One thing is clear after reading the takeaways/questions from the Bridgeman reading: Guys, do not become athletic directors. The problem, dear Brutuses, lies with you.
Here are a few of the pull quotes from the men’s side of the sports aisle:
“Until women’s sports create a substantial fan base, I can’t see there being any changes in professional women’s sports.”
If the likes of ESPN are providing LESS coverage of women’s sports (1.9%, according to our textbooks, and dropping), how can “women’s sports create a substantial fan base?” If it’s all about the money, and it appears to be, what chance do women’s athletics have?
It’s a chicken-and-egg proposition. If women’s coaches continue to dwindle in number, if salaries continue to be lopsided along gender (and racial) lines, if the number of women’s pro sports role models continues to number, oh, about five, asking women “to grow their fan base” before making any significant changes is impossible and even unjust.
Isn’t it incumbent on society, including the media that reflect it, to expand opportunity? To expand that fan base, or at least to give it a fair chance at growing? Isn’t there a greater good in play here? I think so.
“I don’t think that not showing women’s sports is unfair; it is more of a demographic choice from media companies.”
As an economic argument, maybe. But purely economic arguments were used to justify slavery, as well, which might be provocative to say, but not unreasonable. We have to get past the money and the marketing, and we can if we see this as much more than “who wants to watch what on ESPN.” Even in fiscal terms, consider: Women’s events such as the World Cup do spectacularly well; figure skating, as we read in Feder, is by far the most popular Winter Olympics sport; and, for the big surprise, women’s events out-sold men’s during the Atlanta Olympics, and by a comfortable margin.
There is demand out there.
Think about what is televised, what does get its own network, the miniscule numbers these networks garner on the cable dial, and then consider what a legitimate commitment to covering and broadcasting women’s sports might look like and generate in terms of share and ad dollars. Some of these channels are in the low single digits, advertising little more than themselves.
“I don’t think women are treated unfairly in sports.” Again, consider:
- the money spent on the men’s side
- the opportunities for male coaches, assistant coaches, SIDs, ADs, reporters — ALL JOBS in sports
- the pay on the men’s side v. pay on the women’s
- the illusory “equality” demanded by Title IX, producing a sort of equality, but not meaningful equality
- the DECLINE in coverage of women’s sports by the likes of ESPN, broadcast
- and little things, like skorts v. shorts and The (Ladies) Professional Golf Assn.
Does this not strike you as patently unfair, even unethical or immoral.
“I understand the fact that women want to be equal to men.”
I’m not sure that you do. My daughters don’t want to be the same as men, equal in any sort of apples-to-apples comparison; they love their feminity. What they want is to be treated equally, given the same kinds of opportunities and the same numbers of opportunities, to be accorded the same default respect as men. Equality isn’t sameness, in other words. Think of what’s implicit in this statement: That women aren’t somehow equal to men. Of course they are. Women ARE equal to men; they want, I think, to be treated as such.
Men’s sports are on “a completely different level of competition.”
The competitiveness is the same. The quality and skill “levels” are the same. Different, of course, but not inferior in any way.
“Women will always be in the shadows of men’s sports.”
If men continue to control access, you might be right. So let’s clear out some of the men and make room for women of vision. This begins to sound a lot like civil rights.
Martin Luther King, Jr. had the imaginative power to see a better America. He had the vision, the intelligence and the courage to imagine meaningful equality as promised by this nation’s founding documents and “fathers.” Where is that vision, intelligence and courage with regards to women’s athletics? It’s not in the bolded statement above.
Don’t my daughters deserve to have the same quality and kind of hopes and dreams of, say, an 8-year-old Derek Jeter or 8-year-old LeBron, or an 8-year-old Brandon, Trevor, Cole or Kevin, for that matter? Of course they do.
So who will re-make our athletic world such that those girls with dreams can see them fulfilled in lives flourishing in a world of women’s sports? No one with views like, “Women will always be in the shadows of men.”
“We have come a long way . . . but not close to where most women would like it to be.”
And what about the men? Don’t you care? Isn’t this a men’s issue, too? “All that is required for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing.” So, men, put down the remote or game console, get out of your recliners and and at least attack your ignorance. As a start.
Men’s sports are simply “more entertaining than women’s sports,” “just what people want to watch.”
Again, if it’s simply the money, only an economic TV broadcast issue, you might be right. But by now can’t we see that this is about the dignity of women in a supposedly free, democratic society? But I also disagree with the premise. More entertaining? Have you ever been to a DIV I women’s soccer match between Top 10 teams? I’ll take that over Hawks-Rockets ANY DAY OF THE WEEK. I’ve watched an awful lot of truly dreadful men’s competition over the years. But there is NOTHING genetic or in any other category that precludes women’s athletics being as entertaining if not more entertaining than anything on the men’s side.
I like Clara’s statement that men’s and women’s sports at the college level are sometimes “equal,” usually for Title IX reasons, but not equal enough to make a meaningful difference, or for it to count or matter. This is the “meaningful equality” Bridgeman described. This is what we should be talking about, beyond or besides Title IX, which is how to achieve meaningful equality for women and people of color.
Ashley pointed out that what women aren’t arguing for here is sameness — same locker rooms, same uniforms, same rules for sports — but, as Clara articulated, for equal value and respect. Keep the sports separate by gender, in other words, but value each equally in every way.
And Madison had some good questions for us, but she rode out of class (horse reference) with her sheet, so I’ll mention those later.