Leading members of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team recently filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a federal agency that ensures equal treatment within the workplace. What might their complaint be, you ask? It’s one that every woman in the U.S. faces, regardless of her athlete status—unequal pay.
The complaint was filed by five star players— Lloyd, Solo, Morgan, Rapinoe, and Sauerbrunn—but is receiving widespread support from the entirety of the team as well as those who’ve been following the ongoing debate over gender discrimination towards female athletes. U.S. Soccer is fighting back, however, insisting that the U.S. Men’s team generates more revenue, attendance, and television ratings, thus justifying their higher pay. In a statement released April 1st, the federation even argued that it was responsible for the growth in women’s soccer by bringing it to the Olympic Games and providing full-time salaries for star players.
APRIL FOOLS? No, not quite. While I wish it had been joke, U.S. Soccer really did play the condescending card. Gee, thanks, you-federation-run-primarily-by-men, for getting women to the Olympics and increasing their salaries—two rights the women’s team should have been given in the first place.
Hope Solo, the women’s team goalkeeper, said it best. “We continue to be told we should be grateful just to have the opportunity to play professional soccer, and to get paid for doing it,” the goalie said. “In this day and age, it’s about equality. It’s about equal rights, it’s about equal pay.”
And equal pay is where the U.S. Soccer Federation cannot defend itself.
Both the men’s and women’s teams are required to play at least 20 “friendly” games each year. During these games, the women get a $1,350 bonus if they win, while the men are paid $5,000 regardless of the score. The EEOC complaint points out that even if a top-tier female player wins all 20 of her games, she will still make less money than a male player who loses every single game but is guaranteed that $5,000. “[The men] get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships,” Hope Solo argues.
And that’s exactly what has been happening. The U.S. men’s team has historically been average at best, while the U.S. women’s team has won three World Cup Championships and four Olympic Championships. “…We’ve proven our worth over the years,” contends FIFA women’s player of the year Carli Lloyd, “…the pay disparity between the men and the women is just too large.”
But amidst all this support for the women’s team comes a controversy that has refocused much of society’s attention. Abby Wambach, retired star of the U.S. women’s team, was arrested early Sunday morning for a DUI. The former team leader took responsibility for her actions and apologized to friends and family through a public Facebook post Monday afternoon.
As the star repeatedly expresses her remorse and wrongdoings, we hope she doesn’t stir up enough attention to detract from the real issue surrounding women’s soccer – unequal pay. Though Wambach’s arrest shouldn’t create enough press to deter a response to the EEOC complaint, it certainly wouldn’t be the first time that women’s right issues were pushed aside for more glamorous matters.
WHY THIS MATTERS
While it may be natural to skim a story like this and forget about it moments later because it isn’t specifically affecting you, these efforts by the U.S. women’s soccer team do in fact play a role in our campus life.
The women’s team is not only fighting for equal pay, but they are addressing a much larger issue surrounding gender equality—an issue that requires constant dialogue and decision-making by all students.
What I mean by this is, students need to be conscious and critical of their own thoughts and actions related to gender stereotypes. There is a climate on campus—particularly evident in Greek life—that seems to condone gender stereotyping and bias. We receive sexual assault emails almost weekly, and gender discrimination is no doubt tied up in those incidents.
We cannot let this become a norm. Instead, we must keep gender equality in mind. We must be aware of our own thoughts and actions. We must acknowledge when we ourselves make assumptions based on gender. We must view the U.S. women’s soccer team’s complaint as an inspiring example of fighting for fairness. And as students deserving of an education based on morality and equality, we must speak out against those who discriminate based on gender.