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Feminists Take on Sports Broadcasting

August 12th, 2010 at 10:53 am | 14 Comments |

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Christina Hoff Sommers has written a piece arguing that there is a reason that women’s sports are less popular then male sports, and it is not because of bias:

Since 1989, the Center for Feminist Research at the University of Southern California (USC) has published a study of “Gender in Televised Sports” every five years. The latest report has just been released and the Women’s Victim Industrial Complex is reeling from the findings. “Shocking,” says the Women’s Sports Foundation.

According to the report, coverage of women’s professional teams has “nearly evaporated” and a “deepening silence” has enveloped women’s professional soccer, basketball, golf, field hockey, and softball. “Nothing short of stunning” says author Michael Messner, a feminist sociologist at USC. “This is simply intolerable.”

National Public Radio sports commentator Diana Nyad, a celebrated distance swimming champion, was moved to write a special introduction to the latest report: “Women’s athletic skill levels have risen astronomically over the past twenty years … It is time for television news and highlights shows to keep pace with this revolution.” She describes the neglect of women’s sports as “unfathomable and unacceptable.”

But the heavy focus of news and highlights shows on men’s sports is not only fathomable but obvious—that is where the fans are. And that is where advertisers expect to find customers for “male” products such as beer, razors, and cars. Men’s professional sports are a fascination (obsession is more like it) to many millions of men, because they offer extreme competition, performance, and heroics. Women’s professional sports, however skilled and admirable, cannot compare in Promethean drama.

Even women prefer watching male teams. Few women follow the sports pages and ESPN, but many enjoy attending live games—featuring male athletes. According to Sports Business Daily, 31 percent of the NFL’s “avid fans” are women.

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14 Comments so far ↓

  • abk1985

    Yeah, that’s what we need: extending Title IX to televised sports.

    Or, to channel Ted Olsen: Football is mentioned 3 times in SCOTUS decisions, baseball is mentioned 9 times in SCOTUS decisions, so these things exist in the view of the court. However, the 14th amendment of the constitution guarantees equal protection, therefore, neither football nor baseball can be gender specific. If they are not gender specific, but women cannot participate because of discriminatory tests (cue firefighters here), then they are, in effect, gender specific and discriminatory. Therefore the franchises of the NFL and MLB must achieve gender parity by 2015.

    In the meantime, this year’s Super Bowl broadcast has been pre-empted in order to show re-runs of “Gray’s Anatomy”

  • Moderate


    Employers can discriminate all they want against lack of ability, which is the real barrier holding women back from professional baseball/football. BFOQ override disparate impact considerations.

    The reality is that the best women’s sports team in the world couldn’t beat any Division I men’s university team. People don’t watch the WNBA not because we’re misogynists but because they can’t dunk and aren’t that good at fundamentals either.

    “Nothing short of stunning” says author Michael Messner, a feminist sociologist at USC. “This is simply intolerable.”

    This further cements my view that gender studies and sociology departments could be eliminated without loss.

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  • ktward

    This further cements my view that gender studies and sociology departments could be eliminated without loss.

    By all means, let’s throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • Moderate

    This baby was stillborn. To the ash heap of history with it!

  • ktward


    The Sociology ‘baby’ is not only quite healthy, it’s quite developed and inextricably infused into nearly every other scientific/academic discipline:

