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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4 min read
One of the few things I remember from grade school biology is the concept of tropism. In plain language, tropism is the reaction of a living thing, like a plant, towards a stimulus like sunlight or heat. You've likely seen this before but just didn't recognize it for what it was. If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action. The plant is bending towards the sunlight.
If you've ever seen the leaves of a potted plant bending towards a windowpane, that's tropism in action.
In our everyday lives, we are all inundated with stimuli throughout the day. The driver in front of us that stalls at the yellow light and zooms through the red light, leaving us behind to wait. Or the customer service rep that leaves us on hold for an ungodly amount of time, only for the call to prematurely drop. There are so many examples both common and unique to our individual lives. The trouble begins when we form the habit of responding to everything — particularly negative stimuli. By doing this, our mental peace is disrupted and diverted making us slaves to whatever happens to happen. Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us. Now take that concept and multiply it by the number of things that can happen in a day, week, or month. What happens to you mentally with so many emotional pivots?
For me, the result is: Restlessness. Anxiety. Sleepness. Mindless Eating. Everything besides peace of mind.
Much like the plant bending towards sunlight, we oftentimes react and lean into whatever is happening around us.
Earlier this year, something pretty trivial happened to me. I'm sure this has happened to you at some point in your life also. I was walking through a door and, as I always do, glanced back and held the door longer and wider than normal for the person coming behind me. My gracious gesture was met with silence — no thank you, no smile, not even a nod. I remember being so annoyed at this travesty of justice. How dare they not acknowledge me and thank me for holding the door? After all, I didn't have to do it. I know I spent the next few hours thinking about it and probably even texted a few friends so that they could join in on my rant and tell me how right I was to be upset. In hindsight, I should not have allowed this pretty petty thing to occupy my mind and heart, but I did. I let it shake my peace.
I've since taken some classes on mindfulness and what I've learned (and I'm still learning) is the art of being aware — being aware of the present and my feelings. Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy. We're all human and having emotions is part of the deal but as mindful adults, it's critically important to choose what you're going to care about and let everything else pass along. There are several tools on the market to help with this but the Headspace app has really helped me in my mindfulness journey. The lessons are guided and coupled with some pretty cute animations.
Recognizing when I'm triggered towards annoyance or anger gives me the opportunity to take a step back to understand why and assess whether it deserves my attention and energy.
Over the course of the next week, I'd like to challenge you to pay more attention to your reactions. How aware are you of how you allow your environment to affect you? Are you highly reactive? Do you ruminate for hours or even days on events that are insignificant in your life? If so, practicing a bit of mindfulness may be the way to go.