I think it’s safe to say that many men harbor a dislike for female sports.
They don’t talk about it.
They don’t read the boxscores first thing in the morning.
They’d rather endure a 24-hour Joanie Loves Chachi marathon than walk across the street to watch, say, Sue Bird and Tina Charles bounce a basketball, and there are reasons for that, foremost being that Sue and Tina don’t do it as well as LeBron and Steph.
That’s always been the main bugaboo for men re female sports. They consider it second-rate, or lower, worthy of only their contempt, even without watching it.
I can’t say how many studies have been undertaken to support that notion, but there’s been at least one, conducted by Durham University, the University of Leicester and the University of South Australia, which sought to pick the brains of 1,950 male U.K. footy fans. Once the fact-finders had sifted through the information gathered, they concluded that the men could be slotted into three categories:
Covertly misogynistic 8%
Overtly misogynistic 68%
One Leeds United fan described women as “useless” at sports, while a West Ham supporter went half nutter about increased exposure on the telly:
“It now means there is too much women’s sport on the TV; no one really cares (about it). Women’s football in the media all the time, women’s golf on Sky and the men’s Euro tour on the red button. NETBALL ON SKY!!! The one thing that does irk me is Women’s Hour on Sky Sports News. No woman watches Sky Sports News! NO WOMAN! I honestly wish they’d just piss off out the spotlight. But it’s all PC bollocks nowadays.”
Right about now I should note that I began this essay by saying “many” men dislike female sports. Not most men. Not all men. “Many” men. And I remind you of that because I don’t want anyone going half-nutter on little, ol’ moi, claiming I’ve painted all men with the same stroke of the brush.
How many is “many,” I don’t know, because that’s like asking how high is high.
I do know this, though: If there’s one thing many men dislike more than watching female sports, it’s listening to women talk about men’s sports on TV.
Not all sports, mind you.
Men don’t seem to get their boxers in a bunch when Dottie Pepper tells them what’s wrong with Tiger Woods’ golf swing, nor do they find the sound of Cheryl Bernard’s voice irksome on TSN’s men’s curling coverage. Chrissie Evert and Martina Navratilova can discuss Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer all day long, and there’s nary a squawk of protest about their gender. Ditto Doris Burke on the National Basketball Association.
If, however, the topic is the National Hockey League, send the kiddies for cover in the root cellar and batten the hatches, because all hell is about to break loose.
I’m guessing Jennifer Botterill knew all about misogyny-spewing louts before this past weekend, but if she needed a reminder Twitter supplied it after her she-said, he-said exchange with fellow Hockey Night in Canada panelist Kevin Bieksa on Saturday (or as we used to call it as kids, Bath Night).
If you missed it, Bieksa was advocating for goon hockey, because of course he was. Botterill was passionately in favor of removing stone-age behavior and back-alley tactics from the game. It was a Bowling Green grad (finance) vs. a Harvard grad (psychology). But, for many, it was a former NHL player vs. a woman. Here are some of the comments directed toward Botterill on Twitter:
“This is men’s hockey not women’s. Why is Jennifer even there?”
“Go back to women’s hockey.”
“We don’t need women commenting on a man’s game.”
“If I wanted to listen to my Mom, I’d call her.”
“Go analyze women’s hockey.”
“She is the definition of a gender hire.”
“She is a girl. That’s the point. Why is she commenting on a man’s game when she isn’t a man?”
Lordy, I shudder to think what they’d be saying about Jennifer if she was female and lesbian.
Meanwhile, the many dozens of comments I read on Bieksa’s part in the gum-flapper on stupidity in hockey made zero mention of his gender as a bad thing. They called him a “dumbass” and suggested he’d taken too many whacks to the melon, but his dumbassness wasn’t linked to his gender.
Despite this evidence, many who walk among us insist a woman broadcasting men’s sports isn’t judged differently. As if.
Botterill was pooh-poohed for having the (apparent) bad manners to never play in the NHL. Those Olympic and world championships she won? Pfffffft. Her critics were only too happy to emphasize that she wore a cage to cover her face and played a brand of hockey that forbids body checking and earns you life without parole for fisticuffs. So unmanly. Thus, her opinion carries little to no heft. Again, as if.
I don’t need to star in a sitcom to know that Joanie and Chachi was rubbish. I didn’t need a bit part in Cool Hand Luke to know Paul Newman slayed it. I don’t need a song on the Billboard 100 to know the Beatles were brilliant and the Monkees were a novelty act. And it wasn’t necessary for Jen Botterrill to drop the mitts with Bob Probert before she could form an opinion on fighting and gong shows in the NHL.
I mean, how many men doing play-by-play on Hockey Night in Canada have gone dukes up with Tie Domi? Zero. How about Elliotte Friedman? He ever chew on Stu Grimson’s knuckles? Not unless he lost his mind at last call in a pub one night. Does that disqualify him from sharing his opinion on NHL ruffians?
As I have written, any female broadcaster is fair game for criticism. You don’t like Jennifer Botterill’s work? Fine. Say so. But the moment you make it about her gender you’ve lost the plot. Also the argument.