Friday, July 24, 2009

Andrews episode: Setback for women in sports media? Not really

I received an email from a college student working as a sports writer for the Cape Cod Times this summer directing me to her blog post about the Erin Andrews incident. It was interesting to read the take of a young woman -- new to the profession -- about the episode and reaction to it.
Nicole writes that her reaction has been "complicated" -- and I would concur that she isn't alone. The incident is complex on many levels because it involves a high-profile woman, who has been marketed at least in part on sex appeal, covering sports. More importantly, the incident and the reaction to it clearly point to the difficulty we still have, culturally, with how to position and accept women in the sporting environment. Scholar Margaret Duncan has written extensively about the ways female athletes have been trivialized and sexualized, and I suggest her typology of female athletes can be used to understand the way female sideline reporters are also "put in their place." Unfortunately, the Andrews incident was an ugly, taken-to-the-extreme, extension of the way women in the sports arena have been treated for a long time. Look at the trivialized way Andrews and others have been presented over the years --are we really so surprised at what has happened?
In her blog post, Nicole writes about her own experience with harassment and discrimination and goes on to express her anger at "the way female sports journalists are perceived."
She adds about the Andrews incident: "It’s like a 30-year setback."
Unfortunately, Nicole, it's not really a setback. We weren't as far ahead as you might have hoped and believed.

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