If women were a country, the Japanese World Cup champion soccer team wouldn’t have flown coach

The Washington Post’s (August 13) article titled “The Women’s Olympic success: a flood that began as a trickle” begins with the following lines:

“The phrase running around the Olympic Village on the last day of the London Games was, “If women were a country. . .” The phrase will be one of the legacies of the fortnight, more lasting than the British afterglow or the disposable-kit stadiums.”


“If women were a country, the Japanese World Cup champion soccer team wouldn’t have flown coach, while their far-less-successful male teammates flew first class. If women were a country, we would all understand how hard it was for Candace Parker to win a basketball gold medal with a 3-year-old on her hip.”

I’m not clear with the logic of “If women were a country” – “Japanese WC champion soccer team wouldn’t have flown coach / we would all understand how hard it was for Candace Parker to win a basketball gold medal with a 3-year-old on her hip.”

Did “If women were a country,” actually become the buzz word of London Olympic Games?

What is the analogy of “If women were a country, Japanese women soccer team wouldn’t fly in coach / we would understand how hard for Parker to win.”?

What will follow if we say “If men were the country,” as a counterpart thesis to “If women were a country”? I can’t establish the link of logic.

4 Answers 4


No wonder you were confused. The phrasing "if women were a country" is a little awkward. Or, to be more charitable, it's using poetic license. This is not a way of phrasing a sentence that you are going to come across often, and you might even only see it in this one case.

What the phrase is essentially saying is, "if women had their own country." From that, more indirectly, we can also take it to mean, "if women were in power in a country." Then we can go even one step further, to interpret it as, "if women had equal power as men in a country."

Thus, if women had enough power or equality in Japan, then the women's soccer team would be recognized for their greater degree of success than the male team, and would be treated at least the same. They would fly first class like the male team does.

The point is a little less clear when the author talks about Candace Parker, who I'm not familiar with. I'm only going by what's said in what you quoted.

From what is said in your quote, we know that she is a basketball player who has a three year old child. The author seems to be saying that because this athlete had a three year old child to take care of, it was more difficult for her to perform in her sport than it is for a male. And, because the author has tied this situation to the "if women were a country" phrase, we can assume that the author means that in a country run by women, or where women's issues were taken as seriously as men's, then people would appreciate that more.

However, what is not entirely clear (again, only going by the quotes provided) is why the author is saying why it would be more difficult for a female athlete with a three year old child than a male athlete taking care of a three year old child. I'm definitely not saying myself whether or not it is or should be or anything, and maybe if one knew the specifics about Candace Parker it would be clear. I'm just saying that the gender equality issue is less immediately accessible than the example of the Japanese women's team which is clearly being given second class treatment compared to the men's team.

In any case, both examples are trying to state simply that women should be given equal opportunity, interest, and care as male athletes.

Whether or not "if women were a country" was actually a buzzword or not is something that can only be verified by looking at articles about the Olympics and what was reported as said. It's not a language issue that can be confirmed here.

lastly, it's a little difficult to say what would be meant if we said, "if men were a country." The presumption that most would agree to is that men still hold more power than women in almost all societies, and so we don't need to ask "if". If men were a country, then we would see the world look exactly the same as it looks now. So, for example, because "men are a country" in Japan, the male team rides first class, the women ride coach.

  • 1
    Though I understand it’s the rhetorical technique of the author, I wish he plainly said ‘if women are (regarded) truly equal to men’ than verbosely saying ‘if women are country.’ But it’s the matter of taste. I appreciate your elaborate and through explanation. Commented Aug 16, 2012 at 10:57

I think reference is to power.

Many countries treat their star athletes very well, flying first class, staying in luxurious hotels. Sometimes this is even-handed, both men's and women's teams being given equal accomodations and benefits.

However, sometimes women's teams are give less prestige and less favorable treatment than their male counterparts. In those cases, the "powers that be", that is, those who control the process (usually dominated by men or those catering to men's interest in male focused sports) do not give fair support to their female Olympians.

The phrase if women were a country means if women were in control of how these athletes were treated. If women were a country the women powers that be would ensure that women athletes would always be given just as much respect and favorable treatment as male athletes.

  • Actually this is not women power issue. It’s simply the decision of Japan Soccer Association based on the past performances (and commercial results). Men’s soccer team members flew executive-class and Women’s team members flew premium economy to London (Some of them including Sawa flew back in executive seats). I don’t know how different the comfortableness of Executive and Premium Economy is. But I see no room for gender discrimination to get involved in the treatment of athletes in JSA’s travel arrangement. Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 7:29
  • In the US, there is no question that men's sports have had more partipants, more opportunities to play, more resources and more commercial success. That is why we have had a movement to change the status quo and push to give women's sports an equal footing on resources and opportunites through things like Title IX. The results for men and women are not yet equal, but there are attempts to level the playing field. Women should not have to be a country to get full rights and fair treatment.
    – bib
    Commented Aug 14, 2012 at 14:55

As far as the the US was concerned the women won more medals and golds than the men did.

Golds: (29 vs 17) total medals: (58.5 vs 45.5).

The US women would have been the tied with Great Britain for the 2nd most golds, if the US women had been their own country.


As far as the quote about the Japanese soccer teams:

If women were a country, the Japanese World Cup champion soccer team wouldn’t have flown coach, while their far-less-successful male teammates flew first class.

Later in the article, the author, Sally Jenkins, completes the point:

In London, the USA women’s basketball team stayed in the very same elegant five-star hotel as the men’s team led by Kobe Bryant and LeBron James and Kevin Durant. They have traveled and boarded as equals with their male counterparts ever since the Atlanta Games in 1996.

As far as the statement about Candace Parker, I can only speculate that Ms. Parker's duties as a mother aren't suspended just because she's in training as an elite athlete, while her male counterparts who are fathers would be understood to have their childrens' mothers to shoulder that load.

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