When I first decided to study journalism, I was dead set on going into sports. Everything about it seemed appealing. Going to games and matches, meeting players, talking about sports and getting paid for it—what more could a sports fan want? Well, as I looked a little closer my perspective changed.
When I heard about the scandal in the hotel with Erin Andrews, I couldn’t believe all the publicity and commentary such an event—that shouldn’t have happened in the first place—was receiving. Since the squabble about that, I’ve heard more and more commentary about what physical fitness broadcasters are in instead of what they are saying while on camera.
Yes, I understand that when you are a ‘public figure’ of sorts you are offering yourself up to a certain amount of scrutiny. I am not saying that men do not receive scrutiny, because they do. But women see it on a whole deeper level—the scrutiny is twofold for women in sports media.
First, just like for every broadcaster, women hear backlash when they make a factual mistake. But with women, there tends to be A LOT more commentary if she mixes up defense or offense or mispronounces a player’s name. Nine times out of 10 she knows what she’s talking about—humans are allowed a mistake every once in a while, it’s shocking, I know. What’s crazy to me is that women play competitive sports just as men do, but even so, for some reason women are given little credibility when it comes to the rules of the game and lingo.
Secondly, women are torn apart for their physical appearance. If they gain any weight, they might as well start looking for another job. Or even if they wear a garment that make them appear to look out of shape—cue the social media harassment. The women in this industry are not paid enough to be eating gourmet food every meal or have every piece of clothing tailored or custom designed. They barely have time in their day to work out due to the insane and obscure hours of the day that they work. Give them a break! There needs to be a societal understanding that women are not in existence for eye-candy. They’re allowed to ‘look good’ and not have to worry about derogatory catcalls while on the job.
Just this week USA Today Sports posted a video from Not Just Sports launching a campaign of sorts with the hashtag #MoreThanMean to accompany it. The whole idea is to raise awareness about online harassment for women sports reporters. The video they launched was a bit of an experiment and a PSA having men sit down with real women sports reporters and read tweets people have tweeted about them. Take a moment and watch the video:
If you’re anything like me, that video had to make you uncomfortable and upset at the same time. We know this goes on but, gosh, do we remember that there is a PERSON at the receiving end of those messages? In our digital age, do we really need to be reminded of that? I guess so.
Yesterday at my university, I had the privilege of meeting and listening to John Walsh, the ‘godfather of ESPN’. At the end of his remarks, he opened the floor up to questions. I asked him to shed light on the topic of women in media as far as what he has seen and what he thinks about the attitude towards women within the industry. To be honest, my question seemed to catch him off guard—perhaps because I was clearly outnumbered by men in the room who kept asking him about ‘the good ole days.’
Walsh seems to think women are in a really good place today in sports media. He thinks there are opportunities for the women who know what they’re talking about. But he also made a big point to say how incredibly far women have come since he started. And yes, I would agree, since the 80s there has been change. We do see women sports reporters and anchors now, yes, yes we do. But the scrutiny has only gotten worse with our digital age. The sentiments and attitudes are indeed there. Are they solely from the internet crazies or do they trickle down from the media companies as well?
The way I see and understand it, to say it’s just the crazies on social media would be pretty ignorant. I hope to see an off sides call made in the industry dominated by males, but by who, I’m really not sure.
Photo Credits: http://top10for.com/top-10-hottest-women-sports-reporters-ever/ (if that URL doesn’t serve as my case in point, I don’t know what does)