The World Cup starts this Thursday, June 12th (!!!!!!!!), which is awesome. Waking up early to watch the best of the best represent their country playing the “Beautiful Game” is truly a great pleasure of mine and many people throughout the rest of the developed and undeveloped world. The pageantry, the crowd noise, the bright lights, the history and meaning of the Cup of Life (what’s up Ricky Martin????) inspire pride and excitement in the countries that are participating.
Soccer is a fascinating sport – at the professional level, players from countries the world over are brought together on teams with generations of history to compete for their respective league titles. In international play, these teammates are instead pitted against each other with the added weight of a nation’s hopes and expectations on their shoulders. Each player knows they’re competing not just for the trophy at the end of the tournament, but for their and their country’s place in history. The giants of Spain, Brazil, Germany, and Portugal all competing for the same glory as the hopefuls of the United States, Ghana, and even first-time qualifier Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Yes, the World Cup has it’s problems, and they are not small. FIFA, the governing body of soccer, as it stands is an organization plagued with corruption. The host nations, not FIFA, pays for the entirety of the tournament, including new stadiums and infrastructure, while FIFA itself reaps all profits. Brazil, this Cup’s host, has been aflame in protests by citizens fighting for better funding for their schools instead of new stadiums that will go empty post-tournament. The 2018 World Cup is in Russia. RUSSIA. Qatar, 2022’s host, is very blatantly building their stadiums using slave labor, with expectations that 4,000+ people will die working on these construction projects before the first kickoff. FIFA, like the International Olympic Committee, cares only about its bottom line and the kickbacks it can give to its friends. Its leadership is incompetent (Sepp Blatter’s suggestion for boosting women’s soccer ratings? Hot pants) and insanely rich, a deadly combination. It is something fans of soccer must reconcile with every time a ball touches a pitch.
But talking about everything that’s wrong with FIFA is like talking about how rain is wet: we already know that, you idiot. Instead, I want to share something I found on the great sports site www.sbnation.com today. Kirsten Schlewitz penned a great column in the leadup to this year’s World Cup titled, “10 rules for not being a gross misogynist during the World Cup,” where she takes on all the publications that issue lists along the lines of, “[X] Things To Do To Not Look Like A Typical Clueless Woman.” It’s fiery in its attack of the world’s soccer community and the fans and announcers that exclude women from their fandom, either through action or the use of words.
Its criticism should not be strictly confined to soccer. Point seven from her article, for example: “Put aside words like ‘girly,’ ‘pussy,’ and ‘bitch.’ Mocking a player by likening him to half the world’s population isn’t funny. Neither is using ‘feminine’ as a synonym for ‘weak.’” This type of language, the relating of feminine traits to weakness, cowardice, and incompetence is present in all sports. And what kind of environment does that create for the women watching with you, or women hoping to get interested in sports?
This, plus Dan Le Batard of the Miami Herald and ESPN: “And what you heard after Game 1 [of the NBA Finals] was uncomfortable, all right. Twitter was abuzz name-calling and character-smearing [LeBron] James. Female dog. Female body part. No balls. Little girl. Menstrual cramps. Made you wonder who those angry Twitter users hated more — LeBron or women. The whole thing was ugly and foul and odd,” signals a pushback against the dangerous culture we’ve created around our pastimes.
Just do a Twitter search for LeBron James and the words “bitch,” “pussy,” “woman” or even “fag” to gain insight into the world we’ve created as fans of these games. That world I’m talking about is one of exclusion, of hatred, and of second class citizenry, all because we can’t think of a different word to use. It tells women that just by being who they are, that simply just existing in the here and now as a female, they are synonymous with only negatives.
We are better than that. We’re definitely smarter than that. Words do have power, for good and bad, and telling women to just “take a joke,” like Schlewitz notes, isn’t good enough anymore. Put the boys club out to pasture. The world of sports is open to all.
(Photo Credit: The Daily Balance)