The biggest fight facing the U.S. women’s soccer team isn’t on the fieldRoundup
tags: gender, womens history, sexism, Sports History
Lindsay Parks Pieper is assistant professor of sport management at the University of Lynchburg and author of "Sex Testing: Gender Policing in Women's Sports."
Tate Royer is a University of Lynchburg graduate and four-year-member of the Lynchburg varsity soccer team.
The U.S. women’s national soccer team takes to the field Tuesday to open its World Cup run and defend its title as world champion. But the World Cup isn’t the only battle the team is fighting. Just three months ago, 28 of its members filed a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation, the country’s national governing body for soccer.
The lawsuit argues that the USSF discriminates against women by paying them less than members of the men’s team despite the women’s team’s far greater success in international competitions. As described in the lawsuit, if the men and women played 20 matches each and each squad won all the games, female players would earn a maximum of $99,000, while male players would earn an average of $263,320.
Women have had to fight for equal treatment since the earliest days of female sports. Advocacy increased in the 1970s with the rise of the women’s liberation movement. Female pioneers broke barriers and took to the courts, fields and stadiums in record numbers. Kathrine Switzer became the first woman to officially complete the Boston Marathon in 1967; a legal victory in 1974 granted girls the right to play Little League Baseball; and tennis star Billie Jean King defeated Bobby Riggs in the 1973 match dubbed the Battle of the Sexes.
Yet society appeared to view these female accomplishments as evidence of women’s capability, not their equality. When Switzer ran the 26.2-mile race, she knew she needed to finish “or no one would believe that women could do it.” Such achievements made female athleticism more acceptable, but women’s sports remained maligned in America.
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