Women's work

By Megan McArdle

Ogged blogs about the Hope Solo situation. For those following along at home, the US soccer team made a slightly bizarre decision to switch goalies against Brazil in the Women's World Cup, after which they got crushed. Hope Solo, who was replaced by Briana Scurry, then went public claiming she'da made those saves. Whereupon, apparently, the team ditched her.


Now, I don't know how the rest of the world works, but while criticizing teammates is frowned up on men's sports in the US, people still do it all the time, but no one gets banished for it. They take some shots at each other, they might even fight in practice, and then they go out and play. I'm probably supposed to be valuing the different model of women's sports in which team unity is even more important than fielding the best team, but to my mind, this just makes the women seem weak and unprepared for serious competition. And it's worth noting that "team chemistry" is generally bunk as far as game performance is concerned: many, many championship teams in various sports have hated each other's guts, and there are teams with great chemistry that go nowhere. But when a team with good chemistry wins, it's easy to say that they're winning because they're all buddies.



I'm of two minds about this. In general, I'm not a big fan of the sorority-girl, we-all-have-to-be-each-others-best-friends atmosphere that large groups of women tend to assume. Plus, the manager seems to be exploiting the phenomenon in order to save his job after an apparently awful decision. So I'm not exactly ready to applaud anyone who caters to either the stereotype that women can't function unless they're all holding each other's hands and singing, or the reality that groups of women generally do demand a level of comity and conformity that can be incredibly brutal on anyone who is too outspoken or otherwise violates the group norms.

But the reality is that groups of women do act like this, and if I were the coach, I'd not be nearly so sanguine that this group will work well with a goalie who basically publicly accused her teammates of losing a game she could have won had she been allowed to play. Maybe I'm just hypersensitive to these group dynamics after too many years at all-girl's camps and all-female sports teams, but I don't think so. Perhaps those things really don't matter on men's teams; obviously I've never played on one. But they certainly did on all the girls teams I've played on, and the dynamic has been markedly present in the female dominated workplaces I've been in. The job of the manager is not to advance the cause of feminism; it's to win soccer games.

On the third hand, it's also to advance the cause of women's soccer, which is probably not best done by acting as if the female players are all fourteen year old girls debating who gets to join the homecoming dance committee. So I just don't know.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2007/09/women-apos-s-work/2026/