How TV views women in sports- editorial

492/492 01 Feb 90  22:08:04
From:   Kim Storment
To:     Docile Jim_brady
Subj:   How TV Views Women Athletes
 Was "Re: Horror"
 DJ> KS: I have an editorial ... I could post ... [sportscasters comments on 
 DJ> male anatomies vs comments on female anatomies, I guess] 
 DJ> YAIZ.  Post away, please {We both apparently share a rather callous 
 DJ> indifference towards sports :-)} 
Glamour editorial "Champions or Cheesecake?" (1989 - probably around the summer 
Olympics; I didn't write the date on it)
"Would you believe your ears the next time you were watching TV sports, you 
heard: 'Greg Louganis - that charming smile, those tight buns... and he can 
dive, too!' Or 'Andre Agassi makes the point, his blond locks bouncing.' Or
'ALberto Salazar is a marathoner with a Tom Cruise look.'
"Ridiculous, outrageious, even sexist, right? But this is how sports
commentary often sounds when *women* are competing. Appearance is emphasized,
often at the expense of athletic performance. AND WHAT IS EVEN WORSE IS, A LOT
"Margaret Carlisle Duncan and Cynthia A. Hasbrook, professors of human kinetics 
at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, analyzed transcripts of televised 
male and female sports events, and were surprised at how much they somehow 
didn't hear - or catch - at first. 'Many times, it's not that obvious. But
it's there - an offhand comment, a negative or stereotypical remark, such as 
referring to women basketball players as "pretty,"' says Duncan. 'What has
pretty got to do with making points?' 
"And when a female athlete comes along who plays the appearance game, the media 
has a field day. Case in point: Florence Griffith Joyner. No way are we
against personal expression, but Flo-Jo runs the risk of being remembered in 
sports history primarily for her long nails, flowing hairstyles and one-legged 
running suits rather than for being the fastest woman in the world. (Quick,
name any of the three events in which she won a gold medal.)
"Most of the appearance-oriented remarks about women athletes come from male 
sports commentators. No surprise there. Duncan thinks they are not
intentionally sexist. 'It's the way our believe system works - these long held
stereotypes just bubble up from the subconscious.'
"Listen to Jim Lampley's comments about Grete Waitz during the coverage of the 
1986 New York City Marathon: 'She cooks and sews and washes clothes just like 
most wives do.' Fortunately, commentator Kathrine Switzer (herself a former
marathoner) was there to add: 'But also she joined the Norwegian Olympic
Committee and works in a health clinic.'
"This exchange is an example of how women in the media are helping to bring 
about changes in sports coverage - they're reminding their co-workers how 
female athletes should be viewed. 'It wouldn't have done any good to whine or
to call my co-anchor sexist on camera,' says Switzer. 'My responsibility as a
feminist and a journalist was to educate the audience. And as a team player, I
had to give Jim the benefit of the doubt.'
"Commentators are only the *visible* part of the network team. Directors and
producers can be even more influential in what you see and hear about a sports 
event. 'During the first woman's marathon in the 1984 Olympics, Gabriela
Anderson struggled to finish, paralyzed by heat exhaustion,' Switzer recalls.
'I wanted to point out that men also suffered heat exhaustion, that Henry March 
collapsed after the 3000-meter steeplechase. The director wanted me to keep
quiet, to play up the drama.'
"There are glimmers of hope. And sports-women often help their own cause by
the way they respond to TV reporters' questions. In the 1986 New York City
Marathon, directors reserved a large segment for an interview with supermodel 
Kim Alexis, who was competing. Introduced as a figure of glamour and asked
such questions as 'Do you think they expect to see you run in a bathing suit?' 
and 'How in the world can you come out here and run in a marathon?' (because 
she had given birth seven months earlier), [Alexis] did herself - and all women 
- proud with her answers. 'I certainly hope not!' [Alexis] replied to the
first question. And she outlined her training program, prefacing her remarks
by noting, 'I just made it a personal goal to get back out, and it got me back 
in shape.' [Alexis] played within the system and got her point across.
It's up to all of us - participants and spectators - to keep up the good work.