germany! Eight-time European champions will take on Lionesses in the final clash
England’s Lionesses will face Germany in the final of Euro 2022, after their opponents beat France 2-1 in their semi-final match on Wednesday.
The Germans, eight times European champions, will take on an England team on a high after their 4-0 thrashing of Sweden in Tuesday’s other semi.
Prolific striker Alexandra Popp fired Germany ahead in the 40th minute, sneaking in from the left to meet a fine cross from Svenja Huth and beat Pauline Peyraud-Magnin with a crisp finish.
The lead lasted less than four minutes, however, as France leveled when Kadidiatou Diani unleashed a fierce drive on the turn which rattled off the post and flew in off the back of Germany keeper Merle Frohms.
France had the better chances after the break, putting intense pressure on the German defense, but they could not find a way through.
Diani set up Selma Bacha, whose goal bound shot was blocked by Kathrin-Julia Hendrich and then Wendie Renard’s header at the back post was well saved by the alert Frohms.
The lively Diani then intercepted a poor back pass and burst forward but Frohms kept out her low drive from a tight angle.
Popp won the contest with her sixth goal in five games in the tournament, powering a superb header home from another excellent Huth cross in the 76th minute.
France continued to push, but with increasing desperation – Bacha went close with a curling first-time effort and Clara Mateo saw an effort fly just over the bar.
But in the end it was Popp who proved the difference and England will need to find a way to stop her if they are to win their first title against the country which has dominated European women’s football for so long.
The girls are going to Wembley on Sunday night. ‘Why would anybody, media or anybody, already want to start chipping away at something that is a fantastic event and a team of women who have performed so well.’
She concluded: “We should all be proud of them, proud of the title and the name Lionesses and celebrate it.”
Emma Barnett yesterday told guest Anita Asante – a former England star – that she had a ‘challenge’ for her, she asked. “Do you like the term ‘Lionesses’?” Why not ‘Lions’, why do we have to call them ‘Lionesses’?’
Laughing in apparent surprise Asante, who represented England 71 times, defended the name. She said it was ‘one of those things’ and that we ‘gentify everything, don’t we?’
“To be fair, it’s been a great branding tool for the national team and a way for fans to relate and connect with this group of players,” Asante added.
Piers Morgan took a rather more blunt approach this morning as he slammed the ‘gender-deranged woke wastrels’ who have called for the England women’s football team to change their nickname from Lionesses to Lions.
“The campaign to call England’s magnificent footballing Lionesses ‘Lions’ to avoid being sexist is the single most pathetic virtue-signalling campaign ever – and the bar for that title was staggeringly high,” he wrote on Twitter.
‘Just stick a cork in it, you wretched gender-deranged woke wastrels.’
Meanwhile, members of the public have been quick to get involved in the debate.
One tweeted during the Lionesses semi-final match. ‘Instead of calling the women’s team Lionesses can they be the Lions and the men’s team be the kittens?’
Another commented this morning: “Don’t Lionesses” do all the work, hunting, parenting, having cubs etc. Lions? Lay around in the sun!’
Others pointed out that the UK already has a rugby team nicknamed the Lions. ‘No that titles allocated to real men not prime-donnas, the British Lions Rugby Team! So leave the lady lionesses alone they deserve the title!’
Coronation Street actress Dame Maureen Lipman wrote in to the controversial Women’s Hour discussion while it was on air yesterday.
The actress, 76, explained her objections by saying ‘the Lions are a male rugby team’, and pointing out the positive connotations of a ‘pride of lionesses’.
Dame Maureen went on to describe how she had cheered on the team the night before, praising their ‘magnificent teamwork, clean, fresh, gorgeous football, amazing flair and workload’.
She added: ‘Dazzling cheetahs, never mind lions. I am so excited.’
The British and Irish Lions are an international rugby team, while the England men’s footballers are nicknamed the Three Lions.
Former England defender Anita Asante defended the ‘Lionesses’ term as ‘one of those things’
Other listeners whose messages were read out made the point that in the wild, lionesses are known to be harder-working than males.
One said: ‘Lionesses is actually a very appropriate name because in the case of lions in the wild it’s the females that do most of the hunting… while the males mainly just laze around.’
A third person said: In nature, Lionesses will always be Lionesses, not just lions – and they are every bit as formidable, many would say more so.
“They hunt, they protect fiercely, they work together – they are in my view more proactive than the male of the species. Lionesses is a great name.’
England’s run to Sunday’s final against Germany has seen women’s football reach hitherto unknown levels of popularity, with much talk about how it will inspire greater numbers of girls to take up the game.
Lionesses stars in Tuesday’s 4-0 victory – including Russo, who scored with a cheeky backheel, and Beth Mead – often use the term in social media posts.
A BBC spokesperson said: As a topical program, Woman’s Hour often reflects listeners’ comments and asks guests to respond as one part of longer interviews. On this occasion Anita Asante, Robyn Cowen and Jacqui Oatley were on the show to mark the Lionesses’ victory, and to discuss what it means for women’s football.