Feminism and The World Cup

by | Jul 19, 1999

Women's soccer enthusiasts screamed foul when, during the 1996 Olympics, NBC gave only scant attention to the victorious women's soccer team.
Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

“THEY JUST don’t get it.”

Women’s soccer enthusiasts screamed foul when, during the 1996 Olympics, NBC gave only scant attention to the victorious women’s soccer team.

First, let me get this out of the way. What I know about soccer can be summed up in two words — Stephen Motley.

My soccer career ended abruptly in the schoolyard, when Steve missed the ball and kicked me. The pain began in the leg, then soon radiated out from the ankle, down to the toes, up through the knee, into the stomach, fanning out into the arms, and subsided only after the pain reached my fingernails.

I crashed to the field, muttered the Lord’s Prayer, and thought, “If I recover, I’m stickin’ to Ping-Pong.”

But nearly 40 million Americans, unburdened by bad soccer memories, watched the U. S. Women’s Soccer World Cup Final, along with nearly 1 billion more worldwide. The ladies played to sold-out stadiums, including a standing- room-only final played at the Rose Bowl. Scalpers demanded $4,000 or $5,000 a ticket, placing the Women’s Soccer Finals in the same orbit with a Super Bowl or a Rose Bowl.

Initially, game planners suggested playing the matches in smaller arenas, to avoid the embarrassment of hosting a game in an 85,000 person stadium, and have only 4,000 show up. But gambling on a reservoir of enthusiasm for soccer, and sensing star power in the likes of Mia Hamm and Brandi Chastain (you know, the one without the jersey), the World Cup organizers rolled the dice and held the game in big houses. The team played before sell-out crowds.

But some of us still “just don’t get it.” Oh, we “get” the fact that girls comprise nearly 40 percent of those playing AYSO soccer. We “get” the celebration of a winner, especially in a sport traditionally dominated by other countries. And, yes, we “get” that women thoroughly enjoyed watching women excel in sports, especially in a team sport widely played by schoolgirls.

But what we don’t “get” is this euphoria, this deliverance, this over-the- moon feeling by some women that they have, well, “arrived.” One local news program interviewed a 9-year-old girl, who gushed, “This shows that girls can do anything.” Well, yeah. And it took a victory in World Cup soccer to make that point? Haven’t your mom and dad been telling you that?

Some of us lived through the feminist movement of the ‘60s and the ‘70s, and grew up during bra-burning, equal pay for equal work, Roe vs. Wade, the Pill, the National Organization for Women and the emergence of women as players and employers in the workforce. Some of us thought the point — “I’m just as good as you guys are” — had long since been made.

Women outnumber men on college campuses. Over 40 percent of today’s medical and law school graduates are women. Nearly one out of four Americans works for a woman, and nearly one-third of married women out-earn their husbands. Women sit on the Supreme Court, serve in the president’s Cabinet, and run colleges as presidents.

Women outlive men, and, therefore, ultimately decide property disposition. More women vote than men. A woman has run for vice-president on the Democratic ticket, and Elizabeth Dole credibly contends for the Republican presidential nomination. Israel’s Prime Minister Golda Meir, India’s Indira Gandhi, and England’s Margaret Thatcher all led their countries to victory in war. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, for good or for ill, spearheaded the administration’s effort in the war in Kosovo.

Female-owned businesses fail less often than male-owned, and revenue outpaces that of male-run companies. In the information age, where brains, teamwork, and camaraderie are important, women bosses may have an advantage.

Exceptions abound, but many female managers simply approach business in a different way than do men. Women tend to seek input from employees rather than issue edicts in a top-down fashion.

This explains, in part, the popularity of the Women’s Soccer Team. Fans perceive them as a team with a capital “T.” A clever Nike commercial shows a team member in a dental office, announcing she has two cavities. One by one, the other members of the team, sitting in the waiting room, stand and announce, “Then I will have two fillings.” One for all, all for one. Fans love it.

Male coaches do emphasize teamwork, noting that there is no “I” in team. To this famous dictum, the great Michael Jordan famously responded, “Yeah, but there is an ‘I’ in the word ‘w-i-n.'” Hard to imagine the Misses Hamm, Chastain, and Scurry saying something like that.

So, we cheer on the Women’s Soccer Team. We celebrate their popularity, their on-the-field and (likely future) off-the-field successes. But, no, this did not prove that women can do most anything. Women collectively scored that goal a long, long time ago.

This editorial is made available through Creator's Syndicate. Best-selling author, radio and TV talk show host, Larry Elder has a take-no-prisoners style, using such old-fashioned things as evidence and logic. His books include: The 10 Things You Can’t Say in America, Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies and the Special Interests That Divide America, and What’s Race Got to Do with It? Why it’s Time to Stop the Stupidest Argument in America,.

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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