When Girls Play
The first time my children experienced a World Cup, there were pictures of the German national team on every street corner, especially playgrounds. Supermarkets, drug stores and one Euro stores were flooded with World Cup tchotchke. The marketing mania around World Championship collective stickers, jerseys, cards, Nutella labels, you name it, was strategically aimed at kids. As a result, my boys knew the names of every player on the German team (not to mention the star players from other countries).
Our neighbors put up a huge screen in their garage, heated up an industrial sized BBQ grill and invited an intimate group of about 30 neighbors and their kids to watch all of the Germany games. Our no-TV law was lifted and my kids were allowed to stare at the screen that everyone sat in front of like zombies.
Prior to last Sunday, when the Women's World Cup started, the same fanfare was noticeably missing. I didn't hear the chatter of world champion frenzy when I picked up the kids from school. I didn't see the gigantic billboards that I saw for the male World Cup, even though Germany is hosting.
So I asked my Germany expert (aka my husband), "What's up? Why isn't there more hype around this World Cup?" He looked at me and said, "It's not the same thing. And don't say it's sexist, it's just not the same thing."
On Sunday afternoon, when I noticed my neighbor's garage door closed and no BBQ grill in sight, it seemed painfully clear that it just isn't a big deal when girls play. "Why not?" my eldest son asked his dad. Yes, yes! Ask my child, ask!
"You'll see," my husband said, on our way home to catch the German team play Canada. "It's not as exciting. Women play too slow . . ."
Of course, if you tell a boy that women play slow and that they're boring athletes, they'll believe it just because dad said so. A parent's "declaration" of anything at this age, is even more powerful that marketing.
"Look at that pass!" I cried out. "Whoo, look at her go! Slow, huh?" I nudged my husband. "Bet she can run faster than you!"
My youngest laughed and said, "And she can probably kick the ball farther than you, Papa."
In no time, my kids were joining me, "Garafreke's is awesome! Yeah! And the goalie's good too, right mom?"
"That's right," I said, "She is completely awesome."
"But she looks a little like a man," the youngest said.