Saturday, November 06, 2010

Images of the female sports fan

A small but growing body of research is growing around the female sports fan --especially relevant in light of ESPN's plans for its "W" brand. Sports media scholar Lawrence Wenner talked about the the commodified female sports fan this morning at the annual meeting of the North American Society for the Sociology of Sport in San Diego. Men more clearly fit the fan archetype; women are generally cast as babes or cheerleaders as fans. Female fans are posed as fans, naturally, of male sports. Wenner used his "dirt" theory applied to the female sports fan. He looked at and found about 50 ads featuring female sports fans. They were cast as tokens, shoppers or as "authentic," according to Wenner. Token ads rely on old stereotypes; so do ads that feature the female-as-shopper. The " authentic" fan images, according to Wenner, extend the role of the female fan. Spots connect other areas of the culture to sport; male "dirt" is embedded in the spots. Some spots challenge stereotypes, using cultural dirt typically ascribed to men. One example is a Reebok ad that uses traditional understandings of domestic work and gender and turns such notions around in the ad. Wenner points out that such ads are still problematic--but they do allow the possibility of expanding the role and image of female sports fans. There is still a lingering climate of male hegemony in these narratives, though, he said. Female storytellers need to have more power in crafting sports narratives, Wenner added.
--Marie Hardin

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