Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fuck You, FIFA

Feministing reports that the Iranian women's soccer uniform has been judged by FIFA to be in violation of its ban on religious displays, preventing the team from playing in the 2012 Olympics. Now, take a look at the above photo. Yeah, that's the uniform in question. Oh noes, headscarves.

First of all, I'm not entirely sure why religious symbols are banned. But it looks like the Iranian team was willing to accept that, so whatever. Lots of things can be religious symbols: fish, hammers, stars, pretty much any conceivable variant on two lines intersecting at a right angle. To be safe, you basically have to eschew symbols in general. Which the above uniform does. The supposed problem is not any symbol, but rather the featureless white wraps the women are wearing on their heads.

I'm not really going to get into whether head wraps are problematic or not. I mean, it does seem a leetle unfair that women have to wear them in Iran but men don't. But we in the US have an even more uneven approach to shirtlessness. So how is it that no one can understand that headscarves can potentially be a cultural, as well as religious, garment? Women in the US reportedly prefer running in comparatively concealing skorts instead of the traditional short shorts, yet we begrudge Muslim women their own version of modest sports clothes?

Any headscarf discussion is usually accompanied by hand-wringing and murmuring about Islam oppresses women. Well, the Iranian women's soccer team is certainly being oppressed here, but it's sure not by Islam.

*I so want to write "crucifices"


  1. Don't get me started on FIFA...

    Sports Illustrated's main soccer writer, Grant Wahl, recently launched a campaign to run for president of FIFA. He was sort of half joking, but he was deadly serious about the need for reform. In the end, he couldn't be officially nominated because no nation's football federation would endorse his candidacy. Anyway, one of the things he pledged to do was appoint a woman to be VP or executive director or whatever it's called-- it's not hard to notice the fact that there are no women at all on FIFA's council. I'm not trying to argue that simply adding women to a decision making body will fix the problem, but FIFA has long been insensitive to women's issues and toward women's soccer in general. Sepp Blatter, recently re-elected FIFA prez, in the past made comments about how women's soccer might be more popular if more revealing uniforms were worn.

  2. THIS POST IS NOT FROM ME! It is from my friend Elizabeth, who can't post comments for some reason. So, please note, this is not my comment. Cool? Okay:

    Jess, my commenting status is super screwed up; on my blog and apparently all other blogspot blogs too. I wanted to post this- could you post it for me?

    Hey guys, I love reading this blog but I did find some problems with this article that I usually don't find here. I was listening to a great piece on NPR about this exact same situation and they provided some information that I found interesting.

    First, FIFA is flawed but they did try to accomodate Muslims, especially Iranian Muslims by working with them for years designing a headscarf acceptable to both FIFA and Iran. Despite the fact that there had been a previously agreed upon scarf the Iranian team decided to change their scarves as well as wear pants, while FIFA specifically asks teams to wear shorts.

    Anyways, I know there are major problems with FIFA making stipulations about uniforms/religious practice but I do think for this blog to be fair it should point out that there had been a previously agreed upon uniform that took years of negotiating. Also, the Iranian team had been notified prior to the match that they would not be allowed to play if they did not wear the agreed upon uniform which Iran chose to ignore, for reasons that are their own. They did not, however, just show up at the game and were surprised and shocked to be told they could not play. There was even speculation that some of the teammates did not want to wear the new uniforms because they did not want to be disqualified which they assumed would happen.

    I know this doesn't fix any issues with FIFA but do think these things should be pointed out.

  3. Elizabeth, thanks for the link. I would like to make what I think is an important correction to your summary; the NPR transcript indicates that there was _a_ negotiation over headscarves two years ago, not a years-long negotiation over the current uniform that Iran then ignored. From what I've gleaned from other articles, it sounds like FIFA updated its rules this year (whether they updated the rules relating to headscarves I don't know) and Iran updated its uniform subsequently. I suspect that Iran's team may have viewed FIFA's rules update as an opportunity to update their own uniforms to be more in line with their laws and customs, but that's pure speculation.

    Iranian women’s soccer director Farideh Shojaei claims that the Iranian team received assurances from FIFA that the new uniforms were okay, FIFA claims otherwise. I have no idea which is closer to the truth.

    I did find one inaccuracy in my original post: the Iranian team was not only informed that their headscarves violated the ban on religious symbolism, but that head coverings that extend to the neck are banned for safety reasons. However, by all accounts, the religious symbolism ban was mentioned first, and I suspect it is the primary motivation behind the rejection of these uniforms.