Elizabeth Lambert is now an internet villain, thanks to a video that features her taking down another player with a pony tail pull.
In her defense it can be pointed out that many of the incidents followed a provocation from the other team. For example, she does not do the pony tail take down (PTTD) until after the other player grabs her shorts. Such a response would tend to deter other players from attempting the same sort of thing and, as the saying goes, if you start something you have to expect that the other person might decide to try to finish it right then and there.
Of course, her responses seem to exceed the provocation and hence appear to be unacceptable behavior on the part of an athlete. While a degree of roughness is to be expected in a soccer game, things like a PTTD and kicking the ball into a downed player’s face go beyond this sort of acceptable roughness. There is, after all, the incidental rough contact that goes with playing this sport. But taking down other players or kicking balls into their faces is beyond what is allowed in soccer. This seems to be clear and indisputable.
Not surprisingly, some folks have claimed that people are being exceptionally critical of Lambert because she is a woman and that such behavior by men would be far more tolerated. However, this does not seem to be the case as was shown by the reaction to Zidane’s infamous head butt. Whether an athlete is male or female, he or she is expected to play within the rules and within the limits of good sportsmanship. Of course, people do still find it more surprising when a female athlete acts violently or loses her temper. This is because social expectations for women are still different.
While what Lambert did is just one incident (and hence not by itself evidence for any general claims), there have been other cases of female athletes behaving badly, thus leading some, such as the folks at CBS, to speculate whether this will become the norm. Of course, the folks in the media tend to engage in a bit of hyperbole and a few incidents do not constitute a norm. That said, changing social expectations and changes in how gender roles are seen do seem to be allowing women to act more like men. On the downside, this seems to have resulted in a increase in bad behavior on the part of some women. This is to be expected-after all, the traditional expectations for women included not being rough or violent and these expectations tended to be enforced fairly vigorously. In contrast, it was expected that “boys would be boys.” Now we can expect that “girls will be girls.”