WOMEN DON’T PLAY SPORT. APPARENTLY…

I like watching women’s sport. The Opals, Diamonds, Matildas, cyclists, athletes, skiers, surfers are not only good to watch, but they also do a lot of winning, which Aussies tend to like!  But if we read the ‘news’, it seems women don’t actually play sport.

I’ve surveyed the online sports stories of The Age to confirm my anecdotal views.  I waited till footie was out of the way to try to reduce any bias.  Over the week from 9-16 October,  there were 247 stories published involving a person, group or team or sport.  Of these,  231 (94%) were about men and only a miserable 16 (6%) were about women.  It’s a short survey period, but it accords with my expectations.  Actually it is even worse.  Women don’t play sport it seems…

I checked The Guardian Australia online sports over the same period.  Maybe a more international view might be more equitable I thought.  Actually the results there were even worse.  Only 5% of 172 stories were about women’s sport.  (Perhaps not surprising that there were more sports stories in the Aussie publication, but I did think an international perspective from a socially progressive international publication might have a wider field of writing.  Not so, it seems.)

Combined, these two results would suggest it is not about seasonality or seasons. Women must be playing sport somewhere on the planet! But not according to these august publications!!

Targets for women’s sports coverage?

They are talking about having targets for women in management, on boards and elsewhere. Perhaps we should seek some kind of equity in sports coverage.

Even the sports themselves are getting it in Australia. The W-League and WNBL have some of the best women in the world playing and being watched.  Netball crowds are exceeding some NRL and rugby union attendances.  Even the AFL is setting up a national women’s league now.

Would 20% – only 1 in 5 – be a reasonable short term expectation?  That’s more than triple the current percentage!  When I was a sports editor of a university student paper in the last century, we would have achieved that!

Why aren’t women complaining?

A very good question. Perhaps it is low on their very long list of equity grievances.  Yet one of the ways in which women in this society can be seen as equals is through the quality of their sport and particularly their international achievements and this ought to be covered, particularly by media which claim to be concerned with gender equity.

Many of the articles during a week are not even news. They are merely expectations of upcoming matches or events.  This is just speculation.  There is plenty of space to offer to women’s sport, especially for real results.  We should be proud of our champions and for those who strive to become champions. And, anyway, ‘space’ and ‘cost’ are not really relevant any more.  Many writers write for free (like me) or for very low cost.  You could publish 100 or 1,000 articles a day too, as there is no real ‘space’ to compete for, as there used to be in the printed newspaper.

Come on boys of the press! Have another look at what you are reporting in sports.  Do we really need 57 stories on expectations of the football draft and none on our current women champions??

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5 thoughts on “WOMEN DON’T PLAY SPORT. APPARENTLY…

  1. Having targets for some kind of equity in management and on boards makes sense because there’s equality in inherent skill between the different genders.

    However, in the context of sport, this is almost always not the case. Males are inherently better at sport than females.

    E.g., what is the lowest rank for a mens tennis player that would have a dispassionate betting agency giving favourable odds to said man if he played a match against the number one ranked womens tennis player?

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    • Hi Sam. Glad you liked this. But the ‘targets’ in this case is about targets for percentage of articles published about men and women, not their skill levels. Should there be equity in the percentage of articles published? Just because men are stronger doesn’t mean their sport is necessarily more interesting. I probably didn’t explain myself as clearly as I had hoped.

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      • Hi Graham. Thanks for your reply. I enjoy your blog.

        I was implying that womens and mens sport’s media representation should indeed be proportionate to the skill and athleticism, and that the skill and athleticism in sport is the fundamental measure of its merit.

        But, your reply (specifically, “Just because men are stronger doesn’t mean their sport is necessarily more interesting.”) prompted me to think of two things:
        (1) My childhood memories of Sunday afternoons spent with my mum going to watch the men’s Nunawading Spectres CBA basketball team play. I really loved watching this sport, even though it wasn’t the highest level of basketball skill and athleticism available (the CBA was kind of like the reserves for the NBL). I remember checking the small-print results section of the newspaper’s sports section after the Spectres’ away games that I didn’t attend to get the results and perhaps the top points scorers–even though points scored is, as you know, not the best proxy for how well a player played, I’d love seeing the names of my favourite Spectres players (such as the young Smith twins Darren and Jason, and the brilliant USAmerican imports Steve De Laveaga, Mike Kelly and Jerome Lee, and many others) printed in the newspaper. I would have read articles about the CBA if they were there.
        (2) Also, you prompted me to recall the recent ANZ Championship Grand Final that I watched on TV: one of the greatest sporting events I’ve ever witnessed. Perhaps more sportsfans would have had the pleasure of watching it if womens sport was given more media attention. Romelda Aiken (who happened to be, in my opinion, best on court in this remarkable 2015 Grand Final game) and Natalie Medhurst (who plays against Aiken when Australia play Jamaica) are women, and they’re both in a small group of people that make up my most favourite sportspeople of recent years.

        So, I think I was too hasty in my original comment; and, upon reflection, I now think what I was trying to communicate there is essentially wrong.

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  2. Graham, et al.
    Title IX in USA requires equal opportunity in Athletic programs at the Highschool and College level for women and men. It started slowly but Title IX has built a sound foundation. When you look at the Minneapolis or St Paul papers you find coverage from tennis, golf, pro-basketball (MN Lynx won a 3rd championship in 5 yrs) & at Highschool & collegiate level, hockey (ice or field: “real women skate”), volleyball, field & track ( not sure how the Jenner’s fit in?), swimming, squash, softball (fast pitch), La Crosse, cage fights, boxing, roller derby, etc etc.
    it seems to me that the rest of the globe need to catch up! Not sure how one would dribble between their legs in the Middle East?
    My Aunt lettered in BBall in the 1930’s at Brown University!
    I guess the ladies are doing okay here as is the coverage, or lack of it in women’s pro Beach (Sand) Volleyball 2 woman game!
    All in all, here the news seems to cover all sports regardless of gender.

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    • Thanks for your comment Gary. Equal opportunity in the programs doesn’t require equal opportunity in media comment. Nevertheless, your comment, and another from the US, suggests that there is more equity in the media coverage there than here in Australia and perhaps elsewhere in the world. The US has been the leader in gender equity in many fields, so hopefully your comments on media coverage there indicate we will improve our coverage here. Would be interesting too to do an article count in your publications to see whether your ad hoc view is supported by the evidence of the actual coverage.

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