5min readCulture 09 July 2019
With one fight down and another one left to go, the US Women's Soccer Team has officially won the World Cup. Yet their battle for wage equality rages on. Only now, they have crowds of fans chanting"equal pay" to back them up.
On March 8th, when the USWNT filed its suit against US Soccer, it was already an intense period for the whole team: weeks before their next training camp and only a few months from their first World Cup match. For most people, this would not be an ideal time to begin a lengthy legal battle, but there would be no more waiting for this team. Alex Morgan spoke to the New York Times and stated, "We don't always want to be patient, you have to seize the moment." Female patience is overrated and, often, undeserved, so it's refreshing to see these women ready to throw down when the time is right for them. However this timing also meant that the lawsuit became unintentionally, inextricably linked to their performance in the World Cup. And we all know how that ended…
With this victory, the USWNT has further solidified themselves in the hearts of fans and novices alike. They've broken records, beat out all of their competition and generated some seriously top tier memes. This win (and their entire performance) may have thematically supported their claim to higher wages, but team pride only goes so far. What do the numbers really look like and what does this mean for the larger issue of pay inequality for all women?
For those not steeped in knowledge of how athletes make money (as I was before this entire debacle began playing out), here's the skinny. First and foremost, the issue is complicated because of varied revenue streams and some imprecise statistics, as well as the fact that the men and women teams' wages have different structures. The USWNT earn a base salary while the USMNT do not, but the men earn large bonuses even on matches they lose. Both the men and women earn victory bonuses, but the men's are significantly higher than the women's. Additionally, bonuses are available for merchandising, match attendance and specific tournaments, which are completely variable. Despite the complicated nature of this issue, the suit has broken it down into sample scenarios where no matter how you slice it, the women earn less for better work. Some people are happy to accept that the women's team earn less money because there are fewer fans; people don't show up in frenzied droves to attend their games like the men's. But if the real problem is money made versus money paid, then it's easy math.
It's important to note that the World Cup prize money, though similarly discriminatory in its paltry amount, is not considered in this suit, because the suit is against US Soccer, and FIFA is the organization that collects and disseminates World Cup money. US Soccer does claim to base many of their financial decisions on the practices of FIFA, but the two are technically separate entities. And one giant corporation falling in line with another, does not excuse the behavior. So winning the World Cup doesn't technically impact the lawsuit at all, but it certainly looks worse for US Soccer to find the literal champions of the world (two times in a row, I might add) unworthy of equal pay. Especially considering the USNMT's comparatively, ahem, pathetic performance.
FIFA and USSF are both structures that are deeply entrenched in masculine ideals, systematic sexism and the failings of capitalism. We are raised to believe that capitalism is a meritocracy, if you work hard you'll make more money and be more successful. But looking at the pay and performance of the USWNT, merit has nothing to do with it. Because if it was about who was better, these women would be making a hell of a lot more. So what these women are fighting for with this legal battle and what winning the world cup is getting them one step closer to, is money, yes, but it's also respect. Because in our world, the two are often one and the same.
Because if it was about who was better, these women would be making a hell of a lot more. So what these women are fighting for with this legal battle and what winning the world cup is getting them one step closer to, is money, yes, but it's also respect.
According to Megan Rapinoe, it's about "Not just blindly throwing cash at things, but investing in infrastructure, in training programs or academies for women, in coaching for women. All of it. I don't think you, sort of, get to the point of having an incredible business by running it on a budget that's a dollar more than it was last year. You have to make big up-front investments and really bet on the future. I think that the women's game has proved time and time again, World Cup after World Cup, year after year that we're worthy of the investment. The quality on the field and the product on the field is there, and we just sort of need that business step to be in line in terms of all the steps we are making on the field in terms of performance. So for me, I always say that, it's always money."
The USWNT's World Cup performance parallels their legal battle in a powerful way, their success and their popularity both underscore the justification for earning more. It has been thrilling to watch our country's team revel in their success and hard work, thrilling in a way that I have never before experienced as an American woman. This World Cup has made lifelong fans out of people who never looked twice at a soccer ball before and it is that kind of commanding respect that the USWNT wholly embody. Although it looks as though their lawsuit may just end in mediation, the impact that their stellar World Cup run has had will be indelible on the USWNT's history as well as pay discrimination at large simply because of what it symbolizes. This victory represents what we ladies may already know but that the world (and the USSF) needs to be reminded of: women kick ass. And it's time we got paid for it.
