Badass Women

Footballers are amazing. They perform amazing feats of beauty and athleticism that defy gravity and imagination. And they do it while wearing only a tiny pair of shinguards to protect themselves, and they also do it for 90 minutes straight. But if you think that football is only for men, you might actually be a dinosaur. Because the rest of the world is finally starting to realize that the football realm is populated with some badass women.


Three years ago, I wrote about a Milan Women’s amateur team playing in Serie B, and the phenomenal disparity between them and the men’s teams in Italy. Since then, there has been significant growth in women’s football in Italy and worldwide. In fact, the Italian Women’s National Team got higher TV ratings for their World Cup game vs. Brazil than the last Men’s National Team Euro qualifier or the U21 Men’s Euro matches, with 7.3 million viewers in Italy alone. The previous viewing record for women’s football in Italy was 203,000 viewers for the Women’s World Cup final in 2011 between USA & Japan.

One of the reasons for the growth in viewership was the significant investment that many of the Serie A clubs have made in women’s football in recent years. For example, although the Milan Ladies are still playing on boys’ fields and maybe laundering their own kits, AC Milan bought Brescia’s women’s team and had a very successful first season, finishing third in Serie A. They play their matches at Vismara, the Milan Youth’s training ground, and they are still paid much less than their male counterparts, but the tremendous growth in recent years is starting to close that gap ever so slightly. My hat goes off to all of those women who have kept playing in spite of the glaring gender disparities in Italian football.

Milan Femminile's Giacinti used to use her doll's heads to practice football

Today is the Women’s World Cup Final. The United States will play the Netherlands, hoping for their fourth world title. The US Women’s National Team have won three out of the seven Women’s World Cups held to date. Whereas their counterparts, the US Mens National Team have won zero out of 21 competitions. Ouch. In most areas of life, if there were two groups doing the same activity and one were so much more successful, then one would think that the more successful group would be compensated as well as or better than the other. But that is shockingly not the case within US Soccer. In fact, all 28 USWNT players have filed suit against US Soccer for “institutionalized gender discrimination.”

US Soccer have a massive problem on their hands. While they are claiming the disparity is based on collective bargaining agreements, not gender, three years ago, their lawyer defended a similar claim stating that the women received benefits that the men did not, including maternity leave and child care. Last I checked, men were unable to give birth, thus not requiring maternity leave, but arguing that alone makes it all about gender.

Women can fly, too

US Soccer are also claiming “differences in the aggregate revenue generated by the different teams” as a reason that the women make so much less money, fly coach instead of chartered jets and even get less money per diem than their male counterparts. But the problem is, in addition to the three World Cups and the four Olympic medals that the women have won, the women’s ratings, sponsorships, and kit sales have exploded in recent years, and the numbers are flip-flopping, leaving their argument further behind than US Men’s Soccer is compared to the rest of the world. In fact, Nike just announced this week that the USWNT jersey has shattered all records and they have sold more of their jerseys than any other country or club team’s jersey in a single year.

But some of the numbers in comparing the genders are absolutely mind-numbing. For example, if the US win today, the women will each receive bonuses of $75,000. Whereas if hell froze over and all of the other teams were struck with the bubonic plague and the USMNT won a World Cup, each player would receive $390,000. Or, even in a friendly win, the women get bonuses of $1,350, whereas the men get $8,166 for winning a friendly. Obviously, Las Vegas must be involved in this “collective bargaining” process, because US Soccer has clearly realized that the men won’t win nearly as much, so it doesn’t really matter what they say their bonuses will be. Meanwhile, the women will have to be paid. Because they actually do win.

They shoot, they score, they get paid less... what gives?

I am not even a fan of women’s football. Nor am I a feminist. But the times cannot change fast enough to close the disparity gap between men and women’s football. It’s not about the tired old argument of the quality of the game, it’s about human beings working equally hard and one gender being treated as much less than, even when they actually bring in more revenue than the other gender. That may not be the case in many countries, but it is absolutely the case in the United States, and the fact that the women have to sue their own federation is quite telling about how far we have left to go. These women work, train, and play comparably, yet still face rampant sexism and gender imbalances everywhere they go. Even when they win.  So, whether you are a fan of women’s football or not, you have to admit that in addition to being fantastic athletes and role models just like their male counterparts, these players are badass women.

This post inspired by the music of Meghan Trainor’s “Badass Woman” and the many, many women who have played for the love of the game, despite all odds

Badass Women Badass Women Reviewed by Elaine on 2:03 AM Rating: 5
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