Profiling Alex Morgan: routine sexism and a little plagiarism from FIFA.com

In advance of Tuesday’s match, FIFA.com published an article about Alex Morgan. This English professor feels compelled to explore the quality and character of FIFA.com’s writing.

Morgan looking for a fairytale finish

Headline declares: do not be confused by gender ambiguous name. Alex Morgan is a girl, with girlish aspirations.

One might have selected an image that showed Alex-Morgan-the-girl in action—but FIFA.com would rather give us the chance to appreciate her perfect eyebrows.

Rather than feature an image of Princess Morgan in action, FIFA.com gives us the chance to appreciate her perfect eyebrows.

Alex Morgan is one of the most popular players in USA women’s football.

Alex Morgan is a popular girl.

A talented goalscorer with a style that is very easy on the eye and good looks to match, she is nothing short of a media phenomenon.

Where to start?

Describing Morgan as a “talented goalscorer” suggests she that has talents other than goalscoring—talents related to her popularity (e.g. she can twirl a baton and sing the Star-Spangled Banner; she makes a mean Negroni).

“A style that is very easy on the eye” is the kind of phrasing one associates with a real estate listing, or a QVC pitch. “A layout that is perfect for your entertaining needs.” “A cut that is easy on the figure.” It is, here, terrible writing—a poor use of “that.”

In general, this is a confusing sentence—it moves from her popularity, passes over her skills as a player (entertaining to that one, singular eye) and then lands on her beauty as an explanation for how well she works as an advertisement. A player that is very useful to your corporate sponsor.

There is more to Morgan than meets the eye, however.

That eye, again. Lest you missed FIFA’s obsession with looking at women’s bodies (what is underneath their kits? can they be tighter? more revealing? Are they really MEN?), FIFA.com reminds you that there is more to women than what you see with your eye.

A successful children’s writer, she has just published Hat Trick, the fourth book in her series The Kicks.

Women are women because, of course, they give birth to and then look after children. This is Alex Morgan’s ultimate purpose — this whole World Cup thing is a youthful enterprise. You can feel FIFA.com’s relief here: Princess Morgan’s physical skills, talent and competitive drive are ultimately oriented not toward destroying her opponents. It’s fodder for her children’s book series—which is not a business enterprise. It is an affirmation that Alex Morgan is, really, a girl. Interested in girls. But, you know, like, more like a mom rather than…well, never mind.

FIFA.com only markets itself, so there is no link to these books. So if you want to check them out, here you go.

The saga follows the adventures of Devin, a 13-year-old girl who moves from Connecticut to California and discovers in football a way to make friends and experience new adventures.

Rather wonderfully, FIFA.com misses the gender play of a woman writer named Alex centering a children’s book on a girl named Devin. It reminds me of the character Jo March, who slouches through Little Women declaring she wants to be a writer. She writes poems, plays and publishes a little newspaper. Little Women turned lots of girls into women writers—one would pretend to be Jo March, and write as Jo March. You become an author, in other words, by pretending to be the author you most admire. In Little Women, that act of imagination involves some cross-gender identification, because there were so few examples of successful women writers. There’s some slippage, in other words, between wanting to be a writer and not wanting to be a girl, and wanting to be a boy. It is not unlike the situation for girl athletes. There is a boyishness to the whole situation, and it is more generous to embrace that than to try to shut it down in some sort of homophobic panic.

I imagine Alex Morgan has these aspirations regarding the potential athleticism of the girls reading her books—that she’s making room for them. This is an extension of her operation as a role model–it is a way of capitalizing on that.

“I never imagined that I’d enjoy doing this so much,” the footballing wordsmith tells FIFA.com. “The opportunity came up in 2012 and I didn’t want to pass it up. I’m very happy with how popular it’s proved with young girls. It’s children’s literature and it’s easy to read.”

The use of “wordsmith” is evidence of a lack of wordsmithing.

Even children can learn about women’s football, Alex Morgan explains patiently to FIFA.com. Even you, FIFA.com can read Hat Trick.

Not content with that, she has also written a book about her experiences at the London 2012 Olympic Games, where she won gold with her country, while a pilot episode of the cartoon version of The Kicks has just aired on TV.

One might, here, consider Morgan’s business acumen. One might invoke Mia Hamm—whose Go for the Goal sat on the New York Times Best Seller’s list for ages. Hamm also published a children’s book, as well as a skills-based DVD. She is an important model for young women athletes looking to capitalize on the very limited possibilities afforded to them, when it comes to making money off the game. One might remind readers that when women try to market themselves, they are pressured to market themselves to children, because the superstructures of sports have a great deal of trouble believing that one might use women’s ferocity, competitiveness and ability to sell goods to adults.

Alex Morgan knows that the lazy eye of FIFA.com is more interested in her marketability than in her skills as a player—and that this is an extension of the larger problem regarding FIFA’s stupid aggression towards all things related to the women’s game.

“If it’s a success, they might show the whole season, which is based on the first of the three books I wrote, called Saving The Team,” said the Portland Thorns forward, clearly excited at the prospect of her stories potentially becoming the female version of the hugely successful Captain Tsubasa series.

Yes, a girl can dream. Even a girl who plays on a football team. I bet Marta had dreams like this. But. Lesbian.

For the time being, however, the intrepid Morgan has other things on her mind than her successful writing career, not least Tuesday’s FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™ semi-final against Germany in Montreal, a game in which she will be hoping to add to the one goal she has scored in the tournament so far.

