Sexism in the Sports Media Sandbox

Sexism in the Sports Media Sandbox

I was all set to write about how boring the off season has been for the Chicago baseball scene, especially the White Sox then the whole crazy radio guy thing happened.  Somehow some guy in Miami complaining about being bullied is the fault of women in sports media and sports culture, meaning fandom and such activities.  I probably would not have even caught wind of this old trope if it weren’t for a sports writer, baseball writer really he doesn’t seem to venture beyond the diamond, didn’t decide to defend this radio fellow.  Since then, a great many people have found it necessary to let the baseball writer know how wrong he is for defending this radio guy, pretty much saying yes, radio guy is stupid but he shouldn’t lose his job for being stupid.  I get the writer-guy’s opinion and sorta, kinda, share it, but unfortunately, people get fired for being stupid all the time and I don’t see why the radio guy should be spared under the proviso “we all do stupid shit.”  True, we do, but it isn’t enough to insure we can’t get fired for it.

Even so, while baseball writer guy is being all Voltaire for radio guy, I find what radio guy said far more interesting than whether he can say it (of course he can, I do believe a monthly seminar on the first amendment would be a great service to the nation) or if it offended anybody (of course it did) and whether or not people should be offended (of course they can be offended and should be.)  No, radio guy’s rant is a perfect example of yet another “crisis of masculinity” that we as a culture have been worrying over for at least the last 100 years.  So many of the themes remain constant: women have no place in the world of men, women are sissifying/softening/feminizing men, and this is a crisis for western civilization, or the very least the USA.  If it isn’t women entering the work force (and let’s be clear, middle class white women entering the work force; poor women and women of color [almost always poor in the twentieth century] have been working consistently since, oh… ever) it’s women taking too much control of raising young boys (read the 1942 “classic” Generation of Vipers for a laugh riot) and also entering into the public sphere, especially men’s entertainments, which is squarely where we find radio guy.

It would be hard to describe how immature and childish radio guy sounded during his rant (and no, no more links to the audio, it has gotten enough traffic) we only need to look at his metaphor for the sports world.  It is his “sandbox.”  The full line is, “I'm willing to share my sandbox, as long as you remember: You're in my box. I didn't get into yours. I didn't all of a sudden slip into your world. You came into mine.” You came into my sandbox! I get to make the rules! You stay over there, with your girl cooties! You can be a sideline reporter! You can’t play with my trucks, cuz trucks are for boys! GAWD you’re ruining everything!

Now radio guy could have taken a more traditional track, say from the early 1900s and discussed, like men of that era did, that the world of men was too rough and coarse for a woman’s sensibilities, how the man’s world was vulgar, while women are more refined.  That it was a woman’s duty to remain unsullied by such things as politics to make sure the nation had some sense of morality and purpose.  Radio guy instead basically says, you get to have babies! That is your job! Or as he puts it, “This is guy's stuff. This is men's stuff. And I don't expect women to understand men's stuff anymore than they should expect me to be able to relate to labor pains.” I understand sports because I have a penis! A person must have a penis to understand sports and sports culture! You go have babies! GET OUT OF MY SANDBOX!

Taking this apart a little more, because it is all too common for men like radio guy, to compare apples and oranges, or to be more precise uteruses and brains.  Child birth is a totally biological process, one that can only be experienced by women.  Sports on the other hand, especially watching, reporting, commenting on them is not.  Attempting to imbue sports with a sex-specific need for understanding is ludicrous.  To put it another way, a Y chromosome is not needed to understand a zone defense or a squeeze play.  Nor does one need testicles in order to have an opinion about a coaching decision or to criticize a player’s performance.  Just to help radio guy out, child birth is to woman as <_____> is to man:

a)     Sports

b)     Trucks

c)      Guns

d)     Testosterone coursing through one’s body making you smell and causing all kinds of weird shit.

Now, you might want to say, “But Kev, pro athletes are men (we won’t get into pro women athletes) and doesn’t another man understand his fellow men better?”  On a certain level, sure.  I know the pains of razor burn and ball sits, the indignities of ear hair and belly sweat and the joys of peeing off of a very tall place.  I don’t however know any better than any other observer of any gender what is going on in an elite athlete’s mind.  My enlarged Adam’s apple does not give me that power of understanding with baseball players anymore than it does with astronauts.  Unfortunately many men, especially those in sports media, think that it does.  By virtue of being male, one inherently knows more about sports than a woman does.  Because men are in the locker room, men outside of the locker room, especially media guys know more simply by being a man.

Some of this stems from the idea that because a person participated in sports at some level, usually no higher than high school, some times college, (another off-shoot, former athletes as media) has a better understanding, especially better than women, than those that don’t.  On the face of it, that seems kind of true.  Of course it’s not. By that logic, because I have my EMT-Basic certificate, I understand better than most what it means to be a physician.  To put it another way, just because I ran cross country in high school doesn’t mean I have any better idea what it’s like to be an elite Kenyan marathoner.  Can I question their race strategy? Sure I can.  Can I be pissed at Ryan Hall for airplaning his way to the finish and not putting the hammer down? Of course I can.  But my non-functioning nipples have nothing to do with my opinions or analysis of their performance.

It comes back to the radio-guy’s sandbox.  So many arenas in public life were the domain of men, politics, education, business and entertainment to name the most prominent.  As women gained entry into those places, men for the most part, have fought back, trying to retain their place of privilege.  Even as women have greater access to these areas, they still have to deal sexism either advertently or inadvertently, usually on a daily basis.  While in 2013 it seems ludicrous to ban women the vote (at least in the United States) the amount of men who agree with radio guy that “we didn’t invite you here” [NO GIRLS ALLOWED] is still staggering.  I’m not saying homo-social interaction is a bad thing (I also just love saying “homo-social”, makes men like radio guy get even more insecure about their sexuality) it can’t, however, come at the expense of another segment of the population. Also the arena for homo-social activities can’t be exclusionary if it is part of the public sphere and tied to societal avenues and outlets of power, which sports most definitely are.  Men like radio-guy are trying desperately to maintain their dreamed up position of expert in the sports world.  Because what other real claim does radio guy have to his expertise?  If the internet is telling the truth, radio guy is younger than me.  So there are many women who have been doing the sports media thing longer and/or better than radio guy.

What is, well I was going to say unfortunate*, but that is too strong an emotion to evoke.  What is funny is how radio guy was inspired for this rant, which brings the real misogyny to the fore.  It’s one thing to be threatened like a toddler by the presence of a woman GET OUT MY SANDBOX it’s a whole other matter to blame the bullying of Miami Dolphin Jonathan Martin on the influence of women in sports.  Where in this scenario were these two men ever influenced by the presence of women?  surely not their coaches or their fans or the overwhelming male sports media.  Of course to media guy, women are somehow making men too sensitive, thereby making sports too sensitive, oh just let him say it, “There is a serious group of you fellas out there that have just been so feminized by the sensitive types out there who continue to now interject their ultra-feminine sensitive opinions into the world of sports.”  What year is it again?

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*I would use unfortunate to describe baseball writer guy’s participation in all of this.  Really picked a doozy to defend, simply because he gave you a seat in the press box.  Wonder what radio guy would have done if you were one of those woman types?

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