Earlier this week, Australia’s national women’s soccer team the Matildas played a training match against the Newcastle Jets under-15’s boys’ squad.
The Matildas lost 7-0.
And, not surprisingly, the media all of a sudden decided it was time to care about women’s sport.
The Huffington Post reported on the loss, commenting that with the Rio Olympics coming up, the Matildas “should be grateful there will be no under-16’s boys’ teams in their pool.”
Well…they don’t really need to be ‘grateful’. Given that the sport they’re playing is actually women’s soccer, it’s highly unlikely they will be coming up against 15-year-old boys.
Other news outlets called the game a “shocking defeat”, and former Socceroo Mark Bosnich told Triple M, “The Matildas, the next time they say they want to get paid like the Socceroos, I’d be bringing this up.”
Image via Getty.
Of course, he prefaced his statement by reminding us he is all for equality. "I'm all for equality across the board," he said. "As long as it's down to a meritocracy, i.e., if you produce like the next man or the next woman produces, you get paid the same."
The public sentiment is clear: the loss is an embarrassment.
And men like Bosnich have decided the loss is evidence - once and for all - that women's sport simply does not measure up to men's.
But despite the appalling comments made by people whom we would hope would know better, we're glad the Matildas lost against a team of 15-year-old boys. Because now we can finally have this conversation - a frank and open discussion about the quality and standard of women's sport, and why, regardless of the result of a training game against teenage boys, they still deserve equal pay to male professionals.
Soccer is a sport developed by men, for men, and largely commented on and analysed by men. The structure and rules have been created for male players. Our understanding of what the game is, and what makes one talented, is determined by an entirely skewed criteria.
As women have (literally and figuratively) entered the arena, and brought with them their own set of skills, strengths, and strategies, it's become clear that men's soccer is not the same sport as women's soccer.
It's often said that men's tennis and women's tennis are two completely different games. The men's game is about speed and power, whereas the women's game is about precision and strategy. It's not a clear dichotomy by any means, but there is a reason tennis doesn't involve matches between Serena Williams and Novak Djokovic - because the outcome would not only be fundamentally unfair, but utterly meaningless.
A common catch cry of the early women's movement was that men and women were 'equal but not the same.' And indeed, the comparison between men's and women's sport is absurd.
It's like asking if rowers are better than gymnasts. Or if Rugby players are better than AFL players. It's a flawed comparison. An impossible comparison.