Sport Football The World Cup campaign tackling prejudice against female athletes

The World Cup campaign tackling prejudice against female athletes

Germany's star soccer players have featured in a new ad fighting entrenched sexism that female athletes face. Photo: Deutsche Welle
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Germany’s national women’s football team has released a slickly-produced World Cup video that quickly garnered viral attention for fighting against the prejudice that has diminished their accomplishments.

The world’s second-ranked team, already with two World Cups (2003, 2007) and eight European Championships to its name, is figuring as one of the favourites to take home next month’s title in France.

However, squad members Dzsenifer Marozsan, Alexandra Popp and Melanie Leupolz kick off the ad by addressing the fact they are hardly household names in their own country.

“For our first title we were given a tea set,” they say, referencing the squad’s reward for winning its first European Championship.

The ad, produced in conjunction with team sponsor Commerzbank, lays out the various sexist critiques not only ‘Die Nationalelf‘, but female athletes at large, receive for stepping out onto the field.

“We like to wear high heels and knee socks. We like to dance. When it comes to role models, we just have to look in the mirror,”

However, it’s this cheeky catchcry that made the unconverted sit up and take notice: “We don’t have balls. But we know how to use them.”

Germany’s squad conclude the ad saying they will continue to strive for greater achievements in the face of ongoing prejudice.

Female athletes still fighting for respect

A 25-year study conducted by researchers from Purdue University and the University of Southern California found pre-2000 televised sports coverage was dominated by sexist attitudes from male commentators.

Since, coverage has remained “lacklustre,” which they contend “[sends] viewers the message that women’s sports lack the excitement … of men’s sports.”

The study suggests the on-flow effect of this ‘hidden sexism’ impacts factors like salaries for female athletes, through to ticket sales.

Recent campaigns from sportswear companies, including Nike, have worked instead to break down entrenched sexist opinions, encouraging female athletes to thrive amid adversity.

However, the brand has also been subject to recent accusations of denying equality to female athletes.

Olympic runner Alysia Montaño, speaking to The New York Times, says their well-publicised rhetoric is ‘just advertising,’ after a lengthy fight against her former sponsor once she announced her pregnancy.

In Australia, AFLW star Tayla Harris was subjected to sexist social media trolling in March, after 7AFL allowed sexist and transphobic comments under a photo documenting her remarkable kicking style.

“Here’s a pic of me at work… think about this before your derogatory comments, animals,” the 21-year-old Carlton player tweeted at the time.

Research conducted by girls’ advocacy group Plan International says female athletes face three times the amount of negative social media comments than male counterparts.

“This toxic online abuse can not only have severe consequences for the victim’s wellbeing, but also for girls and young women in the broader community,” Plan International Australia CEO Susanne Legena said.

Matildas shine as one of Australia’s brightest squads

A Commonwealth Bank study released in February suggests burgeoning exposure for Australia’s highest-profile athletes in the media is encouraging higher television viewing and attendance rates.

The 23-women Matildas World Cup squad, spearheaded by attacking ace Sam Kerr, has become one of the country’s most revered sporting teams, following impressive results at recent major tournaments.

And the Australian women’s cricket team’s continual domination of the sport, having recently secured a fifth World T20 trophy, has helped the wave of momentum.

“Increased exposure and continued investment into women’s cricket helps inspire girls across the country, from grassroots to elite, to pick up a bat and ball,” all-rounder Ellyse Perry said.

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