My Feminism is Fueled by Sports

women's soccer, world cup, FIFA, women's sports, feminism, Title IX

Way before I knew the word feminism or what it meant, I was a little girl who loved sports.

It’s a rematch!

Sunday at 7 PM Eastern / 4 PM Pacific, my family and I will be at the top of BC Place Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia screaming our butts off for Team USA as they take on Japan in a rematch of the 2011 Women’s Soccer World Cup. It is a trip that not only fulfills my soccer-obsessed daughter’s dream but it’s also the embodiment of the feminism my husband and I have been teaching her whole life.

Way before I knew the word feminism or what it meant, I was a little girl who loved sports. When I wasn’t playing, I was watching some sport with my dad. I knew that the players I was watching were all men, but the fact that my dad would then play catch with me sent the clear message that I could do what boys could do. It may seem simplistic now, but it meant everything to me as a girl. I knew this fact before I even went to school, thus it fortified me for any sexist moments…which were more likely to occur on the playground than in the classroom. This is why I am forever grateful that Title IX, the federal law allowing for equal access to education, was expanded to athletics.

This is also why my feminism has always included sports. Sports is an important aspect of my life. In 2010, I started a Facebook page for people who pledge to attend one women’s sporting event a year. I felt too many feminists celebrated Title IX in theory, but rarely ever got themselves to an actual women’s or girls’ sporting event. After I started it, I got feedback from feminists who talked about never growing up in a culture of enjoying sports or who found sports too aggressive. But as the point of the pledge says, women’s sports cannot survive without spectators.

Maggie Mertens at The Atlantic recently wrote a pointed article on the lack of a feminist movement to support women’s sports. As I read it, I felt I was in church. The lack of attention that most feminist websites pay to women’s sports is appalling. If the release of a women-led comedy movie can compel big sites to write articles celebrating that fact, despite not being focused on movies or entertainment, I think the championship for every women’s sporting league can and should be fodder for at least a quick post noting the event. But I have to disagree with Mertens’ dismissal of fans writing about women’s sports. There’s nothing that I dislike more than to see non-sports fans write or talk sports. So let the fans write! I’ve written about sports here more than a few times and on other sites, including last week bemoaning the lack of coverage for the semifinal match of this World Cup.

One aspect that Mertens fails to address is the historical silence of women sports journalists when it comes to women’s events. They are often caught in the same quandary as women athletes. Feminism is what got them to where they are, but they fear that to raise that flag would draw too much attention to their status as a minority in their field. Some are vocal advocates for women’s sports. Others are fine to be just one of the guys and demand that women’s sports prove themselves before journalists spend their time covering the game. But sites that are overtly feminist sites should be doing a better job at covering sports.

So as I sit in that Vancouver stadium, watching the American women vie for World Cup, I am going to be the mother of the happiest girl in the world or I’ll be wiping away tears from our eyes. Either way this match will be the fuel that will keep my daughter dreaming of being on the pitch playing for her own World Cup in 10 to 15 years. Let’s hope that the feminist movement and the sports pages will take note by then.

Veronica Arreola writes the blog Viva la Feminista, where she tries to navigate and understand the intersection between feminism, motherhood and her Latinidad. You can follow her on Twitter @veronicaeye. To contact Veronica for an interview or to book her as a speaker, she can be reached at veronica.arreola@gmail.com.

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