What exactly do we have to do for you to watch women’s soccer?

According to three members of France’s womens’ soccer team, Gaetine Thiney, Elodie Thomis and Corine Franco, it’s probably–show up naked. In a risky move, all three players posed nude for a German magazine to generate some discussion around why people aren’t as interested as they should be in women’s soccer. The image, while so obviously sexual, is made interesting with the caption, “Is this how we should show up before you come to our games?”

Most people are missing the point, arguing that these women are using sex to garner more viewership. And while on one level that might be true, it is really the controversy around using the image that is being used for more attention–a decidedly political move. These women are directly interrogating the reality that you have to use sex to get men interested in women’s, well, anything. (In contrast, a few members of the German women’s soccer team have posed for Playboy, but without the accompanying commentary).

This, to me, is a smart media moment. They are directly challenging the sad, but often true, media conditions wherein women aren’t paid attention to in an entertainment capacity unless they are sex objects. And while enthusiasm is building around women’s soccer, we’ve got a long way to go before it is a respected household tradition the same way men’s soccer or other sports might be (at least in the US, since we know soccer is only for for-ay-ners.)


The Women’s World Cup has begun!

Rachel Maddow on women’s soccer amazingness

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

    In Europe, where football is popular and makes money, you have in each country a first division a second division. So if you are interested in Italian Soccer, British soccer and Spanish soccer, thats over 60 games to choose from on a weekend. Then you have on an European level the Champions-League and the UEFA-Cup (For those who fail the Championsleauge). AND THEN you have the mens and womens World and European cup every four years (So each year). And THEN you have all the divisions again with women. I would say there is enough soccer in Europe without the womens soccer division. Play a sport because you enjoy it, not because of the money and fame. There are plenty of sports which come with no money and fame for men and women, yet are enjoyed.

    I do like watching Rhytmic Gymnastics however. I can see that on TV maybe once or twice a year. How about trying to raise an audience for that and trying to get more girls into rhytmic gymnastics? Unlike soccer and the NBA the audience isnt hogged by the mens sports team.

  • http://feministing.com/members/puck/ Puck

    you’d think that the US actually having a chance at winning on a regular basis would be enough, right? i mean… we won the World Cup in 91, 99 and we have a shot again this year… and we’ve won the Olympics in 96, 04 and 08… that’s what should be drawing folks to the pitch… i mean, dang… our men’s team hasn’t won a World Cup yet (though we did place third in 1930)…

    that or, for other countries, too, the fact that women fake injuries less frequently than men in soccer matches, making for a more interesting game… and an interesting comment on men and women’s capacities to compete in sports in general.

    • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

      And American sportsviewers care about soccer since when? Spain has beaten America in the basketball world cup, it does not mean the men playing that sport earn in spain anywhere near as much as soccer pros.

    • unequivocal

      the fact that women fake injuries less frequently than men in soccer matches

      That is indeed what the linked article says, but not what the quotes from the relevant study state.

      What the study actually says is that only 7.2% of the apparent injuries in men’s soccer resulted in visible blood or player withdrawal, vs. 13.7% in women’s soccer. The study goes on to note that this could be for a variety of different reasons, including a higher incidence of faked injuries, but also possibly because there may have been more instances of injury in men’s soccer due to the players being larger and faster.

      In any case, if the best thing you can say to defend a sport is “hey, only 86.3% of the female injuries were faked, compared to 92.8% of the male injuries,” I’m left somewhat unimpressed.

  • sex-toy-james

    I hate to speak out against hot naked women, but it sounds a little bit counter-productive to me. From my understanding of the subject, sports fans empathize and feel a bond with their teams. They garner satisfaction when their teams win, and hurt when their teams lose. I don’t think that sexy naked posing is building that camaraderie with your potential fan base. I wonder if it creates a “I’m here trying to perform for you.” kind of feel rather than an “I’m a serious athlete fighting for the pride of our community.”
    I think that breaking down the gender divide that puts men on one side and women on another in people’s minds will build the popularity of women’s sports more than any amount of sexiness. When men can identify with the team and the players as being “one of their own” I think that women’s sports will have more appeal. That may all be crazy conjecture though.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    I dislike how heavily sexualized marketing to men is in general, but especially so in sports marketing. While it is true that I have at times made mistakes in viewing things through a sexual lens alone, I have always made sure to try to look beyond mainstream masculinity.

    Many men do not. They believe that they must conform to these images, or be somehow less masculine in the process.

  • http://feministing.com/members/mutengene/ camer

    it has to do with the quality of the play. women’s soccer isn’t as entertaining as men’s soccer. same with basketball, hence it suffers the same fate. tennis, however, does not. there are other sports where the play of women and men are comparable in quality, such as gymnastics and the women get plenty of air time. but that element is lacking in soccer

    • http://feministing.com/members/cassius/ Brüno

      In Tennis and gymnastics you dont have to make a choice. They are shown alternating during the same event.

