Let’s Talk About This Insanely Sexist World Cup Coverage

world cup

We are now coming to the end of World Cup madness, in which large swaths of the United States briefly care about an international sports tournament that is not the Olympics. Throughout the competition, there have been the usual not-so-subtle conflations of sexism with spectatorship in the media. You know, the cuts to scantily clad women in bikinis on the sidelines, the slideshows of players’ attractive spouses, the lascivious commentary on the fans of different countries. And this morning, there was this gem from the Associated Press:

The gist of the article is that all these lonely Brazilian women are just thrilled about the onslaught of tourists into their country, tantalizing sports bros pouring in through the border. It opens with a woman teaching an Italian man the samba, and ends with a man in flip-flops insinuating that all Brazilian women are gold-diggers because, he explained, “In San Francisco I’m used to splitting the bill, so it was a little weird.”

Brazilian women are all so hungry for foreign men! Why? Because in places like Rio, the AP reports, there are only 9 single men to every 10 single women. You know where else that’s true? New York City.

I don’t live in Rio but brother, let me tell you, when an onslaught of single male tourists comes crashing down on New York City, women do not celebrate. We rent our apartments on airBnB and flee. We avoid the East Village like the plague. This is not xenophobia, it is Jagerbomb-aphobia. More people treating your entire city like a hotel room means more people not cleaning up after themselves, an uptick in that “what happens in _____ stays in _____!” excuse for terrible behavior. Some dudes treat the fact that they’ll never see you again as incentive to drop all niceties of treating women like humans. If Brazillian women are having fun with a bounty of visitors, more power to them. But I’m willing to bet that not all the female population of Brazil is as pleased about the influx of soccer bros in their midst as this article would suggest. In fact, far down into the article, after a Brazilian woman claims to be “hooked” on foreigners, that there’s this little nugget:

“Brazilian newspapers have run stories with local women complaining about foreigners’ wandering hands and sense of entitlement. A report in the newspaper Estado de Minas quoted several women saying they had been groped by England fans at a street party in Belo Horizonte following the June 24 England vs. Costa Rica match there.”

Bingo. This article—and so much of the World Cup coverage that has focused more on the beautiful fans rather than the beautiful game—enforces this sense of entitlement to women’s bodies as decorative objects, as souvenirs to be picked up on vacation. What’s worse is that it’s published without a byline at the Associated Press, a wire service, as if it was as much fact as the score of the last game.

Do you think I’m reading too much into it? Let’s back up and consider the premise of the piece: “Lonesome brown women rejoice at influx of mostly white males into country. Beware, those beautiful brown ladies might just want your money.”

That’s a tired, offensive idea. It’s the stuff of pornographic fantasy, not real life. It is colonialist as fuck. We can do better than reverting to these awful, old ideas of women and foreigners. We can do better than this article.

Follow Margaret Eby on twitter @margareteby



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