I enjoy getting riled up sometimes. I’ll admit it. I believe deep down that it’s a good gift of God that we are people who can get worked up, when it’s about something that matters.
I now think women’s soccer matters, because I believe that women matter.
I’m not a soccer player. Goodness, I’m not really an athlete either. I have been known to occasionally run a 5K (once every 5 years) and I enjoy yoga. But I had to laugh when my 8 year old asked me, from the back seat of the minivan, about what sport I played in high school.
“Mommy didn’t really do sports, sweetie.”
“What did you do then, Mom?” (She was a bit mystified and incredulous.)
“I did plays and music. I studied Spanish. I traveled abroad. I was on student council. I did all kinds of stuff. I think I might have done track for about half a season? Maybe…”
My daughter very much thought I was humoring her. Needless to say, I’m not a sports-oriented person in my own right. I enjoy some good hockey from the stands and I’ll cheer on my kids with the best of them.
So, I was shocked by my own strong reaction to the announcement of the 2016 lawsuit filed by the US Women’s Soccer team. At first, I watched the news report and thought, “Well, that’s junky. Of course they should be paid fairly.”
It came across my newsfeed on twitter few days later and my response was the same, “Yes, I do think women should be paid the same as men. Go them! You fight for it ladies.”
And then I heard a news report that rocked me to the core. That incensed me deeply, and I woke up the next morning realizing that this was my battle too. This wasn’t just theirs. This was not a time to stay silent.
Do we care about our daughters? Do we want to give them the very best? Do we teach them to dream big and reach high and give it everything they’ve got?
Yes we do. Of course we do.
It’s not that I need them to be on the US women’s soccer team, or take on a high level competition of any kind. I could care less about that. We don’t need them to exist as living bundles of ambition.
It is that I want them to know that they don’t need to be perfect.
And that is exactly what this US Women’s Soccer team battle is about: Perfection.
The news report that was a game changer for me was the one that shared exactly how much the men’s team makes in comparison to the women’s team. Wait: It wasn’t the pay differential that got to me, although it should be embarrassing and offensive to all of us. What made be cry actual tears of injustice over my morning coffee was this –
The men’s soccer team gets paid if they win or if they tie or if they lose. Albeit slightly less if they tie or lose, but they get paid none the less. Paid. A check in the mail. Validation for showing up and giving it their all, or half their all, or whatever they gave.
The women – they only get paid if they win.
What message does this send?
Winning must mean everything. Everything.
What message does this send to my daughter sitting in the backseat of my minivan?
“You must be perfect. You must win. You are only valuable if you bring home the goods. So hop to it, little missy. Wrap up everything that you believe about yourself in the win. Outside of the win, it’s all crap, and so are you.”
Raising the next generation of perfectionists is not an option.
In her Ted Talk, Reshma Saujani gives startling research statistics on girls and perfection. The most memorable for me being that men will apply for a job if they meet 60% of the qualifications. Women will only apply if they meet 100% of the qualifications.
I began to ponder and realized I had just done exactly that. I read a job posting online. I scrolled down the list. I made sure I could check every box. Every single box. Why would anyone want me if I couldn’t?
What am I passing on to my daughter?
Meet Jyeva. She loves soccer. She ended up with some ridiculously athletic gene that I know I did not personally pass down. She plays hockey like a girl, and by that, I mean she doesn’t just get the puck, she kills the puck.
Her first season of soccer, her team lost every game but 2.
Do I want Jyeva to love what she loves any less because she couldn’t win? Baloney. Bull. No way. (Feel free to insert your own minor expletive here.)
Jyeva and all the beautiful, strong, and worthwhile girls around her will not grow up under the same cultural pressure of perfectionism if I have anything to say about it. It ends today.
And so I will write this blog and I will fight alongside the women’s soccer team and I will not be quiet about things that matter. And I’m asking the same of you, as you read this.
Whether we win or lose, we are each valuable and beautiful and talented and incredible creatures.
Let’s end this now. Let’s throw off a culture that says good is never quite good enough and squashes little girl dreams in a pile of perfectionism rubbish.
This is about more than women’s soccer. This is about our daughters.
It’s worth fighting for.