    * Aging, sociology of (see also sociology of youth)
    * Agriculture, sociology of (see rural sociology)
    * Applied sociology/clinical sociology (see also sociological practice)
    * Architecture, sociology of (see also sociology of space, urban sociology)
    * Art, sociology of (see also sociology of music, visual sociology)
    * Body, sociology of
    * Business, sociology of (see also economic sociology)
    * Childhood, sociology of (see also sociology of youth and sociology of aging)
    * Collective behavior (see also sociology of social movements)
    * Communication, sociology of (see also sociology of media)
    * Comparative sociology
    * Computational sociology (see also mathematical sociology)
    * Conflict, sociology of (see also sociology of military)
    * Consumption, sociology of
    * Crime, sociology of (see also sociology of deviance, sociology of law, sociology of punishment and criminology)
    * Culture, sociology of (see also cultural studies)
    * Development, sociology of (see also economical sociology, evolutionary sociology, world systems theory)
    * Deviance, sociology of (see also sociology of crime)
    * Disaster, sociology of
    * Dramaturgical sociology
    * Economic sociology (also known as sociology of economic development. See also sociology of business)
    * Education, sociology of
    * Emotions, sociology of
    * Environmental sociology (see also human ecology)
    * Ethnicity, sociology of (see sociology of race and ethnic relations)
    * Everyday life, sociology of
    * Evolutionary sociology (also known as sociology of sociocultural evolution, see also sociology of development, economic sociology, sociology of the state)
    * Family, sociology of the
    * Fatherhood, sociology of (see also sociology of the family and sociology of motherhood)
    * Feminist sociology (see also sociology of masculinity and sociology of gender)
    * Film, sociology of
    * Food, sociology of
    * Gender, sociology of (also known as sociology of sex roles)
    * Gerontology (also known as sociology of age or sociology of aging)
    * Globalization, sociology of (see also sociology of the world system)
    * Governance, sociology of (see political sociology and sociology of organizations))
    * Health and illness, sociology of (see also sociology of medicine)
    * Historical sociology (see also history of sociology)
    * History of science, sociology of the (see also sociology of science and historical sociology)
    * Immigration, sociology of (see also sociology of migration)
    * Industrial sociology (also known as sociology of industrial relations, see also sociology of labor, sociology of work)
    * Internet, sociology of
    * Knowledge, sociology of (see also sociology of science and sociology of communication)
    * Language, sociology of
    * Law, sociology of (see also sociology of crime and sociology of punishment)
    * Labor, sociology of (see also economic sociology, ‘industrial sociology, sociology of work and Marxist sociology)
    * Leisure, sociology of (see also sociology of work and sociology of time)
    * Literature, sociology of
    * Markets, sociology of (also known as behavioral finance or behavioral economics)
    * Masculinity, sociology of (see also feminist sociology and sociology of gender)
    * Marxist sociology (see also world system sociology and sociology of work)
    * Mathematical sociology (see also computational sociology)
    * Media, sociology of (see also sociology of communication)
    * Medicine, sociology of (also known as sociology of medicine. See also sociology of health and illness
    * Memory, sociology of
    * Migration, sociology of (see also sociology of immigration and demographics)
    * Military, sociology of the (see also sociology of war, sociology of organizations)
    * Motherhood, sociology of (see also sociology of the family, sociology of fatherhood)
    * Music, sociology of (see sociomusicology)
    * Organizations, sociology of
    * Peace, sociology of (see also military sociology, sociology of war)
    * Political sociology (also known as sociology of politics, sociology of governance or sociology of the state)
    * Public sociology
    * Punishment, sociology of (see also sociology of crime and Sociology of law)
    * Pure sociology
    * Race, sociology of (see sociology of race and ethnicity)
    * Sociology of race and ethnic relations (also known as sociology of ethnicity, sociology of ethnic relations or sociology of race. See also ethnic relations)
    * Religion, sociology of
    * Rural sociology
    * Science, sociology of (see also sociology of knowledge and sociology of technology))
    * Social movements, sociology of (see also collective behavior)
    * Sociobiology (see also evolutionary psychology)
    * Sociography
    * Sociological practice (also see applied sociology)
    * Sociometry
    * Sociomusicology (also known as sociology of music)
    * Space, sociology of (see also sociology of architecture, urban sociology)
    * Sport, sociology of
    * State, sociology of (see political sociology)
    * Technology, sociology of (see also sociology of science)
    * Terrorism, sociology of (see also sociology of conflict, sociology of social movements and political sociology)
    * Time, sociology of (see also sociology of leisure and sociology of work)
    * Transport, sociology of
    * Urban sociology (see also sociology of architecture, sociology of space)
    * Visual sociology
    * War, sociology of (see also military sociology, sociology of conflict, sociology of peace)
    * Work, sociology of (see also sociology of industrial relations, sociology of leisure and sociology of time)
    * World systems, sociology of (also known as sociology of globalization)
    * Youth, sociology of (see also sociology of aging and sociology of childhood)

  • abk1985

    That’s like itemizing every box of cereal at the grocery store. I fail to see the point.

