The Spot

The Norwegian Soccer Team’s Timely Response to Sexist Stereotypes

Norway and England fight for the ball during their Round of 16 match on June 22, 2015.

Photo by Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

During a women’s World Cup already plagued by gender disparities and run by an organization headed by a noted sexist, Sports Illustrated writer Andy Benoit decided he had something important to add. The NFL analyst tweeted on Monday night that his personal disinterest in women’s sports spoke to a universal truth.

Screenshot of Andy Benoit’s tweets from June 22. They have since been deleted.

Supporters, both male and female, of women’s soccer were quick to offer some snark and stats in response to Benoit’s sexism:

Benoit took down his tweets, and it remains to be seen if Sports Illustrated might reprimand him for his short-sightedness. Unfortunately, his dismissive opinion is merely an echo of what sports media already shouts. It’s not news that the media is way less interested in women’s sports than men’s, but a new report about the stark discrepancy in the type of coverage male and female athletes get is startling. The University of Southern California’s study detailing those discrepancies—called “It’s Dude Time!”—reviews 25 years of women’s sports broadcasting to show how little television coverage has improved over the last quarter-century. The researchers found that “women’s sports are rarely covered, and when female athletes are interviewed in any depth, it’s to portray them as mothers or girlfriends, stressing those roles over their roles as athletes.”

The problem goes beyond just female athletes, with women in sports journalism lacking representation in significant numbers: “In [a] 2014 study, women made up less than 5 percent of sports anchors and 14.4 percent of ancillary sports reporters.” With more female analysts, we’d certainly have a better chance of tackling the sexist culture Benoit represents.  

Professional women’s soccer players are, unfortunately, used to the chorus of doubters. Norway’s national team—which crashed out of the tournament in the last 16 after a 2–1 loss to England on Monday—recently decided to take the naysayers head on. Last week, they released a clip satirizing all the familiar stereotypes about women and sports.

The documentary-style video features mock interviews with star players about their supposed struggles with soccer: The sport is boring, they don’t understand basic rules, and the hottest player had to switch from a team “teeming” with lesbians. Out of desperation, they reached out to Sepp Blatter, asking for changes to the sport to make it easier. But their requests—for a smaller, lighter ball, free throws instead of free kicks, gadgets to help the goalie, and a tee for free kicks—were unmet. This sarcastic takedown of sexist stereotypes is the perfect putdown to common misconceptions.

If you want to see what the Norwegian women’s soccer team is really like, check out this amazing free kick by Maren Mjelde from one of their first games. That should, but probably won’t, persuade Benoit and others like him of their ignorance, but it certainly proves him wrong.