In a column published this morning, longtime journalist Eric Deggens addresses the lack of attention paid to a new study that empirically verifies what women's sports fans have suspected: Despite Title IX and the soaring numbers of girls and women participating in sports, mainstream coverage of women's sports continues to diminish.
Deggens rightly points out that the study has generally been greeted with apathy. He also rightly points out that media organizations have an obligation, based on their responsibility to address what he calls "an essential journalism failure," to provide fair, plentiful coverage of women's sports.
Of course, he's right.
I suggest, however, that blame the lack of women's sports coverage cannot be placed solely on journalistic organizations. Deggens seems to dismiss what he called "insulting rationalizations" for the lack of coverage, including "this is what the sports audience wants."
Unfortunately, because of the role (entertainment) and the values (masculinity) that we've placed on spectator sports as a culture, sports coverage -- even though considered "news" in many respects(on newscasts, in newspapers)-- tends to be much more audience driven. The powerful, unquestioned association of sports with masculine values has a negative impact on the potential of women's sports fandom to flourish on a mass scale.
In other words, lack of women's sports coverage a cultural problem -- not one that can be blamed solely on media organizations.
The solution is not as easy as "build it, and they will come." Fans won't come in the numbers media organizations see as sustainable until we, as a culture, move away from adhering to gender norms that make the sidelining of women in sports seem "common-sense" -- drawing nothing more than a yawn when it is pointed out to us.
-- M. Hardin