  • ktward


    Great analogy! I’ll use it.

    The point: Moderate believes we should throw out every box of cereal [Sociology] simply because he doesn’t like Cheerios [gender studies].

    Seems a rather absurd notion, no?

  • abk1985

    Kt: On that point as you expressed it I can agree. However, just because there’s an impressive list of sociological sub-disciplines (you left out “the sociology of cereal: production, consumption, and regularity”) that does not in itself vindicate sociology from the charge of being slightly ridiculous. Which, BTW, would apply to many academic disciplines …….

  • Moderate


    1) Next time, please just link to the Wikipedia article instead of copy-pasting the entire thing!

    It’s easier for the reader and the polite thing to do. Based on your posts, you seem like a polite person.

    2) Many of the subfields you listed are really parts of other departments, not sociology. For example: “sociology of architecture.” There’s no reason for that to justify a Sociology department.

    3) I still think that sociology is bunk. The two sociology classes (upper-division and graduate level) I’ve taken have been the most worthless of my life. The hard work was to suppress my gag reflex as I spoke in the feminist and post-modern language preferred by professors. I understand that this may not be a representative case, but it’s been enough to shade my opinion of the field.

  • ktward


    You’re right about the link, and that’s my typical MO. But I found your generalization (‘Toss all Sociological thought and science!’) so, er, bizarrely primitive, I wasn’t sure that the link itself would make my point.

    Re: Sociological sub fields.
    Yes, as I mentioned, Sociology is quite often part of interdisciplinary research. (Increasingly true of many scientific fields as we learn the crucial aspects of interdependence within complex/dynamic systems.) That said, despite your apparent wish, it’s impossible to wipe out Sociology’s importance and significant influence in understanding social dynamics, even if we might consider scrapping your fav, gender studies. (Honestly, I don’t think that’s going to happen. Sorry. )

    Re: your academic experience with Sociology studies.
    I sympathize with your pain, really I do (please don’t make me list the classes I ever thought were worthless on some level), but if you achieved grad level, surely you’re of sound enough mind to recognize that indicting an entire field of science based on a few crappy classes might be, well, silly?

  • Moderate

    I’ve had several poorly taught courses that I nonetheless consider very valuable. They weren’t fun, but I could recognize on some level that they probably would have been with a better teacher or textbook. I do try to make a distinction between my subjective experience and the objective merits of the class material.

    Sociology – especially the gender/race studies portion of it – struck me as the least educationally valuable field I’d studied. I learned very little and the textbooks were just as much to blame as the teacher. But the problems ran deeper than bad textbooks: the entire field itself seemed too wrapped up in “correct” post-modern and feminist thought to give a critical view of the world or how it works. It was more interested in jargon and cultural politics that it was in knowledge or analysis.

    Lest you think “some conservative kid had his views challenged and didn’t like it,” let me say that I actually wasn’t bothered by the secularism, liberalism, or often explicit Marxism of the material. I get far more of that from my friends.

  • Moderate

    By the way, if you’re a sociologist, I apologize for being a jerk.

  • ktward


    One of the very reasons I comment here is that there are exceptionally few ‘jerks’.
    So no worries on that account. (Which is not to say that convo doesn’t get heated on occasion, but high temps are impossible to avoid on a political blog.)

    While I don’t agree with you, I do get your point.
    What concerns me in general (not specifically relative to our convo) is that too often scientific study is arbitrarily dismissed as irrelevant (‘slightly ridiculous …’) by those who actually know relatively little about it.

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