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FIFA’s Sexist Shadow Looms Over U.S. Women’s World Cup Victory

FIFA’s Sexist Shadow Looms Over U.S. Women’s World Cup Victory

The U.S. women's national team beat Japan in a tremendous 5-2 victory Sunday night during the 2015 Women;s World Cup final. Nothing could put a damper on the sheer exuberance pouring off the national team as they celebrated their first win since 1999.

But just before Abby Wambach, Christie Rampone, Carli Lloyd, and the rest of the U.S. team approached the dais in order to accept their awards, spectators were treated to a very odd procession. No, we're not talking about the female Mountie. (This was Vancouver, we should be prepared for Mounties at any given moment.) We're talking about the string of medal-bearing models who looked like they were stalking right out of Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" video.

These models appeared to be a new FIFA tradition brought about, at least in part, by the international soccer federation's recent corruption scandal. In the recent past, the glamorous women parading out with medals during the World Cup trophy ceremonies are flight attendants for Emirates Airlines, a major sponsor of past World Cup games. They were there when Spain won the Men’s World Cup in 2010, when Japan won the Women’s World Cup in 2011, and just last year when Germany won the men’s tournament in Brazil. But Emirates pulled its sponsorship of FIFA in late 2014 while the soccer group's corruption scandal was still incubating.

As unexpected a sight as those Emirati attendants in their khaki uniforms and jaunty red hats were, they never caused quite the same stir the new models from this year's tournament did. Perhaps we can chalk the difference up to necklines. Or, more likely, we can attribute this year's negative reaction to the increased awareness of the darker side of FIFA or, more specifically, the repellently sexist attitude of its disgraced president Sepp Blatter. The attending FIFA officials were booed before Sunday's trophy ceremony) and Blatter didn't attend the World Cup at all because, many speculate, he would risk being charged and extradited if he did. But even if Blatter himself wasn't in attendance, his legacy loomed large. As John Oliver pointed out in his popular, scathing takedown of Blatter, the ex-FIFA president has some distasteful opinions on women athletes. Blatter is on record saying,

Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men—such as playing with a lighter ball. That decision was taken to create a more female aesthetic, so why not do it in fashion?

As Oliver went on to note, per FIFA and the Canadian Soccer Association, the Women's World Cup was played on artificial turf rather than the real grass every other World Cup game is played on. Some players and soccer analysts said the fake pitches presented a real danger to the female athletes by not only being less yielding than the real grass, but because the plastic grass can bake in the sun, with surface temperatures sometimes reaching 120 degrees. U.S. player Sydney Leroux said playing on the turf was like running on ”cement“ and that she and her female teammates were "guinea pigs" for this potential cost-saving change. Afterwards Leroux posted a graphic image of her ripped up legs causing male allies like Kobe Bryant,Tom Hanks, and Kevin Durant to rally behind the women's team.


But neither the high-profile support, nor a lawsuit against FIFA resulted in real grass for the Women's World Cup. Which, in the end, turned out to be a good thing. Can you imagine those models in their high heels trying to parade those medals out on grass turf? They'd sink up to their high hemlines.