Intrepid is a strange word choice. Here it serves to render Morgan into a cartoon character not unlike those that people her books. And by the way, there’s this thing happening — FIFA Women’s World Cup Canada 2015™.

“The two best teams in the world are coming face to face,” said the striker, who turns 26 on Tuesday.

[Happy Birthday Alex Morgan. Milk those bastards for all that they are worth.]

“It’s virtually a final. Germany are a great side. We’ve watched nearly all of their games, and they’re very strong in defence and dangerous in the air and with the ball at their feet.

“We need to watch out for the knockdowns too and for Celia Sasic and Anja Mittag, who are both a big threat up front.”

Thank goodness FIFA.com got some quotes from Princess Morgan, because FIFA.com does not know enough about either team to make any informed observations about the match.

It was seven years ago that Morgan burst on to the international scene at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup Chile 2008, which USA won, after beating Germany in the semis. As well as a winner’s medal, the forward also walked away with the adidas Silver Ball and the adidas Bronze Boot, and scored the goal of the tournament in the final.

Here we have FIFA.com plagiarizing from US Soccer: “She burst onto the international scene at the 2008 FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup.” You can spot FIFA.com plagiarism by the appearance of movement in a sentence. The sentence falls apart once US Soccer’s writer leaves the pitch. Also, and here I am just being petty, I’m pretty sure “adidas” is supposed to be “Adidas.” [I stand corrected, the one thing FIFA.com does not get wrong is the spelling of its corporate collaborators.)

“A lot has changed since then,” she said, casting her mind back. “I’ve matured as a person, a player and a team-mate, and it’s been a great journey.

“That was my first tournament in front of more than 500 people and I’ve learned to deal with the difference at this level.”

The crowd at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium will be a good deal bigger than that.

Morgan throws some words at FIFA.com. There is no one on the other end of the line.

And with the US border lying so close, Jill Ellis’ side can expect plenty of support in the stands.

I love the image of the US-Canada border just lying around, like someone forgot to pack it into the van.

FIFA.com promises a dutiful crowd. We can expect support. Here I am, FIFA.com tells us, showing up for my job. Supporting the women. Because I have to. You can expect that much.

“It’s a World Cup with a little bit of a difference,” explained Morgan. “There have been so many USA fans at the last few games that it’s felt like we’ve been playing at home, even though we’re in Canada. We have a lot of support and our families come to see us more often.”

FYI, people from the United States think of Canada as a kind of attic.

One person close to Morgan’s heart who has not been around, however, is her husband, Sporting Kansas City midfielder Servando Carrasco, who is on duty with his team in MLS.

Don’t worry readers. Alex Morgan is not a lesbian. You can always tell who is a lesbian because there is no mention of partners, often no mention of family at all. Lesbian athletes crawled as babies out of smoldering meteors sent to Earth from planet Badass; they roam the world scoring goals with no sense of purpose beyond the game.

“We’ve hardly seen each other lately,” she explained. “We’re obviously both very busy right now, though the fact that we’re both soccer players means we understand each other better. We understand the commitment involved and we support one another.”

Thank god for that.

Touching her wedding ring, she added: “We have to make a lot of sacrifices for our work and our marriage, though it’s just a question of finding a balance and helping each other to keep pushing on.”

In case you missed it, Madame Morgan is married, and she has clearly studied her heterosexual talking points. Sacrifice, commitment, something, something.

But as she fiddles with her ring, you know her mind is elsewhere. (Note: her US Soccer profile focuses on her relationship with her sisters, and the fierce sense of competition that characterizes her family. In general, US Soccer has gotten better at fighting its sexist and homophobic impulses.)

As busy as they are, Morgan and her husband are determined to see each other on Sunday, when the Final of Canada 2015 takes place.

“We’re taking it one game at a time,” said Morgan, a member of the USA side that finished runners-up to Japan at Germany 2011. “We’ve been playing better and better as the tournament has gone on and obviously our goal is to take that trophy back home again.”

The amount of attention FIFA.com gives to her marital status is actually MORE offensive than the attention FIFA.com gives to her looks. She tries to redirect the conversation back to something related to her actual job.

The last time the Stars and Stripes did that was in 1999.

FIFA.com does not know the difference between a flag and a soccer team.

Sixteen years on, Morgan has the chance to fashion another happy ending for American women’s football.

Morgan. Girl. Style. Fashion. Wedding. Something like that.

Comments

  1. Long time reader, deeply appreciative of your analysis and insight. Just had to commend you for the most perfect phrase I read all day: Lesbian athletes crawled as babies out of smoldering meteors sent to Earth from planet Badass.

    Thank you for that …

  2. DHaxall says:

    This point, among others, is really important: “You can always tell who is a lesbian because there is no mention of partners, often no mention of family at all.” I’ve been trying to think of examples when partners are discussed in detail with a gay athlete. Grant Wahl’s recent SI piece on Abby Wambach focuses on her marriage to Sarah Huffman, and Michael Sam celebrated his NFL draft selection with a kiss that was televised, but I think that’s because it was such big deal to have a football player come out. Are there other examples where the media actually profiles a gay marriage or partnership? I can’t think of many…

  3. Reblogged this on domestic8 and commented:
    Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah.

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  1. […] Doyle does an FJMing of FIFA.com’s awful Alex Morgan profile. (Sport […]

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  4. […] Profiling Alex Morgan: routine sexism and a little plagiarism from FIFA.com […]

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