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Thursday, August 01, 2013

Watching Like a Girl: How mainstream sports reporting gets female fandom wrong

If it weren’t for women at baseball games, us stat nerds would never know what one looked like!

Men hold an overwhelming majority of the power when it comes to creating mainstream sports culture, whether it’s by being a player, a fan, or a sportswriter. Take, for example, Tom Maloney’s piece in last Friday’s Globe and Mail, titled “A new generation of baseball fans in Toronto are young, hip and cool.” The article, which breaks down results of an in-stadium survey conducted by Ipsos-Reid, reinforces the very same exclusion and hostility that I have front of mind every time I pick my seats. In it, the author attempts to explain an “astounding” jump in women’s attendance at Rogers Centre from 2010 to 2012 by lazily hypothesizing that these young women aren’t really baseball fans at all.

Through some rather biased quotation choices (“it’s the best patio in the city, the best people-watching in the city”; “we can ‘watch’ the game—in quotations”), Maloney paints a singular portrait of a woman out for a night of beer and boy watching. “Along with a number of other women interviewed for this story, she indicated the club’s eye-appealing roster has enhanced her interest,” he writes of one subject. By cherry-picking comments and manufacturing conclusions, he does his part in contributing to a long-standing image problem that many female fans rail against.

To the media at large, baseball fans of the female persuasion tend to be seen as vapid, bored, and distracted, either dragged along by boyfriends or there to party and pick up, all the while wearing their Victoria’s Secret Jays tees and drooling over Brett Lawrie. Women are there for a ladies night or a bachelorette party—certainly not for any “real love” of the game, yet they do come in handy as the occasional pretty face for Sportsnet to zoom in on.

I certainly don’t deny that these kinds of fans exist—but I cannot agree that they’re a problem. The actual problem lies in consistently putting this very limited depiction of women’s relationship to sports into the world. It does real exclusionary damage in terms of attracting new fans, a project that both makes good economic sense and goes far in improving the overall experience for everyone.

 

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 01, 2013 at 02:21 PM | 124 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: fans, toronto, women in baseball

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   101. greenback calls it soccer Posted: August 05, 2013 at 12:48 AM (#4512862)
The 'slutbag' intern for Anthony Weiner has a couple of references to ARod-as-a-centaur in her twitter feed. Is that common knowledge in New York, or does she post here?
   102. vivaelpujols Posted: August 05, 2013 at 01:02 AM (#4512864)
The closest thing I have to a professional mentor is a female. She just gave me an outstanding reference for a job I landed. OTOH, the worst boss I ever had was a female. Its almost like they are not a monolithic block of people you can safely fit into one description.


Thank you. It's condescending to say that "female coworkers are better because they are nicer and aren't ego driven".
   103. ASmitty Posted: August 05, 2013 at 09:43 AM (#4512912)
My mother's favorite team was whomever the Yankees played that night.


My paternal grandparents had the most delightfully hostile marriage. They were always at eachother's throats in some bizzare, vaguely loving way. He was a die-hard Cubs fan, because even though he lived in Michigan it was easier for him to get Cubs radio broadcasts where he lived at that time. My grandma, who didn't care much for baseball before they met, summarily became a White Sox fan for what appears to be no other reason than to antagonize him. And she didn't go half-way either, she immediately began to study the game and team becam a complete White Sox fanatic.

Watching games with them as I grew up was really odd, but I inherited most of my love of baseball from them.
   104. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: August 05, 2013 at 09:49 AM (#4512916)
No one in my family cares about sports at all (and I'm no athlete) - I've no idea why I gravitated toward them so hard.
   105. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 05, 2013 at 09:59 AM (#4512920)
My older brother is the reason I love baseball. he loved it and had baseball cards and took me to games and everything. Without him I would not love the game. I am not sure where he got his love, maybe our father.
   106. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 10:06 AM (#4512924)
Thank you. It's condescending to say that "female coworkers are better because they are nicer and aren't ego driven".

Wait, it's condescending to complement people now?
   107. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: August 05, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4512929)
Wait, it's condescending to complement people now?

Well, the statement implies that male coworkers are less nice and are ego driven.
   108. Nasty Nate Posted: August 05, 2013 at 10:23 AM (#4512938)
Wait, it's condescending to complement people now?


It can be. I don't know why you say "now," as patronizing complements have been part of condescenion for a long time.

But saying someone is nice and not ego-driven doesn't sound particularly condescending to me.

   109. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 10:34 AM (#4512948)
Well, the statement implies that male coworkers are less nice and are ego driven.

Sure, it may be critical of men, but it's not condescending to women.
   110. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 05, 2013 at 11:00 AM (#4512964)
I don't know about others, but I was sharing my personal experience. And in that experience female managers have been better at their jobs than the males (better in the sense I prefer to work with them, I suspect better objectively as well).

I have worked with great males and some terrible females, but on average the women have been better as managers.
   111. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 05, 2013 at 12:02 PM (#4513012)
No one in my family cares about sports at all (and I'm no athlete) - I've no idea why I gravitated toward them so hard.


