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Ladies, the Men of America Would Like You to Shut Up About Sports

Ladies, the Men of America Would Like You to Shut Up About Sports

 

Written by Alyssa Rosenberg

After Gisele got— I think understandably—upset about the Patriots’ inability to catch some key passes during the Super Bowl, the Giants Brandon Jacobs, who would you think would gleefully agree with her, wants her to know that “She just needs to continue to stay cute and shut up.” Because ladies couldn’t possibly have a valid opinion about sports, or investment in the game of football other than to be totally supportive arm candy for their dream quarterback husbands, amirite? But it’s all part of a larger culture that sends hugely confusing messages about how women are supposed to talk—or not talk—about sports.

Take the role of the sideline reporter. I don’t think it’s a problem for sideline reporters to be attractive—being physically attractive doesn’t inherently mean you can’t be intelligent, and television reporting of all kinds is one of the few professions where men have to meet at least some of the same physical beauty standards as women. But I think that sports networks and teams have created an environment where even intelligent female sideline reporters are treated as if they’re merely eye candy because there are enough cases where it’s impossible to imagine what other criteria a reporter was hired for other than her looks. And hiring in a way that suggests that appearance is the most important criteria gives the impression that either there aren’t qualified and attractive women available who can do things other than take rides on outfield trains and ask soft questions, or that even if said women exist, it doesn’t make sense to hire them to deliver the character fluff that is the designated role for women in sports commentary. If you’re hired (or expected) to be entertaining first and substantive as a bonus, people may react badly when you turn out to have ideas, or feel weirdly entitled to prioritize your role as an object of desire.

That kind of structural message means that within the context of sports, it’s apparently perfectly appropriate for men to behave in ways that women would be excoriated for. In a recent interview, Erin Andrews talked about dealing with harassment from “fans” and detractors alike. When the Cleveland Plain Dealer asked her “On the college campuses, in particular, how do you handle the goofus—or 10—who yells, ‘Erin, will you marry me?’” She said, “Unfortunately, it gets a lot nastier than that. It’s why I would never bring my father or a boyfriend to the game. I’ve had security guards who followed me and said, “It’s bad that you have to listen to this.” I tell them, “I don’t. I have earpieces.’” If a female fan got all gushy over an announcer or player, it would be taken as a sign of their unseriousness—there’s even Baseball Boyfriend , an app that lets women store picks in a “Little Black Book,” and instead of trades and pickups, treats players you shed as your “exes.” But apparently you can sexually harass Erin Andrews and still retain the impression that you’re totally focused on the substance of the game.

And this is how we get to Gisele. She couldn’t possibly be upset about the game because she’s come to care about football, in addition to caring that her husband is upset. She’s just a dumb broad who’s ventured out of the spot that’s designated for her: looking cute in the owners’ box. I wish I could say that Brandon Jacobs was an isolated sexist and a weirdly sore winner. But his comments about Gisele are in line with the primary role designated for women in sports commentary: look good, and don’t have inconvenient opinions.

This post was originally published by ThinkProgress.

 

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Ousted Homophobic Sexist Coach Gets To Be Guidance Counselor Instead

 

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Photo of Lindsay Czarniak from Keith Allison via flickr

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62 comments

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12:48PM PST on Feb 4, 2013

Ladies, just sit them in front of t.v., put a beer in their hand, and let them have their little gripe.
If women can be war correspondents, they sure as heck can comment on a stupid football match.

9:13PM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Women's sports and women's role in the male bastion that is most of the pro sports world has grown by leaps and bounds in my lifetime, but there is still a long way to go.

12:28AM PST on Feb 14, 2012

Okay, here it goes. It's not that men want us to "shut up about sports". But seriously? If a female sideliner is making herself out to be an "expert" reporter on football, make sure that you're not looking like you're more worried about breaking a nail.

For her to sound credible as a sports writer, look like one. Dress for the job, not some cream puff who could pass as the cheerleader. What, so we're not attractive unless we're in miniskirts and high heels? What's wrong with the tomboy look to go with the territory? Those of us athletic aren't good enough because we can't win the Miss America crown? Huh. I'd say that I can talk sports with most of the guys, and you know, my guy friends LIKE talking to me about sports.

Kind of like how if we get fashion advice from a gay man, we tend to accept it. But if a neanderthal who dresses in mangled clothes and flip-flops with socks wants to be upset with fashion news, he needs to just drink his beer and be quiet. Does that make more sense now?

10:01PM PST on Feb 13, 2012

I was about to comment on the misleading headlines that Care2 writers use to push your buttons, but then I remembered that I did recently attend a meeting of every man in America, and we all did indeed agree that we wanted women to shut up about sports. Every one of us wants every one of you to shut up. No, there's nothing manipulative about that headline.

11:45AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

WAY TOO MUCH TESTOSTERONE!!!

4:06AM PST on Feb 13, 2012

Thanks for the article.

9:21PM PST on Feb 12, 2012

Shell we face reality, here?
One of the last bastions, of male physical superiority, is 'sports'. They, completely, realize that they can defeat us in this arena. They are scared to death, that we may be able to defeat them in any other way.
Guess what ladies.. I don't prefer to live without men; personally, I like the companionship.
However, we can continue procreation, without them, and that scares them to death. That is their reason for acting out in a negative fashion.

7:39PM PST on Feb 12, 2012

I agree with James C... the title is a little... sexist.
I know many men in the United States who value the opinion of women about sports. It's not cool to paint them all with the same brush. Maybe the sexism of the title was intended, but still...

5:36PM PST on Feb 12, 2012

I personally like NFL football, I could care less about college football or any baseball or basketball. I do enjoy watching extreme sports.

5:28AM PST on Feb 12, 2012

Don't most boys grow out of, "This is only for boys-girls can't play" at about er... 12 years old?

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