Double Standard Essay
Women of our time are beginning to break into this male dominated news industry. A recent survey from Ball State University showed that 99% of all broadcast newsrooms have female employees and that now women make up more than 40% of the total broadcast workforce (Papper, 2005). That same survey unfortunately showed that only 10% of local sports reporters are women and that 7% of local sports anchors are women (Sheffer, 2007). These numbers show that women are breaking into the broadcasting industry, but not necessarily into the sports industry.
Sports and sports broadcasting has typically been created by men, about men, and reported by men. Tuggle’s (1997) analysis of the effect of sportcaster gender on the proportion of men and women sports stories covered by ESPN’s SportsCenter and CNN’s Sports Tonight, found that despite an increase in female sports reporters, female athletes still receive only 5% of airtime. They believed that maybe with an increase in female sports reporters, there would then be an increase in the airtime of women’s athletics, but they were proven wrong.
The viewership for women’s sports did in fact increase, but the airtime was not significantly increased. Sheffer (2007) argues that when media ignore an element of society, it lessens the worth of that element within society as a whole (pg 4). With the lack of coverage of women’s sports, especially in a time now, where there is an increase in participation, this section of sports is belittled and will not be able to break the stereotypes placed on them. This, in fact, could be placed on the same level in regards to female sportscasters.
If these women are not getting the airtime and coverage they deserve, they are never going to break the stigma that is placed on them. The women’s sports that you do see getting a significant amount of coverage and airtime are individual sports where the women are seen as graceful and feminine. Sports like figure skating, golf, gymnastics and diving are labeled as the ones where the depiction of the female athletes is more acceptable and appealing to men. Dyer (1987) argued that sports media perpetuates this perception of male dominance in athletics to the exclusion of women.
This can also be applied to female sportscasters. These women are forced to downplay their femininity and portray these masculine qualities, which is why many early female sportscasters either quit the business all together, or changed to news casting where they did not have to alter their personality to succeed. In Neverson’s (2010) article, he analyzes a network in Canada that was set up to only air and broadcast women’s sports. In the fall of 2001, the WTSN (Women’s Television Sports Network) was launched in Canada. This was the first time a network has ever dedicated a 24-hour television network just for women’s sports.
Unfortunately, in the fall of 2003, WTSN had to stop broadcasting operations. The article focuses on the fact that the target market for television sports programming is the male population and right now, men are not being responsive to women’s athletics. Neverson (2010) explains that “the male audience is valuable not only because of its ability to reach a broad-ranging age demographic, but also because the historical development of television sport occurred in an era where males were targeted as primary household financial decision-makers” (pg 7).
There was a noticeable gain in viewership for women’s tennis, hockey and golf, but they were not gaining viewers that translated into year-round financial stability for the sports programming network. The focus of this article was to prove that there is not a market yet for women’s sports in the mainstream of sports programming yet. Why is it that men are willing to watch beautiful women on television report on masculine dominated sports like football, but not willing to actually watch these women play the sport?
There have been numerous accounts where women have gone for interviews where the directors have told them “he would hire a woman [sportscaster] over his dead body (Sports Illustrated, 1991). Many women in our generation have been turned down for jobs based on their gender alone. But, there is a flip side to this coin and that is the gorgeous women who are hired because they are women. Women are sometimes hired based on their attractiveness and grab the attention of the male audience. In 2000, Playboy Magazine ran a contest where the readers had to vote on “America’s Sexiest Sportscaster. This so-called contest shows the degradation of women and the use of women as sportscasters in the sense that they are just a sex symbol and not a professional. Sheffer (2007) ran a study where he submitted surveys to all the major news directors across the nation, asking them questions based on candidate quality issues, such as sports knowledge and on-air presence, between male and females in the hiring process. The main purpose of this survey was to uncover any stereotypes the directors had in regards to women’s sports and female sportscasters.
He found that overall, news directors did not believe that female sportscasters are held to a different standard than male sportscasters, but female news directors were significantly more likely than male news directors to believe that a double standard still exists (Sheffer, 2007). The study showed that some news directors prioritized looks over sports knowledge because viewers would accept a female sportscaster if she was a “beauty queen. ” It is extremely sad that women and men are held to completely different standards when it comes to sports broadcasting.
You will never see a male hired to report on the sidelines of football games just because he looks good on camera. If anything, it is the complete opposite. Take a look at Monday Night Football’s sportscasters, you have oversized, unattractive, older men reporting and doing play-by-plays for all the football games. Men are hired based on their knowledge of the game and of the sport, not based on how they look on television. This is not the case for women though, they are held to a completely different standard in our society today when it comes to the hiring process.
Nancy Etcoff’s book deals with the fact that looking good and beauty, does increase your survival value in the workforce (pg 37). In the broadcasting industry, it has been proven, that the more attractive women do prevail, but only for a short amount of time. Looks can only last a certain amount of time, which is why the careers of these attractive, young, women are so short lived. Their careers only last as long as their beauty lasts. After a certain amount of time, their sex appeal will start to dwindle.