“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.”
The above quote is often attributed to Marilyn Monroe, but was more likely said by psychologist and LSD guru Timothy Leary. Either way, it should be the slogan of the US women’s national soccer team’s radiantly ambitious history. Over three decades, it has traveled the distance from non-existence to a place at the top of this nation’s soccer world. Think about that: In the lifespan of Rihanna, these women have become more watched, more profitable, and more successful than their male counterparts. This wasn’t merely accomplished through the power of their play but through struggle. That’s why the nuclear lawsuit filed last week with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) against US Soccer by the elected leadership of the team was so significant. This extremely public action—coupled with interviews across the media landscape—are best understood as part of a historical continuum: the latest chapter in an ongoing narrative of how women’s soccer has developed in this country.
For those who have been living in jury sequestration, US women’s team co-captains Carli Lloyd and Becky Sauerbrunn, as well as goalie Hope Solo, forward Alex Morgan, and midfielder Megan Rapinoe, representing the entire team, filed a wage discrimination complaint with the EEOC. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solo. “We are the best in the world, have three World Cup championships, four Olympic championships.” The men “get paid more to just show up than we get paid to win major championships.”
Solo is right that the numbers speak for themselves. Here are some of these pesky digits: 20 million. That’s how many more dollars in revenue the women produced in 2015 compared to the men’s team, while the fellas were paid nearly four times as much in salary and bonuses. That’s according to US Soccer’s own financial reports. Another number is 25.4 million. That’s the number of people who watched the 2015 World Cup Final against Japan, making it the most watched soccer match—male or female—in the history of this country. Then there are the smaller numbers: The women receive $10 less per day than men for their meal allowances on the road.