What the Fight for Grass at the Women’s World Cup Says to Girls

August 29, 2014

 

two young women playing in a soccer game

Image by reid.neureiter, Flickr Creative Commons

There are plenty of good reasons why the Men’s World Cup is played on real grass instead of turf. The speed of play is better on grass, and players are able to slide tackle, an important move for both defensive and attacking players. Safety may also play a role. Turf gets blamed for leaving players with blood stains instead of grass stains — or worse, with broken bones.

If grass is the field of choice for the men’s cup, then why will the Women’s World Cup in 2015 be played in stadiums that have turf? Could the answer be as simple as sexism?

“It really goes down to this: The men would never play a World Cup on turf, so why should the women? It’s the same tournament. It’s the World Cup,” U.S. forward Sydney Leroux told the Associated Press. “It’s the biggest thing that we have for soccer. Why would we play on something that’s not real?”

Such inequity at even the most elite levels of sport is deeply disappointing but not unexpected. It’s been a long, hard fight for women to be treated equally in sports. It wasn’t until 1972 that the U.S. Congress passed Title IX, that single sentence that leveled the playing field for women in educational opportunity.

Ask any woman who played high school sports in the 70s, and she’ll tell you how badly Title IX was needed for school athletic programs. The law has made it socially and practically possible for girls to play sports. And it’s done wonders in leveling the playing field for women and girls in other areas of education, including protecting students from sexual violence, prohibiting discrimination against pregnant and parenting teens, and working to narrow the science, technology, engineering, and math achievement gap.

And yet. Ask a girl who plays high school sports now, and her answer might make you wonder if it’s still 1972. Today female athletes continue to face discrimination in funding, scholarships, scheduling, equipment, facilities, and overall participation opportunities.

A few years ago, AAUW’s Legal Advocacy Fund supported a case that sheds light on what this discrimination can look like. The suit argued that the Franklin County, Indiana, high school boys’ varsity basketball team played games in prime time — on Friday and Saturday nights — while the girls’ games were relegated to weeknights. The plaintiffs said that the girls had to compete on school nights instead of doing homework; that crowd attendance — support from those all-important fans — was lower during the week; and that, worst of all, the scheduling sent the message that girls’ sports aren’t as important as boys’ sports. (The plaintiffs successfully fought for fairer scheduling of the varsity girls’ basketball games in an agreement with Franklin County.)

As the Women’s World Cup is sending a similar message, it’s important that we stand up and be counted as supporters of Title IX and of equity overall. Here are three ways you can take a stand.

  1. Know your rights.
  2. Learn about Title IX and how it can level the playing field at your local school.

  3. Be an activist.
  4. Tell Congress to co-sponsor the High School Data Transparency Act (S. 217/H.R. 455), a law that would require high schools to report basic data on the number of female and male students in their athletic programs and the expenditures made for their sports teams.

  5. Inspire others.
  6. Share our empowering Title IX video with a girl in your life or on social media.

Watch video on YouTube.

 


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