Women in sports

I wonder why it is that women in sports get so little attention. Unless they’re tennis or golf players and pretty. Or winning gold medals during the Olympics.

I’ve been following the women’s world cup online, but apparently I don’t have much company online or offline where very few folks have been going to their games. I don’t get it. The NZ v Pakistan game sounds like it was amazing. Wish I’d been home to see it.1 Games were $5 each or $35 for a pass to see all of them. Standards were high yet attendance was crap.

And then there’s the WNBA which I love passionately. But the only coverage it gets is all about Candace Parker, who isn’t even going to play this year. Don’t get me wrong, I think Parker’s phenomenal, but she’s not the only phenomenal player in the WNBA. Why do articles about female athletes always begin by disquisiting about how gorgeous they are? Yawn. Who cares how pretty she is when she can play like that?

It’s 2009 and I’m watching Mad Men and there are so many ways in which the world has changed not one iota. Having a women’s basketball league and a women’s world cup in cricket does not make the world cease to be sexist. Neither does having a black man in the white house end all racism.

But I am an optimist. Some day, I’m sure, all those isms will disappear. Some day . . . I just don’t think I’ll be alive to see it.

  1. Here’s hoping the Kiwis can crush the Poms in the final. Guess, I’ll find out when I wake up. []


  1. Patrick on #

    To some degree, even with men, there are two kinds of sport celebrities – the record setters and the pretty ones. Even better when they come in a package together.

    David Beckham and Tom Brady are written about equally for their looks and lifestyle as well as their athletic ability.

    Michael Jordan is an attractive man. He’s the complete package. I wish an article about him had opened with his cup size……


    Anyway, I don’t think it shows inequality that the leagues are not watched as much. For me, it’s scope and scale. I’d love to see women playing in the NBA – capable of competing with the men. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that some are that capable.

    Of course, that’s my personal take on it. I don’t watch college sports much because they aren’t at the same level as the pros, either. Obviously some people do, though.

  2. Justine on #

    Patrick: The difference is that there are just as many articles about elite male athletes who aren’t hot whereas there are pretty much none about women athletes. Especially when you go outside tennis or golf. Not to mention that the range of what’s considered good looking is much bigger for men than for women.

    It totally shows inequality that women’s sports get neither the press time nor the advertising dollars that men’s sports do. It’s not an accident that the president filled in his predictions for the men’s college basketball finals but not for the women’s that’s happening at the exact same time. What messages does that send? That women aren’t as important as men.

  3. Chris S. on #

    Press coverage, funding, attention in general: you’re dead on, in that women athletes just don’t get given it the men do. They also don’t seem to rack up the same number of drug offenses, sex offenses, and criminal convictions. I wonder if we’d see more of the latter if we saw more of the former?

    Here in Canada, women’s hockey is starting (finally) to get a bit more attention. Oddly enough, that’s due in part to Don Cherry (for non-Canadians, Cherry is nationally-known hockey commentator, who is… Archie Bunker-like in his world outlook). Not the world’s most evolved person, he always said that women’s hockey wasn’t worth watching (he likes a tough physical game, Mr. Cherry).

    Then he saw a women’s team play, and was instantly hooked.

    Because though he’s a bit of a blowhard, Cherry loves well-played hockey. So he bought (or bought into, not sure) a team, and spends a fair amount of his free time publicizing it, and the league. Because of him, they get more attention then they might have otherwise.

  4. Dave H on #

    I was stunned by the opening paragraph about Parker in that story. Did telling us about her endless legs and C cups really do anything to help the argument that she can carry the WNBA? Can you imagine someone writing a story about Roger Federer or Tiger Woods that started that way?

    (Well, not exactly that way, obviously. I’ll let you imagine the male version.)

    But even when I got past that, I was appalled by the story. A saint in sneakers? I’m sorry, but did the writer even see the Shock-Sparks incident last year? Parker wasn’t the only person to blame for that, by any means, but she was one of the instigators.

    She’s a great player – the best player in the league as a rookie – but that story made me cringe.

  5. Dave H on #

    (I’m writing these comments while covering the girls basketball state finals. The current game features Destiny Williams, who will be a first-round pick in the WNBA draft in 2013. You heard it here first.)

  6. Justine on #

    Chris S: That’s awesome. It’s amazing what a difference a bloke saying, “Hey, these women can play!” makes. Sad, but true. I’d like to see more NBA players publicising the WNBA.

    Dave H.: Yeah, that article sucked in a hundred different ways. I will never understand why these puff pieces are even written. Very few people are perfect. Give us a break.

    Could it be Destiny William’s destiny?! (Okay, that was lame but who could resist?)

  7. Dave H on #

    “I’d like to see more NBA players publicising the WNBA.”

