For the sake of transparency: I was a sports editor for a year.
While studying at the University of Ottawa, I acquired the position of Sports Editor for the Fulcrum, the English language student newspaper, on campus. I worked my ass off that year, and went from knowing absolutely nothing about sports to being able too recite the rules of rugby, football, and hockey by heart. I loved going to games, speaking with the athletes, and learning about sports I never knew existed (broomball anyone?).
I look forward to the Superbowl every year. I may not know that much about the NFL (I’m more of a CFL girl), but the teams always deliver. I don’t watch the game for the advertisements or the halftime show. I watch it because I like sports.
So when I see things like this, I am enraged:
— Holly MacKenzie (@stackmack) February 2, 2014
Girls/Women are often the punch line of sports jokes. Why do you think the Puppy Bowl was invented? It is automatically assumed that if a girl is attending a football game, they are doing so because their boyfriend is a fan, or they were invited to a post-game party. I think this comes from what I’ve dubbed the “cheerleading mentality”: the men are the athletes and the women spell G.O. T.E.A.M. while spreading their legs. Television shows and movies like “She’s the Man” have women going undercover to play the sports they love. Fast-forward to the final scene: The girl reveals who she truly is, and makes the winning goal/shot. Her parents are crying because she’s finally proven herself and the coach reluctantly apologizes for not having given her a chance. The common theme — everyone is always surprised and shocked.
The media industry also can’t seem to get out of that mentality. Newspapers, magazines, and broadcasts publish cheat-sheets for girls that breakdown the rules and procedures of the game. They write columns on how to dress for the occasion and who to cheer for. Yet, never are men mentioned in the headlines.
This Superbowl is no exception. There were seven male reporters/commentators compared to the two female reporters on the sidelines. Those female reporters were only shown on camera for about a minute during the game. Afterwards, one of the reporters conducted the broadcasted interview with the quarterback — but she was surrounded by men, the sole pink jacket to be seen in the crowd of black jackets and jeans.
The sport of football can already be considered sexist — it is one of the few games that don’t have a female league. Yes, there is touch football and flag football, but it is not seen as the sport’s equivalent. Instead, we have lingerie football (which I won’t even touch on). In a sport already dominated by men, the NFL should put in a little more effort to have women represented. When was the last time you heard play-by-play commentary by a woman? I don’t think I ever have.
At my first university hockey game, I experienced the “cheerleading mentality” first hand. I was the only woman reporter present, and it was my first time covering the team for the newspaper. After speaking with the captain, I asked to talk to player number 19 (I had yet to memorize the roster). He said, “oh, just come into the change room and speak with whoever you want. That’s how it works”. So, in I went, only to find a group of men in jockstraps staring at me and winking. I immediately realized that this was NOT what normal sports reporters were supposed to do. Instead of running out in tears, I walked up to a random athlete, took out my recorder, and started asking him questions. He answered them, and I calmly walked out. I then proceeded to freak out. I never went back into the change room again. I also never told my editor because I was so ashamed of being duped.
I know for a fact that this was not an isolated incident. People are continuously surprised by women in sports — and that astounds me. I don’t think I could put it any better than Bronté James, Sports Editor at the Brunswicken, who wrote an article in support of female sport reporters after getting a number of condescending responses to her title: “Oh really?! That’s awesome. Don’t see many girls who can talk sports. Good for you.”
It is time for sports to enter the 21st century. Women are taking active roles in athletics, and we don’t deserve to be spoken to in a condescending manner for being interested in the gentleman’s club. The Superbowl is one of the largest sporting events outside of the Olympics, and for newscasters to be so nonchalant about women is completely irresponsible and disappointing. It’s not the 1900s anymore.