While The Men Watch: Sexism In Sports?

LOS ANGELES CA - OCTOBER 30: Dainius Zubrus #8 of the New Jersey Devils is pursued by Davis Drewiske #44 of the Los Angeles Kings for the puck as goaltender Jonathan Quick #32 defends in the first period at Staples Center on October 30 2010 in Los Angeles California. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

The CBC announced last week that the Stanley Cup Finals would offer an alternative broadcast targeted specifically to women - the hostesses of "While The Men Watch" will be offering their commentary on the game. The premise of their show and website is summed up best by this quote on their website:

The lively discussion follows sports from a woman’s point of view including everything from interpreting the rules of the game to coaches in need of a makeover.

The majority of their articles and commentary tends to lean to the "Sex in the City" aspect of their show. Here's a few instances of what I mean:

  • Sex on Game Day: Does He Lock It Up Or Love You Down?
  • 7 Phrases To Yell If You Don't Follow Hockey (as a side note, if you actually understand hockey, this one will make you shake your head in disbelief. I don't think I've ever heard a hockey fan in person actually yelling "Attack!" or "Use the boards!" while watching. "Shoot" on the other hand...)
  • Haute Hockey: The NHL's Best And Worst Dressed List
  • Truthfully, I thought for a while there I was reading Cosmopolitan, not a sports commentary website. The part that irritates me is not that this exists, because this would absolutely fit for some female sports fans, but really that they try to speak for ALL female sports fans. I know plenty of female sports fans that actually care more about Ryan Suter's free agency status than how his butt looks, and this type of female sport fan isn't represented in While The Men Watch's commentary or content.

    After the jump, Erin and I will give more opinions on why this is irritating as female hockey fans.

    Know what would be more original to me than having two women talking about superficial parts of the hockey game instead of trying to explain the game to females that don't understand it yet? How about female commentators that ACTUALLY understand what is going on in the game? This whole alternate broadcast just comes across as another reinforcement that hockey is a "man's game" and another reason I'm actually questioned more intensely on my knowledge of the game as a woman.

    I went to a restaurant to watch the game a few weekends ago, and I asked the manager to put hockey on. His response to me was "What do YOU know about hockey?" My answer started with "Well, you have the Phoenix Coyotes in the West going up against Los..." and he says "Well, you know more than me! I didn't even know Phoenix had a team!" And yet, I'm the one being questioned about my hockey knowledge because I happen to wear high heels?! What is so hard to comprehend about a woman that actually knows the rules of the game, what's happening in the broader hockey world (not just the local team) and can speak intelligently about it?

    There are those of us that watch the game because we actually like it, and this alternate broadcast infers that the women watching are only doing so because the man in their life is watching - a presumption that hits me the wrong way. I love to see hockey teams trying to reach out to the female audience, I just feel the CBC hit the wrong messaging on this one. I asked fellow female staff writer Erin Bolen for her take on the show:

    Erin: I can't decide what I think of this show other than it's stupid and cringe-worthy from a niche network, let alone a major one.

    On one hand, I appreciate that there is a contingent of significant others out there, male and female, that might want to get a little dose of hockey talk to understand their boyfriend, girlfriend, wife or husband while not being lost in the babble about who came through the ranks playing for the Portland WinterHawks. But the title and the blather on the website doesn't appear to be aimed at that group.

    I find this quote on their blog almost as insulting as the name of the show: "Co-Hosts Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso created WhileTheMenWatch doing their own version of sports commentary that women actually want to hear." That's amazingly insulting considering that I don't give a flip about "Top 10 Elimination Excuses and What They Say About Him," and "Five Sex Games For the Hockey Season." To presume what I do or do not want to talk about in sports just because of my gender is the definition of sexist.

    I think there's a concept in there that could be teased out in a non-insulting way, but you're right, the presentation for this one just reinforces the "vapid female who tries to like sports but doesn't really understand it" stereotype.

    What do you think about this alternate broadcast for the Stanley Cup Finals? Would you listen? Why or why not?

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