Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Remembering the women

I have not watched one second of the men's World Cup. And yet it seems to be the only thing I can blog about these days. (I do have a post coming about working out in skirts--so stay tuned for something non-soccer. Not that there's anything wrong with soccer. I'm just not much into men's soccer.)
But some people are still talking about women who play soccer.
First, Diane Elayne Dees, the creator of Women Who Serve, a blog about tennis, wrote this poem in remembrance of South African star Eudy Simelane, who was gang-raped and murdered because she was a butch-appearing lesbian. Diane's poem, In Memoriam, is at The New Verse News and was posted on June 12.
[Dr. Pat Griffin has also written about Simelane and the issue of corrective rape in South Africa.]

Salon has also taken the men's World Cup happenings to talk about the women's World Cup. Ryan Brown reminds us, in the wake of the most-watched (in the US) soccer game in 15 years last weekend between the US and England, that it was actually the 1999 final between the American and Chinese women that drew an astounding 19 million viewers (that is apparently a conservative estimate).
Brown talks about watching that World Cup as a ten-year old:

Here’s what I saw: a female soccer player starring opposite Michael Jordan in a Gatorade commercial, a women's sports team that drew 90,000 fans to a single game, screaming teenage boys in Mia Hamm jerseys. It was the golden age -- albeit brief -- of women's soccer, when it was a real possibility that female athletes could draw more fans, more admiration, more awe than men playing the same game.

And you know what? My preteen mind bought it, hook, line and sinker. At the very age where I was beginning to wonder if maybe the boys who told me I wasn't as fast or as strong or as brave were right, the world called back a resounding no. Here, it seemed to say, check this out: a team of world-champion female athletes who have no idea why anyone would ever think that way.

In retrospect, I don't think it's any coincidence that soccer was the vehicle for all of this. Soccer is perhaps the world's most visible and egalitarian stage, where 11 players can become symbolic of a nation, and their presence can pose questions and demand discussion of the way that nation defines itself. It's a place where a colonized country can defeat its colonizer, where an immigrant can prove her value to her country, and where a group of dazzlingly talented athletes can flip on its head the notion that women's sports are just a novelty sideshow.

It's an especially important reminder in the wake of the demise of two WPS teams.

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