I still remember the first time I realized sexism was a very real thing.
I played soccer, and in my hometown that meant playing coed. Because of the lack of interest in soccer in my hometown, especially for girls, this usually meant I was one of very few girls on the “coed” team. Other teams we played didn’t always have a coed team, so we played the all boys teams by default, I guess. Defense was my usual position at the time. One particular game, this boy on the other team, their favored striker, kept attacking the side I was defending. Which is fairly normal; people will tend to stick to the side of the field and the foot they’re more comfortable with. But after several attempts to score on that side of the field without success, most people will switch it up and try something else. They’ll try it up the middle, they’ll try to pass – something! This guy just kept coming at me though. Eventually I moved over to the other side of the field to give me a break from playing constant defense against this guy. Except now this kid is coming at me on this side too! I thought it was strange, but just kept playing. Then, this kid brings the ball up the field and one of his teammates (likely tired of this ball hog) calls for him to pass the ball, because he’s going to lose it if he keeps headed in my direction. Instead of passing the ball to his completely open teammate, he just says “I got it! I can beat the girl.”
I can beat the girl.
I didn’t really think too much of it at the time, I was busy getting the ball away from this kid, but later I realized why he kept bringing the ball up whatever side I was on. He thought I was an easy target. That because I’m a girl, I couldn’t defend against him. That as the ‘weaker sex’ I couldn’t keep up.
Later in the game I stole the ball from him and made him look like a fool, and he eventually stopped bringing the ball up my side. I like to think I taught him a lesson that he kept with him for the rest of his life but I think that may be unrealistic. Stories like this happen all the time, even for younger girls and adult women.
And you know what the most common response is, when I ask why boys say and do things like this? Why they exhibit blatant sexism, why they’re jerks to girls for no reason?
“Boys will be boys,” as if it’s completely out of their control. Yet we’re the weaker sex.
In the professional and international soccer world this type of thing still exists, most recently with the current controversy over using turf in the upcoming Women’s World Cup:
Come to think of it, perhaps there is no better evidence that this boils down to sexism than the stance taken by female soccer players. No one has more to lose than they do. Nobody would be more willing to play this World Cup on turf, if they truly believed there was no other way, if they truly believed it was fair.
Female athletes are taking action because no one else is, because not enough people seem to care.
And that’s exactly what FIFA is counting on.
FIFA, the soccer governing body, is known for being pretty corrupt. But this is something else; this is low even for those guys. I get upset when FIFA does things that are biased against the US, like putting the men’s team in the Group of Death nearly every World Cup, but I can’t handle the way they’re dealing with the women’s tournament. Yes, I am happy the women have their own tournament, and I’m so happy with the leaps and bounds that have been made even in my short lifetime.
I’m just asking FIFA not to take a giant leap backward on this one. Don’t show those boys that you think women are the weaker sex, that women deserve less. Show the world you value the women’s game as much as the men’s. Give the fans, and the players, what they want. Doing good business means including the girls, too. Boys will be boys, but men don’t have to be.