We’re watching women’s sports wrong. This was the main point of C&IS junior news media major Martha Glen Sease in the latest installment of Tide Talks, a presentation series in which students at The University of Alabama share their experiences, trials and successes during their time at school.
According to Sease, women’s sports don’t get a fair shake because there are assumptions made by sports fans about what sports are supposed to be. The presence of the male hormone testosterone means that men’s sports involve athletes that, as a general rule, are faster and stronger than their female counterparts. It’s the assumption that “faster and stronger means better” that frames the whole conversation surrounding men’s sports versus women’s sports.
“People assume that women’s sports are boring because they have more estrogen,” said Sease. “Now, what fails to be taken into account is that the presence of extra estrogen means that there are other advantages women have such as increased flexibility and endurance.”
Sease says that we don’t enjoy women’s sports as we could because we’re watching it through a lens that is biased toward speed and strength. Furthermore, when discussing women’s sports, the conversation often centers around the athlete’s personal life or sense of fashion. When athletic ability is praised, it typically fits back into those two categories—speed and strength.
Citing research conducted by C&IS professor Andy Billings (Journalism and Creative Media), Sease notes that the conversation in the sports booth is part of the issue. Commentators for men’s sports use more direct language when announcing the game and women’s sports commentators use more indirect language, which reinforces the “faster and stronger is better” viewpoint.
“Think about this, if you turn on ESPN and it’s a sport you’re unfamiliar with, who do you rely on? The commentator,” said Sease. “If you’re a casual fan of women’s sports and you turn on the TV and the commentators aren’t talking about the technicality, the grace, the physicality in a different way than they do men’s sports… you have no shot at fully enjoying these games.”
So, how do we fix the problem? Sease suggests three ways that sports fan can learn to better appreciate women’s sports. Have conversations about women’s sports, watch women’s sports through the different lens she describes—appreciating grace, technicality and endurance—and follow people who report on women’s sports.
A good place to start might be following Martha Glen Sease on Twitter (@mgsease) and listening to her host the “Student Section” on Thursday evenings at 7 p.m. for WVUA 90.7FM.
You can view Sease’s Tide Talk here.
Founded by UA students in 2013, Tide Talks is a student organization at The University of Alabama that showcases student triumphs and experiences through engaging speaker series. It’s real talk, real life, and real students. To learn more about Tide Talks, visit their website at tidetalks.org or visit their YouTube page here.