The U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) has four FIFA World Cup titles and four Olympic gold medals. The U.S. men’s national soccer team (USMNT) has zero FIFA World Cup titles and zero Olympic gold medals. There is absolutely no question that the USWNT is far more successful than the USMNT, yet women’s soccer is continually underfunded and mistreated by major soccer federations such as FIFA and USSF, highlighted by the glaring gap between the salaries of players on each team. The class-action lawsuit filed by the USWNT players earlier this year only begins to broach the pervasive sexism that pollutes the culture and environment of soccer on a global scale.
There is incredible pay inequity in spite of the fact that US women’s soccer generates more revenue and more attention compared to the men’s side. The women’s team has literally been subsidizing the men’s team as they continually lose games and money. These inequities extend beyond income—the U.S. women have had to play on artificial surfaces over ten times as much as the men have in recent years, which have been proven to increase the likelihood of injury and decrease the quality of the game. Internationally, many women’s national teams are hardly scheduled to play games in off-seasons. In a clear demonstration of this sexist bias, FIFA scheduled two men’s tournament finals (Copa America & CONCACAF) on the same day as the Women’s World Cup final.
We can all agree that this documented gender discrimination is abhorrent. FIFA has the power and capacity to initiate change—their cash reserves reached $2.74 billion in 2018—yet they actively choose not to support women’s soccer. FIFA’s own mission statement claims that “It is our responsibility to promote the growth and the development of the game in the long term, irrespective of color, race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, to every corner of the world.” The disparity between their words and actions demonstrates a refusal to acknowledge their own neglect of women’s programs as the biggest obstacle to the success of women’s soccer on a global level.
Beyond the institutional sexism of FIFA, people all over the world, and at Bowdoin, choose to degrade and insult women, furthering the systemic sexism that continues to oppress the growth of women’s soccer. We know we have a problem when men arbitrarily assign value to women based on what they think is more entertaining. As members of the Bowdoin women’s soccer team, every day we play with women who are competitive, creative, fast, strong and inspiring. Our teammates are athletically and intellectually impressive, and to suggest that women are inferior players undermines the talent and commitment that millions of women bring to the sport.
It is absolutely within our power to decide as a community and a nation that we are not going to accept misogyny, and rather, rise up to support female empowerment and promote the growth of women’s soccer.
Claire Burns, Aine Lawlor and Claudette Proctor are members of the Class of 2021.