Women in the Man Cave

I was at the gym the other day and there are a number of TV’s there and as is often the case ESPN Sports Center was on.  I couldn’t help but notice the difference between the male and female anchors.  The females standing in there skirts or dresses, never below knee length, always wearing heels.  In fact one anchor, Nicole Briscoe, was recently complimented with “respect for being pregnant while also wearing heels”.  Alternatively, the men were well dressed and looking comfortable.  It is of course a massive double standard and sports isn’t the only place where such a double standard exists, but I couldn’t help but thinking even if we have a standard of beauty that we say we want to appear on TV such a standard is not evenly applied to men.   Men aren’t forced to wear tight fitting clothes, clothes that actually might be restrictive or uncomfortable.  When you look at the the bios of all the ESPN staff, anchors, reporters and columnists, you can see through these many pages a trend in the women all being fairly attractive and reasonably young unless they are a very famous former player.  What’s clear is that when you look at the men there is no similar standard.  While they all may be required to be smartly dressed the standard deviation in age, height, and, in my estimation, attractiveness is far greater.  Women must fit a narrow mold, while men are allowed to represent the diversity of body shapes, facial features, ages, and levels of balding.

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Yes those heels probably are uncomfortable. Pregnant or not.

More disturbingly than this is the level of vitriol that often women face who are involved with sports writing and sports reporting.  I recently posted this video on Facebook but I thought it was important enough to post on my blog as well, because I think it’s important that we be vigilant about counteractive the horrible comments these women received.  This video was hard to watch, and that’s what tells me that it might be worth it for a lot of people to watch it.  The comments these women received reminded me a lot of the type of comments that Anita Sarkeesian has received by trying to introduce a more balanced female perspective into the video game world.  It seems to me that sports are still seen as a male domain, and intruding on that domain has costs to women who try to do so.  If you aren’t pretty to look at, you shouldn’t be there.  And if you try to be more than just a pretty face, like have a mind, then you are going to be sorry.  This seems to be the overall message.  Just anecdotally I tried to look at a couple of the female profiles on twitter to see I could see additional evidence, and what I found is that horrible comments, like the ones in the video happen but are rare.  However, what you also see are plenty of comments objectifying the reporter/anchor.  Comments about how hot she is, or her legs, and as you can imagine worse at times.

I try to focus on the progress that has been made and try to remain hopeful.  Double standards are getting less in the music and entertainment industry.  Sports for women are gaining more popularity and more air time.  I try to remind myself that 20 years ago, seeing a female at all reporting or as an anchor on a sports show was unheard of unless it was a sport which actually involved women.  There seems to be these last bastions of maleness in our culture which is being fought against with all the misogynistic vitriol they can muster.  Some might argue that it is the internet that allows these people to express such horrible words in a largely anonymous fashion, and maybe that’s true to a certain extent, but it also exposes such behavior as well.  I have a hard time believing that such attitudes are a function of the internet, but rather just a larger forum of expression for attitudes that already existed.  This video reminds us that even if we aren’t saying the words to someone’s face they still have the same impact, and I also hope that this video reminds men to pay attention.  These men had an extremely hard time saying these things to the women, and it is likely that they aren’t the type of men who say such things, but they can be part of the solution which is to call out such despicable and hurtful behavior.  Not to be chivalrous or to gain favor with an attractive sports personality on, but simply because it is the right thing to do.  Do it equitably, to all women who are trying to make a living doing something they enjoy, whether it is on social media or a night out with the boys.  And maybe you won’t change any minds, but to be apathetic to such attitudes towards women is the same as compliance in my opinion.  And even if it is only words, we all know what a short road from words to cari_champion_espn_by_lowerrider-d8ry2f0actions there is.  I’m not saying twitter attacks are always the best way to combat these attitudes, but I encourage men to take up the mantle of fighting these attitudes in a manner that seems most effective to them.  At the same time maybe we can also change the standards by which women are placed into these roles.  So it’s not just about what they wear and how pretty they are, but by their passion and knowledge for sports (or whatever subject they are passionate about).  Perhaps if we only want a woman on TV for her pretty face and tight clothing, is it any wonder that so many men only see them as being valuable for such superficial qualities?