I am also the first sports fan in my family. I did not inherit the "fishing" gene.
   112. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2013 at 12:26 PM (#4513035)
Sure, it may be critical of men, but it's not condescending to women.

I think the argument is that it diminishes any individual to be considered X by default simply because that individual is a member of a particular group.

I would imagine that a woman that reaches a position of success through hard work and competence would find it offensive to be told that she got that position because she was "nice" and "had less ego than a man."

As a tangential example, there's a co-worker of mine that says I'm capable of charging more for tutoring than she can because I'm a man. In her eyes, it has nothing to do with my skill as a tutor, my personality, my knowledge base, or even my salesmanship. Nor could it possibly have anything to do with anything she does to present a less valuable tutoring experience.
   113. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4513036)
I have worked with great males and some terrible females, but on average the women have been better as managers.

My experience has generally been the opposite, although the very best manager I have ever worked with was a female.
   114. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 05, 2013 at 12:34 PM (#4513042)
I would imagine that a woman that reaches a position of success through hard work and competence would find it offensive to be told that she got that position because she was "nice" and "had less ego than a man."


Well I the soft skills you allude to in the "nice" and "less ego" are important and helped lead to her (theoretical) success. In fact IMO those soft skills are what separate the good and very good managers from the less good, are part of the competence (half of the hard work and competence that led to her success) and are in fact where the female managers in my experience excel over the male managers.

Like I said originally though since I am in IT there may be some selection bias issues.
   115. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4513052)

I think the argument is that it diminishes any individual to be considered X by default simply because that individual is a member of a particular group.


But, I don't think we were saying that women are better managers b/c they're women. We're just saying that the women we've encountered tend to be better managers than the men we've encountered.

I'm certainly not ascribing to any innate gender capabilities, or saying the women only got their jobs b/c they were women.
   116. Rickey! trades in sheep and threats Posted: August 05, 2013 at 01:05 PM (#4513077)
I would imagine that a woman that reaches a position of success through hard work and competence would find it offensive to be told that she got that position because she was "nice" and "had less ego than a man."


Has that argument been made? Arguing that X is nicer/less egotistical is not the same as arguing "X is successful because she is nicer/less egotistical."

I find this entire concept of ranking managers by their gender to be odd. Some great managers are female. Some terrible managers are female. Or male. About the only thing I can sign onto as a general statement is that IT dorks really ought never be allowed to attempt to manage human beings, for the same reason Ray or David should not.
   117. CrosbyBird Posted: August 05, 2013 at 01:12 PM (#4513091)
Like I said originally though since I am in IT there may be some selection bias issues.

Most of my experience with management was similarly in IT. Let's just say the bar wasn't set very high most of the time. There were a couple of great managers and a boatload of terrible ones.

Has that argument been made? Arguing that X is nicer/less egotistical is not the same as arguing "X is successful because she is nicer/less egotistical."

"Women are better managers because they are nicer/less egotistical" was the argument I was responding to.
   118. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 02:27 PM (#4513186)
Thank you. It's condescending to say that "female coworkers are better because they are nicer and aren't ego driven".

Wait, it's condescending to complement people now?


I think its in the same vein as "you Asians can take a VCR and turn it into a watch!"
   119. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 03:14 PM (#4513238)
I think its in the same vein as "you Asians can take a VCR and turn it into a watch!"

Yeah, I get that. But, I don't think anyone here has come close to saying "women are all great managers b/c they're nicer and don't have egos".

They've noted enjoying working for women managers who happen to be nicer/more concerned with their staff, and not engaging in ego-conflicts.

Those are two very different statements.
   120. Bitter Mouse Posted: August 05, 2013 at 03:23 PM (#4513257)
I find this entire concept of ranking managers by their gender to be odd.


Humans are great at recognizing patterns - including of course patterns that don't exist. We are prone to doing so and extrapolating based on the patterns, developing theories and also love to talk about our theories.

Why exactly do you find this odd?
   121. Los Angeles El Hombre of Anaheim Posted: August 05, 2013 at 03:33 PM (#4513291)
I'll be the first one to say it: Women cannot just turn VCRs into watches.
   122. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 03:40 PM (#4513313)

They've noted enjoying working for women managers who happen to be nicer/more concerned with their staff, and not engaging in ego-conflicts.


Yea, I think there's just sensitivity because in business, being "not nice" and "ambitious" are seen as positive traits by a lot of people, and women have had to work doubly hard to prove they are up to that task.
   123. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 05, 2013 at 03:42 PM (#4513323)
I'll be the first one to say it: Women cannot just turn VCRs into watches.

Must... not... make... joke... about... women... programming... VCRs.
   124. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: August 05, 2013 at 03:48 PM (#4513342)
Yea, I think there's just sensitivity because in business, being "not nice" and "ambitious" are seen as positive traits by a lot of people, and women have had to work doubly hard to prove they are up to that task.

Yeah, but most of us hopefully aren't the ######## like that, who make it to senior management, so we feel differently.
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