Some of you may wonder what drove me, a male, to write about women in sports. What does he know? You might ask yourself. Truth is that I never had to deal with sexism in sports personally, but I’ve seen it, and I know things can’t stay the way they are now, not when there are more and more women in all aspects of the world of sports.
I feel very strongly about the issue of gender equality in sports, I know that it is unrealistic that a time will come where gender will be transparent, but there was a time that people thought the same way about racism, and we are still fighting that battle too.
Why do we give so much attention to a woman who never won a tournament? I’m not even going to name her. Is there a male equivalent to her? Sure. Thousands. But we can’t name any of them, no matter how good looking they may be. Maria Sharapova won something. Martina Hingis won something. That should be what people care about in women’s sports, not what they look like.
I feel the same way about female reporters. People know that guys watch sports, and people know that guys (really everyone for that matter) like looking at good looking people as opposed to ugly people, but what I feel should be more important is their knowledge of the game. I don’t want someone spewing out information that is either a) obvious, b) wrong or c) not important at all. Otherwise what you have isn’t a sideline reporter at all. It is a cheerleader with a microphone. I’m not saying to hire ugly people or that the good looking people who are doing it are not necessarily smart and knowledgeable. What I am saying is that knowledge should come first, and what the person looks like should not matter.
Then comes the entire issue of how women’s sports are treated. For those who may or may not have noticed, I cover the women’s hockey team at Concordia. People ask me why, when I have the choice to cover whatever I want, I chose women’s hockey. It’s a complex answer, so I’m putting it in print.
Really, I just stumbled upon it. My editor at the time, Justin Way needed someone to cover the game, so I did. And I loved it. The only full women’s hockey game I had watched before I started the beat was the 1998 and 2002 gold medal games, but there was so much I hadn’t noticed – mainly, how I didn’t miss the big hits against the boards.
As I started going to more and more games, I realized that these -not girls, but athletes- were talented. The skating, the stick handling, the crisp passes. All of it was there. The more I grew attached, the more I couldn’t stop covering them. Not when I saw how little fan support they had from students at Concordia, not when I saw how little space they were getting in rival newspapers.
I wanted to make a statement. I wanted to show that I was willing to give them the attention they deserve. I was the only reporter at the first two Concordia games in Montreal this season. Sure it’s only the beginning of a long season, but the men’s hockey team had coverage. The men’s hockey team also had more fans at the game. Why aren’t people interested in women’s hockey? Are we that shallow that because the game doesn’t allow body contact it’s not worth our time?
Like my co-editor Cari McGratten eloquently put it, women athletes can be “wild”. If you go to a women’s rugby game, the tackles are just as bone-jarring as if it were two men. Women can play sports. They play them well. Deal with it, and just check it out. Get over yourself when you won’t see a big hit in the corner. Watch them take the puck from their opponent. You really get more of an appreciation of the skill when they don’t try and knock someone’s teeth out just to take the puck away.
If you look closely, you may also notice that there is a female reporter covering the men’s hockey team. This wasn’t something done on purpose, it was just something that happened that way, but when I look at it now, it’s the way I would want it to be. It didn’t matter when Laura Shantora Nelles started covering the men’s hockey team. She wasn’t the first (in fact, looking at the archives of The Concordian I came across a story when a coach on the men’s team wouldn’t let a women reporter talk to the team.) So, it’s not like I want to be promoting a trail blazer or anything, but the fact that no one cared, that it wasn’t a big deal and that it happened before shows that we’re on the right track to accepting women can do sports reporting.
But, at the same time, the fact that we’re acknowledging it at all shows that it isn’t yet where it needs to be.