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9 thoughts on “Women in the Man Cave

  1. I have so much to say about this I don’t even know where to begin. The double standards are horrific. If I told you some of the verbal abuse I took as a bartender, it would curl your hair. If I responded with a witticism or a barb, I was a “frigid b***h”, “a FemiNazi”, a “c**t”, a “f***ing dyke”. I used to be an executive assistant for three different men – one of them was kind, one of them never once looked me in the eye and kept his gaze transfixed to my chest, and the other lived to make me cry, meaning he would do everything in his power to intimidate and belittle me. One of the salesmen there regularly rubbed my shoulders and whispered in my ear while I was at my monitor.

    Today, I’m still amazed at what men AND women will say about my breasts on Facebook – people I respect! One woman I know, who I consider a friend, made a comment on a photo in which I was wearing a cute dress that displayed (apparently way too much of) my cleavage and made the comment, “I didn’t even notice you had a face.”. Seriously? It would never, EVER occur to me to make a comment about anyone’s looks unless it was a sincere compliment that didn’t focus on sexuality. It’s the old “well, if you hadn’t DRESSED that way…”. Ummm…no. This isn’t MY problem that the first thing that occurs to someone is to make a comment on my breasts because they lack creativity, tact, and kindness. Just like it’s not a woman’s fault that she was raped because she decided to wear a skirt that was north of the knee.

    I feel for women in media. There are landmines everywhere. Recently, a local anchor here went public with someone’s terrible comments to her after she posted a picture of her looking exhausted with her newborn baby. Really? Trolls have nothing better to do than attack a nursing mother because she doesn’t look like the Photoshopped version of her promoted by Channel 13? http://whotv.com/2016/04/14/channel-13-anchors-response-to-snarky-message-going-viral/

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    1. Thanks for your comments Sarah. It really does boggle the mind why someone would literally go out of there way, not watching the show or knowing the person in any way to write a snarky letter just to criticize a new mother for the way she looks. It shows more than just ignorance but a maliciousness of intent which is frightening. Sports was just an example, but as you pointed out it happens in many places, and it’s amazing how many men seem completely oblivious to what women go through. Perhaps they think these are rare isolated incidences, but they are most certainly not and I try to encourage men to really pay attention to these things. I have not always been perfect at really paying attention either. As I’ve argued before I think that a lot of people don’t think about how much these comments accumulate, and that cumulative impact is stronger than any one individual comment.

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  2. HPP4

    The problem with ESPN’s double-standard is much bigger than the female anchors having to be beautiful. If you pay attention to the stories they cover, it’s rarely about the sport and its mechanics. Instead the female anchors “report” on team’s morale, locker room buzz, etc. This type of behavior creates greater barriers for women who want to be taken seriously in any male-dominated industry as they have to work harder to prove they know their craft. For a long time when covering women’s college sports ESPN would highlight the athletes hobbies instead of their majors and GPAs like did for the men’s college sports. I’m not sure if the media is driving personal attitudes and perspectives or if individual preferences are driving the media, but the cycle needs to be stopped and the problem needs to be fixed.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great points Harrison. I was actually noticing that in some of the twitter comments about the female anchors. They were complaining about the content of what they talked about, but if they aren’t getting opportunities to give real analysis, or if they aren’t hiring their female anchors to give expert analysis then that is also a problem.

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  3. Swarn, when I watched that video yesterday, I was not the least bit surprised to see such pejorative, dehumanizing language. What did surprise me, however, was that the men seemed surprised. How is that possible? Semantic dehumanization and disdain towards women has been going on throughout recorded history, and I’ve spent many hours and years researching why this is so.

