25. WOMEN: June and Nita

In early April, to reduce the number of people on the streets and thus combat the pandemic, the Peruvian government decided that men and women should go out on the streets on alternate days. The decree lasted less than a week because the days when women were allowed to go out, the supermarkets were overcrowded. However, on the days when men could go shopping, supermarkets were nearly empty.

What happened in the supermarkets in Peru is a manifestation —I admit that it is funny— of the global patriarchy that, in this crisis of COVID-19, is causing more collateral damage to women than to men. The Washington Post published a report where editors of scientific journals reported that since the pandemic began, women sent fewer articles to publish than expected, while this effect was not observed in men. Forced teleworking for scientists has been a good opportunity to finish writing articles with data from experiments already done. It seems that men have made better use of the telework period, probably because women spent more time educating children and doing housework. This tells us that, even in well-educated families, household things are still women’s things.

What I would do is put Zinédine Zidane in the house of these highly-educated men, who do not consider themselves sexist, but who do not know how to use the washing machine or the dishwasher, nor supervise their children’s homework. Zidane would explain the importance of rotations so as not to burn all the components of the squad, or the family in this case.

Zidane began to coach Real Madrid in January 2016, and in May he already won his first Champions League in May. As the following season began, he was very rigorous in rotating players. These rotations made Cristiano Ronaldo play almost a thousand minutes less in the 2016-2017 and 2017-2018 seasons. As a result, Zidane’s Real Madrid won the Champions League again in 2017 and 2018. Rotations make you lose something individually, but they do help your team win.

The Spanish league has done everything in its power to bring back the first and second division football, but only the men’s, which is the one that generates money. Women’s football has failed to return in other countries, such as England, but has made a comeback in Germany. The Women’s Bundesliga returned on May 29th.

Football is still a projection of society. What women’s football had won – and that was a lot recently – was lost when things got complicated and priorities were established. The Spanish Football Federation defends itself by pointing out that women’s football is not professional, which only serves to accentuate the gulf between men’s and women’s football.

Various studies suggest that COVID-19 affects women less 30. Perhaps women have an immune system or physiological conditions that favour a SARS-CoV-2 infection, because, they could get infected the same as men. Looking at the statistics of the Ministry of Health of Spain, in mid-May, there were more infected women than men. However, the number of men admitted to the ICU and those who have died from the disease is higher. The fact that there are more infected women may be due to the greater presence of women working in the health sector, in the cleaning sector, or in caring for dependent people. The slight advantage of women, in terms of having fewer COVID-19 complications than men, maybe due to physiological details that have not yet been precisely determined. Or, perhaps, that better prognosis for women is due to a wink from SARS-CoV-2 to the congeners of the coronavirus discoverer, June Almeida.

June Almeida was born in 1930 near Glasgow, Scotland. She was the daughter of a bus driver. She dropped out of school at the age of 16 when she could not afford the University, and began working as a histopathology technician in a hospital. She married a Venezuelan artist —painter— and emigrated to Canada where, as a wife and mother, she continued to work with microscopes. Back in London, she specialized in electron microscopy, a type of microscopy that allowed particles as small as viruses to be seen. In particular, she pioneered the use of a technique that, using particles that bound to antibodies that in turn bound to viruses, allowed access to what had never been seen, never better said.

Something like when Czechoslovakian Antonin Panenka chipped his penalty into the centre of the goal, to defeat West Germany in the 1976 Euro Cup final shootout. Nothing like it has ever been seen before but once seen, many players copied the technique to shoot Panenka-style penalties, with equal or less success.

Looking at biological samples under the electron microscope, June detected viruses that were different from the rest, with a halo around them like a crown. When she submitted the photos for publication in a scientific journal, they rejected her article, arguing that these new viral forms were nothing more than warped images of the flu virus. When finally her scientific manuscript was accepted, in 1966, June baptized this new type of virus with the name of coronavirus.

Despite not having been able to enjoy the academic career that she would have liked, June Almeida, in the 1940s and 1950s, made her way into a world of men achieving recognition and professional success. Ana Carmona Ruiz*, known as Nita (from Anita), who was born in 1908, did not have the same luck. Nita Carmona loved to play football in the port of Málaga, where her father worked as a stevedore. She liked football so much that he cut her hair short and bandaged her breasts to play at the Sporting Club in Málaga.

Nita did not play every game, only those away from home, so that she was not too exposed to be uncovered. She had the complicity and approval of Father Míguez, founder of the club, who saw nothing wrong with a girl sharing his passion for kicking a ball. Later she played at Vélez F. C., where she was well received by her teammates, who gave her the nickname vane because, before each match, her sex changed sides as if the Levant (wind) passed to Ponente. Nita played football in hiding but took advantage of a Carnival day to take a photo of herself marking her boobs and hips with the shirt of her beloved Sporting Club de Málaga.

Nita Carmona died at the age of 32 from typhus, a disease of bacterial origin, which today is practically eradicated. 80 years later, Nita would have survived typhus and would have been able to enjoy the game she was passionate about, although in COVID-19 times she would have to cut her hair again, and bandage her breasts, in order to play a League game.

*Thanks to Juan Jesús Hurtado Carmona (http://velezedario.blogspot.com) for Nita’s story and pictures.