Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


First Advisor

Robert Dewey

Second Advisor

Nipun Chopra

Third Advisor

Cara Snyder


Research for this study of the “equal pay campaign” centers around the following overarching question: how does the USWNT use Twitter as a performative mechanism for expressing and enhancing social activist causes? In particular, my research explores how members of the USWNT, both individually and collectively use social media in the pursuit of gender equality and equal pay provisions. In what specific ways have the women engaged social media and why do they rely upon Twitter in particular? How does the rhetoric that the women use accentuate their motivations and advance their social activist cause? Is the women’s use of Twitter effective in achieving the goals of their equal pay campaign? Which players use Twitter most prominently? Is this a matter of individual or coordinated expression? Why is this significant? Has the use of Twitter changed over the 4-years that I surveyed and, if so, in what ways?

Within the lengthy conflict between the USWNT and the USSF, this paper surveys the years 2016 to the present to explore how the use of media has changed over time. The chronology was chosen because it coincides with the USWNT’s concentrated pursuit of the equal pay campaign. In sum, the paper focuses on how the 23 USWNT players, who featured in the 2019 Women’s World Cup roster, used Twitter as a way to push back on the USSF and apply pressure on the federation in an attempt to fix the pay disparity.

This paper argues that in the context of its disputes with the USSF over equality, the USWNT strategically utilizes Twitter because the social media platform facilitates a new and highly public form of resistance. Twitter functions as a vehicle of connection across boundaries, because it enables the USWNT or its individual members to outwardly stand in solidarity with other female athletes and women in general. The platform does this by providing them with an opportunity to share their relatively unfiltered and personal perspectives on the issue of equal pay, while simultaneously creating a space of social consciousness. Essentially, Twitter allows the USWNT to “retweet” and interact with their fellow players, engage with sponsors actively supporting their campaign, other female athletes who are or have experienced discrimination, and females, more broadly, in an unimpeded manner. As a strategy for activism and protest, a connection across boundaries, and direct action against its employer, the USWNT’s reliance on Twitter represented a change in tactical methods from previous generations’ attempts to fight for equality.