The Inequitable Intersection of Gender, Nationality, and Socio-Economic Status in Sports

soccerballThe parade is over. The media has moved on to analyzing Serena’s body. The discussion about equity in women’s professional sports was hot and heavy but seems to be waning after the U.S. women’s soccer team won the 2015 FIFA World Cup in Canada. The issue of women’s sports being less valued and less viewed than men’s sports is not a new issue. The 1972 Education Amendments to Title IX have been credited with raising awareness about the issue of equity for women in athletics. According to the last NCAA Gender equity report (2008), more women are participating in athletic programs, but at the college level the amount spent on women’s athletics is still less than, about half (including coaches’ salaries) what is spent on men’s programs. The Title IX legislation is necessary, it is great, and is helping. Title IX however only applies to colleges and universities in the United States. What about the non-collegiate international picture?

I am passionate about issues related to the advocacy, equity, justice, and inclusion of women. As a woman of color I am greatly concerned with the growth and development of women’s teams in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. At the moment based on the number of FIFA affiliated teams and qualifying teams for World Cup, North America and Europe dominate FIFA. Soccer is the third most frequently offered college sports program for women in the U.S. (basketball is first and volleyball is second). According to the Confederation of African Football, Africa has 54 associations/teams affiliated with FIFA. 17 of those nations had women’s teams participate in the 2015 World Cup qualifier tournament. Only the Ghanaian, Nigerian, and Cameroonian women’s teams qualified for the FIFA World Cup and only Cameroon advanced past the first round. In 2014, five African men’s teams qualified to go to the World Cup in Brazil (Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria). Only one African nation has ever hosted a World Cup (South African in 2010) and no African nation has ever won a World Cup tournament.

The Cameroonian women played with great heart! They were the first African women’s team to make it to a FIFA Round of 16 (in 1986 Morocco was the first African men’s team to reach the Round of 16). It is an awesome achievement. Most of the U.S., Canadian, and European women play for U.S. teams, Canadian teams or for the bigger European teams. Of the twenty-three women on the Cameroonian roster only one of them plays in the United States (Ajara Nchout for the Western New York Flash). Four players, including Ngono who scored the first Cameroonian goal in the tournament play in France. The other eight women play in Slovakia, Romania, Russia, Finland, Belarus, and Sweden. From the countries for which the Cameroonian women play only their home country, the U.S., France, and Sweden qualified for the 2015 World Cup. Six Cameroonian women play for teams whose national team did not qualify for the World Cup, four of those teams have never qualified for the World Cup (Slovakia, Russia, Finland, and Belarus). The lack of opportunities for the Cameroonian women to develop their soccer skills and showcase their talents is representative not only of the lack of equity for women in Africa but also of the lack of equity for many women’s and men’s teams in countries without enough resources and socio-political clout to develop further.

FIFA’s website has a tab that links to their development programs described as “…focusing on four main areas of football development – competitions, management, education and promotion. This includes the Live Your Goals campaign launched in 2011 to inspire more young girls and women to get involved in football.”  On paper the development programs’ mission and goals are exactly what needs to be said about the promotion of women athletes.  The same can be said for the FIFA global development programs which provide support for men’s teams also to “improve the state of the sport worldwide”.  However, when the parent organization and some nation affiliates are struggling with corruption, when some of the participating nations’ men’s teams are under-developed, and when the hype of women’s sports victories lasts a week at best how can the Cameroonian women’s soccer team or any other women athletes stand a chance of gaining equity?  What will it take for women and other under-represented populations to gain international athletic opportunities and recognition so that the playing fields can be equal? Who will address the inequitable intersection of gender, nationality, and socio-economic status in international athletics?

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I noticed you didn’t “like” my post

News1There has been a lot to write about lately. SO much that I have felt almost frozen and overwhelmed by which topic(s) to blog about. So I wrote the Opinion Piece instead and then posted and re-posted lots of mini opinions on FaceBook about ALL the current events.

You can quickly determine who is like-minded and who is not.

I am not delusional about who my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are and who they are not.

I do not mind agreeing to disagree. This is part of what makes living in the U.S. so nice.

What doesn’t make living in the U.S. so nice is that we each live in some type of privilege that then often leads us to hate on someone else based on our privileged identity (whether that is one identity or many).

Hiding behind one privileged identity and it’s values and morals in order to hate on another group is still discrimination, oppression, and hatred.

I am an equal social justice advocate.  Not all vulnerable and oppressed groups experience discrimination the same. But each vulnerable and oppressed group deserves to live free of fear of oppression and violence. That is true for abused women, infertile women, LGBT families and individuals, folks without enough resources, racial and  ethnic “minorities,” etc., etc., etc.

So, I noticed you didn’t like my posts and that’s o.k. I doesn’t make my passionate advocacy any less, it just assures me that I should be louder until wide-spread justice occurs.