    Which is one of the many reasons that the Chauncey Billups trade stinks. He, his wife and daughters were big Shock fans, and he did a couple commercials for the team.

  8. Patrick on #

    [Deleted by the blog lord who is not in the mood to teach feminism 101]

  9. Patrick on #

    Wait! I respectfully withdraw my opinions! They are dumb and clearly wrong headed and I would love to go to a WNBA game if someone invited me, but am unlikely to become a fan because there are far too many games in a season making each game relatively meaningless. Same reason I don’t follow most sports.

    (Note: I began typing this prior to Blog Overlord deletion)

  10. Dave H on #

    Destiny finished with 31 points and 21 rebounds as her school won their first state championship. She had more offensive rebounds (14) than the entire opposing team.

  11. Justine on #

    Patrick: Actually, the WNBA has a really short season.

    Dave H: Triple double! Wow!

  12. Patrick on #

    10 games per month is about 6 games too many for me. I need a set time each week, sort of like a TV show.

    I would love to go see one live with a true fan. I bet that would be fun.

  13. jane on #

    Great post (and some great comments as well). A lot’s been written about the Candace Parker profile and it’s surprising how wide ranging the points of view are on the subject. If the article was meant to be provocative then it certainly served it’s purpose. It would be interesting to know how CP feels. Justine, if you ever want to rant about women’s sports elsewhere – check out womentalksports.com – would love to have you as a guest blogger.

  14. Kate C on #

    ABC Radio (in Melbourne) has just broadcast the final of the women’s world cup. It’s a start, I guess…

  15. Amber on #

    Do I hear a 166 all out?? Do I? Do I hear a BOO-YAH for England cricket? Can I come out from under my humiliation for one day? I think I can.

    The BBC ‘broadcast’ the match as a written feed on its website. You really feel as if you’re there. Ahem.

    But all we _really_ want to know is the collective cup size of the NZ team, anyway, right?

  16. Justine on #

    Jane: I’ll check out your blog. And thanks for the kind invite but I don’t really do the guest blogging thing. Blogging here every day pretty much uses up all my blogging juices.

    Kate C: Much of the world cup was on ABC radio Australia-wide. One of the Fox channels also covered it. That’s how my parents got to see so many matches.

    Amber: Congrats to you and the pommy women. Well played! (Though I will point out that the Aussies beat them before the final cause I’m bitter that way.)

    And, GAH on the whole stupid cup size thing.

  17. caitlin on #

    YES! I live in Seattle and people always moan that the city has stretched decades without a Pro sports champ — heya’ folks what about the Storm!

  18. Andrew Wheeler on #

    Without getting too sexist about it, I suspect that the audience for sports reporting (particularly in broadcast media, but also for magazines/newspapers/online) is mostly male, and that audience isn’t as interested in women’s achievements as it is in their physical attributes.

    Actually, let me back up a bit — it’s probably more that the media assume that the audience is mostly male, and they similarly assume that those men don’t care about women’s athletics. As far as I can see, the attitude is so widespread that there’s hardly any alternatives that could potentially prove those assumptions wrong.

    (I’ve been uninterested in sports for a good decade, so I could be completely wrong. But it certainly looks like galloping laddishness to me.)

  19. Dave H on #

    Andrew: Your first point was actually closer – studies have shown that most consumers of sports news are male. It’s not 100% or even 75%, but it is a majority.

    But please don’t turn “the media” into one massive collective brain. I just covered 12 girls high-school basketball games in three days, I’ve written recent newspaper and magazine stories about the U.S. women’s soccer team and I’ve covered more WNBA games than any other journalist I know.

    And I’m very proud of the fact that I cover all those games the same way that I would cover them if men were playing. Are the crowds the same? Unfortunately not, but they’re giving the same amount of effort as the men, and deserve that from the people covering them.

  20. Amanda on #

    I was utterly thrilled that the game got played live on a cable sports channel here in New Zealand. The presentation was as high level as a men’s game, with female commentators (though Danny Morrison tended to dominate), and it was great to see the women kitted out in “proper” uniforms. None of those tiny white skirts any more!

    I’m not a huge sports fan, but I was excited to see this got coverage from a purely feminism slant. No way has it solved the patriachal dominance, but by golly it’s a start.

  21. David Carrington Jr. on #

    I’m shocked that it took so long (post 18 by Andrew) to finally recognize the single overriding reason for the difference: the majority of sports fans are male. And further, amongst sports fans, the majority of fanatics are disproportionately male. I would estimate that the number of men I know who are NOT into sports (a small number) is almost exactly the same as the number of females I know who ARE into sports.

    A huge part of watching sports is the illusion that the athletes are proxies for the fans. In other words, men want to watch male sports because they can fantasize about themselves playing. It’s really not some vast patriarchal conspiracy.

Comments are closed.