Right now the Women's FIFA World Cup is in full swing and people are paying attention, ratings are up and the community atmosphere in places like Washington D.C. are helping.
D.C. was tops in individual markets with a 4.5 rating and hosted a multitude of viewing parties in bars and outdoor facilities. Fox posted its highest Women's World Cup ratings ever when the U.S. played Sweden in their second group stage match.
In some markets the Women’s game, even in these preliminary matches, out-dueled the Stanley Cup finals, which is either a bad sign for hockey or a very good sign for the growth of the Women's game and soccer as a whole in the United States. While overall the Stanley Cup finals drew more viewers overall (3.9 million to 3.1 million) the women’s soccer match beat the Stanley Cup game in 38 of 56 metered markets.
The growth of the sport continues despite inequality at the highest levels of its' governing body. In a move that would never fly in the Men’s game the Women are being forced to play on artificial turf, a first for a World Cup. The turf situation prompted 84 players representing 13 countries — to sue FIFA for gender discrimination but the complaint was eventually withdrawn.
Many other instances of unfair and borderline sexist treatment of the Women’s game have occurred including the head of FIFA Sepp Blatter saying that the female aesthetic should be played up. Sepp Blatter stated, "...they could, for example, have tighter shorts. Female players are pretty, if you excuse me for saying so, and they already have some different rules to men - such as playing with a lighter ball."
Even the testing of female athletes has recently come under scrutiny for its unfairness with regard to naturally occurring levels of testosterone which is nothing other than a gender verification test that would never be administered to men.
Kate Fagan does a masterful job of outing this unfairness in her recent article on Gender Verification Guidelines.
There is a lot to look forward to and enjoy currently from the game and with viewership on the rise hopefully fair representation and treatment will be the outcome. The sport or Women's soccer is in the midst of a renaissance despite the almost Medieval treatment of it's players.