Daily Archives: January 27, 2012

The agony of the female sports star

(If this post makes no sense, here’s a good round-up of last year’s shitstorm from The Guardian.)

In today’s sports world, women are disadvantaged.

In sport it is harder for women (than men) to carve out a financially stable sporting career.

Men’s sport is much more heavily televised than women’s. ESPN’s ‘SportsCenter’ devotes less than 2% of its airtime to coverage of women’s sports.  This figure is typical across networks. (See: Gender And Televised Sports: News and Highlights Shows, 1989-2009.)

By a wide margin, men also belong more frequently to sports bars and sports clubs — and these clubs skew toward male sports people about male sport.

That’s why televised sport in Australia focuses on women’s sport – to redress that balance. That’s why men don’t have a right to complain when 60 percent of the sports coverage on television is of female dominated sports events.

Is your bullshit-ometer alarmed yet? I hope so. I completely made that last paragraph up. Of course it’s not the case that women’s sport gets more media attention than men’s sport; not in Australia, and not in any country that I’ve ever heard of.

Switching now, to the literary world, this is why Teddy Wayne’s justification for the extra attention garnered by male authors in major North American media publications is so vexing.

Here’s the bit I’m referring to:

The agony of the male novelist

(Subtitle:) Jennifer Weiner’s new attack on the New York Times misses the point. In today’s book world, men are disadvantaged

…For the majority of male literary authors — excluding the upper echelon of Franzen, Jeffrey Eugenides, Don DeLillo and their ilk, plus a few younger writers like Chad Harbach who have scored much-ballyhooed advances — it’s actually harder than it is for women to carve out a financially stable writing career.

As Weiner pointed out in the Huffington Post interview, “women are the major consumers of all fiction, commercial and literary.” She’s right. By just about every estimatewomen buy around two-thirds of all books and 80 percent of fiction.

By a wide margin, women also belong more frequently to book clubs — and these clubs skew toward female writers writing about female experiences.

So please, if the New York Times — not to mention NPR — are going to review more male authors than female authors, than I bloody well hope that American women can rightly expect their media to redress the (much heavier) gender imbalance of its sports coverage.

After all, when it comes to participating in sport, women need all the media encouragement they can get.

Once again, we have that old Oliver Twist chestnut going on. A few of the courageous feminist literari just won’t stop asking, ‘Please sir, can we have some more?’ until gender balance in literature is fifty-fifty, dammit.

So yes, Large Media Outlets, make use of spreadsheets if you can’t achieve a fifty-fifty balance any other way. One column says ‘men’; the other says ‘women’. Tick boxes. Calculate percentages. It simply cannot be that hard.

Unless, of course, nobody at the top recognises that gender imbalance is even a problem.

And lest anyone think Australia is any better, in sports coverage and in the literature world, it’s not. That’s why Australian women have a brand new literature prize – Australia’s equivalent of the Orange Prize – in sad recognition that this imbalance just won’t go away.