When you think of the intersection of women and politics, perhaps you picture a Venn diagram, women jostling for space to get a sliver of the action. Maybe your still-present optimism allows you to conjure up a perfect circle, a woman striding confidently into the spotlight; or in your realism you simply imagine Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren striding down the halls of the Senate building. For me, though? When I close my eyes and picture the alignment of women and politics, the image that comes to my mind is a football field.
When I first read about Unusual Efforts I couldn’t begin to imagine the camaraderie, the community, the friendships both in person and via the vast networks of Twitter, Skype, and Whatsapp with which I would be gifted. Then again, in the twilight of early 2016 when Kirsten Schlewitz and Sonja Missio were assembling non-male writers and artists from around the world and I was pitching my first piece about—who else?—Diego Forlán, could I imagine the world I’d be writing in, living in, only two years later.
“We are here to prove that men do not need to dominate soccer media” may not sound like such a radical goal, but since the first day it appeared in as part of the thank you letter to Unusual Efforts’ readers, it has stirred up both courage and consternation. Writers and artists have been born and nurtured who otherwise would never have shared what appeared in the pages of their personal journals, inspired and encouraged by the like-minded support system provided by an unabashedly feminist, queer-friendly, diverse community. Alternately, a peek into Unusual Efforts’ inboxes on any given day would show you any number of messages sent by men clamoring to be the one exception to the non-male rule, or decrying the banality of women’s voices, undesirability of feminazism, sexism of feminism—and that was before we tackled the rape accusations against Cristiano Ronaldo.
As many of us, myself included, have written for Unusual Efforts, soccer has always had political connections. And, by making it our mission to promote all genders in soccer media, Unusual Efforts, too, is inherently political. The news that the Trump administration plans to roll back the already fragile protections on trans rights by declaring, ridiculously and unnecessarily, that gender is assigned at birth has only added to the barrage of attacks against the country’s most marginalized communities. Internet searches for “PTSD symptoms in women” have surged since Brett Kavanaugh was elected to the Supreme Court and Republican members of both Senate and Congress, and the president himself, raced to be the first to apologize . . . not to the woman who accused him of assaulting her and testified about the attack in a grueling two-day hearing, but to the judge himself for the “unacceptable character assassination” to which he was subjected.
This emotional whiplash, while cruel, was not surprising. It would take a color-coded, alphabetized spreadsheet to keep track of the sexual abuse allegations against governmental officials (if you think I’m hyperbolizing, here’s an already outdated list of sexual misconduct cases leveled against members of Congress. And that’s just Congress. And did I mention that it’s already outdated?). As we sat through the hearings, listening to Dr. Ford’s emotional but measured testimony and Judge Kavanaugh’s angry, bitter rebuttal, the implications were clear. While our primary goal is to bring more voices into soccer media, we’re aware that we cannot do so as long as those voices are held down in the highest courts of law and by the officials and officers in the halls of government. This is why we cannot step back from politics; we cannot “stick to sports.”
Sometimes merely walking into a stadium is an act of political courage, a statement of partisanship. Sometimes, though, it takes extraordinary heroics, prolonged actions and sustained energy to create change. We are now squarely in the midst of the latter situation. Which is why we are writing this article, one that barely references the sport that is our calling card. We began with a plea, and a promise. A promise to center the voices and opinions of those so often pushed to the sidelines. We have made good on that promise with stories that crisscross the globe from authors and artists who offer fresh and unique narratives rarely held up elsewhere. We will continue to make this our mission and our goal, and strive even more for greater inclusion. Our plea was for engagement, for an audience willing and excited to give those new voices a chance. We are asking more of you now. We are asking you to join us in our mission of activism, to step forward and speak out, to make an unusual effort. We are asking you to vote.
Unusual Efforts is not, and never will be, solely focused on the United States and those who live there. But given the fact that many Effortistas have roots in the country—and given the country’s continued, if diminishing, influence on the world—we feel it is necessary to speak out about this particular election.
Voting in the US midterms gets you new attorneys general, mayors, governors, lieutenant governors, councilmembers, assemblymembers, senators, congress people, judges, and more. These are the people who will decide on immigration reform (deportations of families and the hundreds of children still separated from their parents and kept in jails is on the ballot at the state and federal level), education and criminal justice systems, whether your state allows comprehensive sex education or abstinence-only “education” in schools (here’s looking at you, all thirteen states that require their education actually be medically accurate!), reproductive health (or not; even New York’s abortion law has been stuck in the criminal code for almost 50 years and will need two more seats flipped come November 6th to pass the Reproductive Health Act), environmental care (the startling report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that it will take acts of unprecedented strength by national powers to slow the Earth’s warming has been taken up by attorneys general and public advocates), trans rights (Congress could pass laws codifying protections for trans people under Titles VII and IX) . . . we could go on and on.
It may sound like a simple thing. But your vote has never been more powerful, and more necessary. Need help? Find out who’s on your ballot here and tweet us about your voting plan. Have questions about voting? We’re here for that, too. Because this matters. More…oh god, I’m going to say it…more than Diego Forlán’s hair.
We’re not above a little begging, nor are we above a bit of bribery. Vote, and and you’ll be entered into a contest to win our newest merch.
THE BEST CONTEST EVER! (Well, it is. Just saying.)
How it works:
Demonstrate that you’ve voted—a photo of your signature on your ballot (be cautious on the selfies; it’s against the law in some states), you heading to the polls, that adorable little “I voted” sticker—and you’ll be entered to win an Unusual Efforts coffee cup.
Want a t-shirt? Be like us, and combine soccer and politics. Wear your team scarf while dropping your ballot into the box, or don your jersey to do some phone-banking. This will get you entered into the draw for a t-shirt. But be creative because…
The winner gets a hoodie (or a shower curtain. or a print). How do you win? Give us your best photo combining politics and soccer, of course! We’re not going to tell you how, but we will say that we appreciate creativity and that your contest judges are nonpartisan (but not unbiased—our team allegiances are not difficult to find, should you wish to, just a random suggestion, go to polls dressed as Hugo LoRuth Bader Ginsburg).
Double your chances: extra entries go to those running for office, those working the polls, or those volunteering in other ways. Learn more here (thanks, Ritika!). And yeah, we’ll drop your name in the hat for each photo you send us of you doing one of these things.
- The contest is open to anyone not closely affiliated with Unusual Efforts. If you live outside the US and photo yourself being political, we’ll enter you.
- If you voted early, voted by mail, or sent in your absentee ballot already, we’ll trust you—if you show us a photograph of some sort, whether it’s you holding a sign saying “I voted,” or a snap you took of the line at the polling station.
- For the first two rounds, if you don’t want us to share your photo, email or message it with a note that you’d like to be anonymous. You’ll still be entered into the contest.
- If you wish to be entered for the grand prize, by submitting a photograph you are giving Unusual Efforts permission to share your photo in campaigns to raise awareness about voting.