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Fans slam calls to change England women’s football team’s ‘sexist’ Lionesses nickname

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 are 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 which 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.’

This Morning guest Tom Swarbrick branded the discussion ’embarrassing’ today while Dame Maureen Lipman also waded in on the debate, adding: ‘dazzling cheetahs, never mind lions,’ of their performance.

The Lionesses themselves remain focussed on their Wembley final this Sunday, rather than worrying about what the nation call 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

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

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said her household would not be calling the team anything other than the Lionesses

Lions vs Lionesses – who REALLY does the hard work?

Lions and lionesses are some of the most powerful animals in the world – but it’s not just the lack of a mane which distinguishes the females from the males.

The animals live in family units called prides, which can have up to 40 lions at once. They tend to include three or four males, a dozen females and cubs.

But who does what?

Two lionesses work together to bring down prey

Two lionesses work together to bring down prey


Male lions will grow up in their mother’s pride, before tending to leave and attempt to take over another pride of their own.

Males defend the pride’s territory, mark it with their own urine and chase off any animals who might wander into it.


While lions put on displays of masculinity to ward off unwanted guests, lionesses do the brunt of the hard work in their pride.

They are the primary hunters and leaders of the group, as well as having to raise their cubs with little to no help from their male counterparts.

They effectively have to feed and care for the whole pride, while lions take responsibility for protecting their territory.

Lionesses typically work together to bring down fast prey such as antelopes and zebras – meaning they don’t just work harder than male lions, they work together better too.

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 only 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?

‘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.’

Tom Swarbrick, an LBC presenter and guest on today’s This Morning programme, added that the debate is ’embarrassing’ for the UK.

He said: ‘If you think that words that describe the differences between men and women are sexist then yeah, I guess this is sexist.

‘It’s utterly pathetic.

‘Actually, as you say about lionesses, they actually do more of the hunting, they sleep less and they do way more of looking after the cubs.’

Emma Barnett yesterday told guest Anita Asante – a former England star – that she had a ‘challenge’ for her after a listener wrote in to the BBC program to criticize the name.

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 ‘gendify 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.

Coronation Street actress Dame Maureen Lipman also voiced her objections to the idea

Coronation Street actress Dame Maureen Lipman also voiced her objections to the idea

Should the UK have an extra bank holiday if the Lionesses win? Keir Starmer says yes!

The country should get an extra bank holiday if England women’s national football team win in the Euros final, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

The Labor leader reportedly backs a ‘day of celebration’ if the Lionesses claim victory at a sold-out Wembley Stadium on Sunday.

Conservative former sports minister Tracey Crouch and Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey also reportedly backed the idea.

However, the Government has said while the country will cheer on the team against Germany, a Bank Holiday would be a ‘considerable’ cost to the economy.

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-signaling 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 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'

Former England defender Anita Asante defended the ‘Lionesses’ term as ‘one of those things’

It’s England vs Germany! Eight-time European champions will take on Lionesses in 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 won the contest with her sixth goal in five games in the tournament.

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.

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 programme, 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.’


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