    William Brennan Ph.D, did a comprehensive study exposing this dark history of beliefs, practices, and attitudes that continue to prevail throughout many if not most cultures in the 21st Century. I wept after I read it. Based on my own personal experiences, including my career, it seems that not much has changed.

    Female Objects of Semantic Dehumanization and Violence

    ABSTRACT
    “Now and throughout history, pejorative language has played a major role in the longstanding victimization of women. This study employs a comprehensive classification of degrading categories — deficient human, subhuman, animal, parasite, disease, inanimate object, and waste product — as a framework for analyzing the demeaning words invoked to justify man’s inhumanity to women. It concludes with observations about how this pernicious anti-female lexicon of derogation is part and parcel of a pervasive seamless shroud of anti-life rhetoric called upon to rationalize violence against other victims in contemporary society and in times past.”

    Dr. Brennan further states:

    “The most comprehensive explanation is the centrality of patriarchal ideology. Because the concept of patriarchy is based on the notion of male superiority, it could well serve as a foundation for the many theories that attempt to account for the deplorable treatment of women insofar as the belief in male supremacy is a major precondition for perpetuating many types of oppression against females whether they be discrimination, denial of opportunity, or physical coercion.

    […the ideology of male supremacy is so deeply ingrained in many societies and cultures that it cannot help but have a profound impact on how men view and therefore treat women.

    The ideology of male dominance and preference — a set of beliefs which maintains that men are stronger, smarter, better, and more important than women–has spawned a host of words and expressions intended to demean and vilify females. The derogatory language in turn functions to solidify the ideology. This in effect sets in motion a vicious self-perpetuating cycle in which ideology and terminology continually reinforce one another.”

    I doubt I’ll see major change in attitudes in my lifetime, and perhaps, even in my daughter’s lifetime, but it is always encouraging to see posts like this. As Dr. Steven Taylor noted in a Psychology Today article about why men oppress women:

    “What sane species would treat half of its members — and the very half which gives birth to the whole species — with such contempt and injustice?”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed Victoria and thank you for your comments. In addition to the impact it has on men, the indoctrination on women has many women simply complicit in that oppression simply because they feel that this is how the world is. The fact that women are able to rise above it and make changes (however slowly) is impressive and gives me hope that the march towards gender equality will continue in a positive direction.

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  4. Well, ESPN certainly knows their audience. Obviously that isn’t justification for demeaning or objectifying women. But the problem isn’t ESPN–they’re filling a niche in a market. I can guarantee you that if data showed that the majority of ESPN viewers were feminists, you’d see changes real quick.

    The problem is that such a market exists in the first place. Despite the advances you mentioned, sexist attitudes still abound in our society. Boys and girls are still raised and educated according to certain gender and sexual stereotypes.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know…I always try to put a little hope in though. lol And yeah, I agree. This ended being a lot of the discussion for this blog post when I posted it on my facebook page. It’s less an indictment of CNN and more on us as a society. Although there is no reason why ESPN couldn’t be moderately more progressive. What I noticed was a lot of people complaining about the female anchors being dumb, and largely because they never talked about anything substantive. This was the subject of one of the comment above. So one might be surprised at least that even if the woman still had to fit certain superficial standards visually you could still allow her to have a brain and you might actually get good responses.

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  5. Great post Swarn. Those hyper-testosterone sports male-types (the NFL is one of the worst) are another single example of poor family-human-values and parenting, followed by either society turning a blind-eye, deaf-ear, silent-mouth… or worse propogating the sexism and abuse. But… to help add to your vision of hope, what has been taught can be UNtaught!
    Though the video subject is not exactly your subject here, it is another aspect of abuse. These boys in this video demonstrate what good/GREAT parenting and family-HUMAN-values can achieve if implemented from toddler-adolescent ages to and beyond adulthood! Then just add any and all sexist words and remarks, draw clear, firm, and accountable lines, and the chances of permanent success sky-rocket! … 🙂

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