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Starting with a little background, I am an anti-bullying advocate and have recently graduated from The Parent Leadership Training Institute, where as part of our studies we were asked to come up with a community project close to our hearts and put it into action. My cause was bullying, and I began a blog and Facebook page to address issues pertaining to all forms of bullying. Implementing this project was followed by a thre- minute speech to my peers, and, after all this, here is what I have learned about bullying.
Bullying makes people feel bad about themselves, leading to feelings of inadequacy, low self-esteem and even physical symptoms. The repercussions of bullying can cause people to miss school or work as well as countless other negative side effects.
I have been bullied both at school and at work, and I know of others who have suffered the same plight. It is not fun!
My first bullying experience was in seventh grade as a young teen. There was a group of three "mean girls" who harassed me and, I later found out, several of my friends; they thought it was funny to pick on others about their clothes, their looks or whatever else they could come up with (who knows). It felt awful at the time. Supposedly, I was chosen to get picked on because they claimed I bought my clothes at the Goodwill. That wasn't true, but really who cares? Why they were picking on me was never really the point. Luckily, after a while, the meanies went on to the next victim(s) like a never-ending cycle. I tend to think once a bully, always a bully, which goes to show how good a lifestyle that is, because those "mean girls" never amounted to much. In hindsight, I feel sorry for them. Watch the movie The Gift if you're really curious about what happens to bullies when they grow up.
And bullying was not just an issue when I was a teen, since then nothing much has changed. My own nephew was bullied in eighth grade, and he recently talked to me in depth about of how the bullying took a toll on him. Especially because I had the same experience, I could relate to him in ways that some others couldn't. Like reliving my own memories, I was incredibly broken up to hear how it made him feel.
Even worse than that, bullying does not end in the school yard. Employees are being bullied on the job at an alarming rate. When you are bullied on the job as an adult, it taken an even bigger toll. Further it doesn't just go away like those middle school "mean girls." Unless you can quit your job, you might just be stuck. There are all kinds of physical symptoms, stomach pains, migraines and even panic attacks. Beyond the physical, people's mental and emotional state is extremely sensitive to bullying, and as a result work performance might suffer. Furthermore, it might feel like there is no recourse, no one to believe you. You can hope that the HR Department is willing to listen and do something about it, but the whole process can be so disheartening. And in the hierarchical corporate environment, sometimes the bully seems to get ahead and you are left lagging behind in a subservient position. This is what happened to me as a victim of workplace bullying. It started with me being told by a co-worker that my boss was following me to the bathroom, staring down the hall whenever I left my desk to make sure I came right back to my seat. Then it was standing over me as I typed, ordering me to get in a car with them, not allowing me to sit somewhere if it wasn't within their sight. The list of offenses could go on endlessly. There were times I felt like I couldn't breathe. And then, the bully torturing me got a promotion. Like the character of Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada, the classic bully is revered by her peers, despite the fact that all of her employees are terrified of her. Yet, she is in a role of high stature and praised as a bully. We live in a culture that is not only complacent in the existence of bullies, but one that actively allows them to thrive.
It makes you realize how unfair life can be. Of course, no one said that life would be fair; maybe you just assumed that bad people would not get ahead. But, they do. Even now, I cannot help but to shake my head in disbelief. I often wonder what makes a person feel the need to laud their power over another. Are they insecure? Were they bullied themselves? They must feel bad about themselves in some way? Do they feel the need to do this to make themselves look good? Whatever the reason, it certainly isn't nice at all. I have found myself at different times in my life standing up for people who have been bullied around me. And I certainly do not allow anyone to treat me in any way that I find disrespectful. I truly believe in karma, and I tell myself that at some point in time, the bullies will get it back in some way. I have seen it happen, and in the meantime, I just say to myself "What goes around, comes around."
Bullying shows no sign of slowing down, and in this day and age, it's even worse than I have experienced in the past. Cyber bulling, rumors, fist fights, knifes, guns and other forms of both mental and physical cruelty, it truly sickens me. I know that I cannot save everyone, but I try to be an advocate as much as possible and encourage others to do so as well. NO ONE SHOULD BULLIED! It is disgraceful to say the least. You should always practice grace as much as you can. With every person who chooses to do so, the world gets a little bit better. I will be writing more on this topic on a regular basis; I feel it helps to talk about this subject aloud and spread the word. and, if nothing else, be kind.