YAY for Malala: Honoring My Mom Day 13 (or there abouts)

teacherAs a woman of color living in American I never take my education for granted. The two oldest siblings in my grandmother’s family were the only two who were allowed to & able to go to college. They are proud Tuskegee and Fort Valley State graduates. My mom, who did not grow up in the south but still faced obstacles as her New York guidance counselor told her she should go to trade school. She ended up earning a Master in Social Work degree from Atlanta University (now Clark Atlanta University). My path was made easier through the scarifies and struggles of my grandparents and parents, although not without challenges. Like many 1st year students I goofed off a lot and skipped some classes and that first report card shocked me back into shape!

Each academic year in one of my books I put a picture of Charlayne Hunter-Gault;  in another book I put a picture of the Little Rock Nine; and in another book a picture of James Meredith.  The pictures are my inspirational reminders.  I think I am going to add a picture of Malala Yousafzai.

Today I sent all my students an email and challenged them to:

  1. appreciate fully the privilege of an education,
  2. come to class prepared,
  3. not procrastinate,
  4. be engaged and proactive learners,
  5. think critically,
  6. inspire someone else to pursue a higher education or complete high school,
  7. pledge to tear down any obstacle they see for others in receiving an education, and to
  8. hold me accountable for facilitating discussion and learning.

I, in return challenged myself to give them 100%+ each day I meet them and to hold them accountable for being responsible for their own learning.

We should ask ourselves “What would Malala do?” http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/10/10/355054344/pakistani-teen-malala-yousafzai-shares-nobel-peace-prize?utm_source=facebook.com&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=npr&utm_term=nprnews&utm_content=2034

Re-Blog: Black Sororities and Violence Against Women Awareness (Day 12 of Honoring my Mom)

Many people and organizations are weighing in on the issue of domestic violence. New voices have surfaced since the elevator video tape of Ray Rice was shown on the media outlets.  It’s not a new issue, just new fervor given who got caught on tape and the organization for which he works. I had not heard any news from the HBCUS or historically black sororities.  My former professor shared this blog on her FB page and I’m compelled to share this blog by one of her current students Felecia Commodore. If you belong to a historically black sorority, leave a comment with your thoughts on Felecika’s original blog post.

http://hbculifestyle.com/black-sororities-violence-women-awareness/

by Felecia Commodore

Why I share this as a way to honor my mom:  While she was a woman who often broke with the conventions of her generation, she was also private and stoic (not a virtue I admire) – My mom never spoke of that event so many decades ago. I was frightened and she kept me safe. She and my grandma were fierce and what I did not understand then I understand now. She did make it clear to me that I should never be a victim. I understood. DV is not my major platform but I am definitely a voice against domestic violence and in my role as a social worker, wife, and mom I do what I can to pass on information and educate others. Despite her own silence, I think my mom would encourage others to speak up.

Honoring my Mommy: Day 9 of 75

PedometerToday I walked. When I was in my 20s I was an avid exerciser. I went to the gym 3-5 times a week and exercised at home. Then I got busy…and lazy. My mom smoked until I was 8 years old. She never ate breakfast. She usually skipped lunch. The only reason she occasionally ate dinner was if we implored her or she was out with friends. Her friend from elementary school says that my mom was never much of an eater. Her only exercise was when she was shopping (walking the malls and stores). I remember her favorite foods: potato chips, snickers bars, butter pecan ice cream and Pepsi.  She was just like her dad, my grandfather. Habitual snackers and not full meal eaters.

She was a slender size 6 most of her life. But she was not healthy. In addition to battling Alzheimer’s she is a breast cancer survivor and the cancer came back aggressively in 3 organs as her mental state was declining. She died from complications related to untreated cancer and dementia.  I know a few things about cancer and prevention through eating and exercise.  I don’t know much about Alzheimer’s. I know she and grandma both suffered from it and I want to fight it. I also want to set a good example for my active son by eating well (which we do) and exercising (which he and hubby do, but I do not). Today was a very small step in that direction. Here’s to the beginning of getting physically active and being more healthy! Tomorrow another mile in the fight to End Alzheimer’s!

Honoring my mom: Day 5 of 75

I started to blog about my Sunday sermon (stay tuned…) and then I heard this story on NPR this morning:
http://www.npr.org/blogs/codeswitch/2014/09/09/345297939/misty-copeland-on-broadening-beauty-and-being-black-in-ballet

My mom never uttered the words “only white people do that” nor “black folks don’t do that.” That is not the type of house in which we grew up. Those who have known me since elementary school will tell you our house was the household version of the United Nations.

We participated in any activity we wanted to – ice skating, Girl Scouts, swim, hiking, camping, tennis, gymnastics, whatever. My sister…well, her participation was half-hearted because she just didn’t really like most of those activities when we were younger (lol) it had nothing to do with her being Latina! No one in our home ever said we couldn’t do something because of our racial background. And if someone outside our home dared to say something of that manner, mommy set them straight immediately!

Encourage your children AND yourself to try anything that seems interesting to them and to you. Don’t get stuck by who you see or think you don’t see participating. You’ll miss out on a lot of fun.