      In big money sports having 2 teams does not mean the people will watch double. If you spend money on mens soccer and womens soccer it does not mean people will pay for both. So from a financial point of view it does not make sense to pay double if you make the same money in the end. If you could make it like in America, that the women play basketball when the men dont, its a different issue. However during the summer when there are no division games you either have the womens or mens European/worldcup. There cant be no divisiongames during the Womens European/Worldcup for obvious reasons and getting an audience for womens divisiongames in front of the background of the mens world/eu-cup, yeah good luck with that.

    • http://feministing.com/members/starzki6/ ellestar


      First of all, what people find entertaining is a matter of opinion, so there is no definitive way to say that X is more entertaining than Y. Personally, I find women’s soccer far more entertaining than men’s soccer.

      Secondly, I don’t see where you think there is such a difference in quality between men’s and women’s soccer. At the Olympic and World Cup levels, they’re both pretty damned high. You see quality playing from both sexes and the degree isn’t so different that the average sports watcher would notice. I would have loved to see the drive, the sportsmanship, the conditioning, and the skill that the US women’s team has in the men’s team. I find it a shame it’s not there.

      • davenj

        Entertainment is subjective, but the collective societal definition based on the aesthetic of sport seems to state that, personal attachments aside, the most entertaining game is the one with the most physical skill being demonstrated. Physical skill is a combination of types of athletic achievement, and can be compounded by the nature of a team sport and the level of competition being faced.

        The quality of men’s and women’s soccer is definitely different. I still see more turnovers in women’s soccer, and the speed of the game is drastically different. That’s not to say that the women aren’t amazing at what they do, but the US men’s national team could destroy them in open competition. They simply play at a completely different level of competition.

        The notion that the US men’s team had inferior conditioning or skill is simply not supported by objective observation.

    • http://feministing.com/members/sandra/ SamBarge

      Actually, women’s basketball and hockey are more entertaining than men’s versions of those sports.

  • http://feministing.com/members/auditorydamage/ Mark

    Mansplaining galore. Awesome.

    I caught a couple of the Women’s World Cup games on CBC, particularly the end of the Canada-Nigeria game and the England-France game. The quality of play seemed damn near equal to the men’s World Cup, with much less diving. England-France was a good nailbiter.

    The most effective way to eliminate any remaining skill disparity is to spend the next couple of generations providing the same level of encouragement and resources to women’s soccer as men’s soccer receives, from childhood onward. I have a hypothesis that if the available skilled player sets from all sexes were of equal size, the average and peak skill levels would be indistinguishable, and that present criticism of skill levels in women’s sports divisions should focus on the societal roots of sex-based activity and career segregation, instead of merely lamenting the (perceived) relatively lower average skill level and telling women to go do gymnastics or figure skating instead.

  • honeybee

    I often feel like we’re preaching the wrong audience sometimes.

    It’s my understanding the majority of viewers of women’s soccer is men. That as with sports in general, the audience is largely male (though presumably more even then with mens soccer). So it would seem to me that we should be trying to attract female viewers, since after all, if you can’t even get women to watch women’s soccer, it seems odd to complain about not being able to attract male viewers.

    Having said that I actually like this campaign. It draws attention and uses sexuality in an empowering way for good reasons. It’s refreshing to see female sexuality used in this way.

  • http://feministing.com/members/feckless/ Stefan

    I am really not sure how I should feel about that one, but for once I would really really like to see the demographics of the people who watch the female games vs the male games. From my personal experience as a German I know more guys (who are generally more into soccer here) that watch the female games than women. Even looking at the stadium I would say there is at least equality in female games whereas in male games you have far more male viewers. So I think it is kind of unfair to argue in a “why don’t more men watch women games direction”. Why don’t more women watch women’s soccer? Or men’s soccer? Is it sexist if a woman only watches women’s soccer? Should fans of a certain sport start watching every league equally?

    Recently there was the U16 World Cup and the World Cup of the hearing impaired? Why didn’t more people watch this? Ableism? Ageism?

    On top of that, and with all due respect to women soccer players, they are not on the same level as the male teams. And how could they, when women’s soccer is still in the starting phase compared to men’s soccer. Heck they weren’t even allowed to play in Germany before 1970 (or so). Entertaining games, sure, but so are the games of the U16 (I assume).

  • http://feministing.com/members/romeomaldini/ romeo maldini

    “you have to use sex to get men interested in women’s, well, anything.”

    why is the marketing strategy to get men interested in women’s sports? maybe a better strategy is to get women interested in women’s sports.

    there are 125 million women in america. if half of them watched the women’s world cup, the ratings would be better than the super bowl.

  • http://feministing.com/members/guavajellyfish/ albonie

    What makes it “so obviously sexual”? Nudity isn’t necessarily sexual. I’m surprised that here on feministing the writers are buying into the whole mentality that the nude female body ALWAYS always symbolizes sexuality.

  • http://feministing.com/members/pheonixfelix/ Blaise M Crowly

    How can nudity refer to sexuality, and there is no use doing anything to get men interested in women’s sports,
    First they say ‘its gona be boring, I wont pay to see chick play”
    Then if at all they watch they say “Men do this better, that better ” and blah blah

    Its a stern reference of the ignorant male ego.
    And seriously women’s hockey, basketball, volleyball all are 100 times better than men’s.