The old “you play like a girl” insult made a comeback today, courtesy of the Chicago Tribune. As part of its regular poster series, the newspaper depicted the Chicago Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup Finals opponent Chris Pronger as wearing a figure skating dress with the accompanying text “Chrissy Pronger: Looks like Tarzan, skates like Jane.”
It’s hard to believe such a blatantly sexist image would be given the green light in today’s post-Title IX era, but as research has shown, such discourse is part of the accepted culture in sports newsrooms, where sexist and mysoginist jokes are often considered “normal” and “routine.”
The poster itself uses ideology about the inferiority of women’s sports to suggest that Pronger and the Flyers are also inferior. The trivialization of women’s athletics in mainstream sports media is a common trope in research, but studies have shown that increased gender diversity in sports staffs may affect content. As one recent study found, when sports staffs include more women in gatekeeping positions, coverage of women’s sports tends to more often reject stereotypical frames of female athletes. Although that study focused on the representation of women’s sports, the bigger idea is that more diverse staffs may lead to more thoughtful coverage.
Considering women still are vastly underrepresented in sports newsrooms, and that clearly sexist imagery and discourse continues to advance past myriad gatekeepers, this latest mistake by the Trib offers another compelling reason for the increased gender diversification of sports media staffs.