I Left my Lunch in the Library is an on going sports column by Collegian sports editor, Ben Abrams.
Why do women who play sports take a backseat to the men when they are on the same platform?
“The story didn’t end when the men lost to Belgium last year.” That was the message Fox Sports used in one of their commercials to promote this years F.I.F.A. Women’s World Cup in Canada.
The ad begins with the U.S. men’s soccer team after they were eliminated from the Men’s World Cup last year in Brazil. Scenes of disappointment are shown by players and their supporters before the story shifts its focus to the women’s team and promotes them as a symbol of hope to avenge the men by winning the world championship this year.
The ad was shot and produced very well and accomplished it’s missions to attract an audience to watch the tournament. Amanda Kondolojy of TV by the Numbers reports that television ratings for the group stage increased by 75 percent since the last World Cup in 2011.
What was odd about the commercial was that the angle depicts the women’s team coming to defend the honor of the men. This was not a bad angle to go with but kind of strange when you consider that the women’s team would likely have their motivation come from the pain of losing in the 2011 finals to Japan by penalty kicks.
Why could redeeming themselves after that loss not be a story line on it’s own? Why does a women’s program that has won two World championships (1991 and 1999) and have never finished worse than third place in the World Cup. Need the aid of their male counterparts to help promote the games in their tournament?
Did the network executives at Fox have concerns that people would not watch the games if there was not a connections between the women’s team and the men?
Credit is due to Fox for increasing the interest for this year’s tournament as Kondolojy reports. Fox Sports family of networks was able to blow away the 2011 ratings E.S.P.N had for their coverage of the group stage in that tournament. They have also outdone their Disney rival by beating them with the amount of viewers that have increased compared to the coverage of both the 2010 and 2014 Men’s World Cup.
Despite this success the accomplishment does have some strings attached to it. The ratings for the group stage of last year’s World Cup was three times larger than this years event. The growth of viewers for the Women’s World Cup did not crush the men’s viewership it just benefited from the men’s audience stagnating its growth last year.
The same can not be said for the ratings between the N.B.A. and their counterpart the W.N.B.A. for their championship series. Unlike F.I.F.A. and N.C.A.A. with the College World Series the N.B.A.’s ratings crushed the W.N.B.A’s in embarrassing fashion.
Even with the recent increase in attention to women’s sports what is it about them that makes them less appealing than the men’s game?
Sports has always been seen as a male-dominated activity in America and even with the increase of female interest and participation there is still a widespread assumption that sports is man’s world. There is also another assumption in society that men are naturally better than women in sports. That claim from a general and objective standpoint that is not true.
If a woman has the right skill and receives the proper coaching with consistent practice she can beat a man in any sport. Mo’ne Davis proved it last year in the Little League World Series when she became the first woman earn a win and a shutout as a pitcher.
In 2012 when Tim Keown of E.S.P.N. wrote an article about the future of M.M.A. that featured a seven year old fighter, Regina Awana also known as “The Black Widow.” Regina proved the society’s assumption of her as a girl wrong in this YouTube video from Sparewithme.com.
Rick Paulas of Vice Sports points out another misconception about men and women playing sports with his column. Men are assumed to be better than women in sports because the genetics have allowed them to grow taller and develop more muscle mass. This causes men to be naturally stronger than women in most cases.
The way this observation was translated into society was that people started to characterize someone as doing something “like a girl,” when they performed any athletic task poorly.
Paulas points out that this assumption was proven wrong thanks to his coverage of the Lingerie Football League. Paulas states that the female quarterbacks in the league can probably throw the ball with better arm strength and accuracy than most of the “average joe” men they will ever meet.
The lower amount of interest in women’s sports could also be a reflection of the society we live in. A lot of sports in America were created in the early half of the 20th century when men were the sex that goes out and does the hard work while the women stayed at home and took care of the house and the family.
In the generations before Title IX laws were passed boys were given balls to play with while girls were given dolls to fit their gender roles. Despite the strides that were made by later generations to prove that the roles are not permanent there are still signs that America is a male dominated country.
Women who work full-time are still paid $0.78 to every dollar a man makes with the same job and qualifications. In 2015 there are only 23 companies in the S&P 500 that have women as CEO’s that less than five percent (4.6%).
The biggest problem that women in sports are facing is that they are not as big of a commodity as the male athletes.The ratings are a clear indicator that not as many people are watching the games. If people aren’t watching then what’s the point of a network putting a lot of money behind a product that they know most people will not be interested in?
Male sports are not just earning more in ratings they are creating more in revenue. Outside of a few female athletes earning endorsements for themselves like the Serena Williams, Mia Hamm, and Lisa Leslie. Sports marketing appears to be dominated by the men’s world.
What makes the men more appealing than the women? The men can be seen as more entertaining. Compare the on-court action of the N.B.A. and the W.N.B.A for an example.
The N.B.A. markets itself with the star players that can perform great tricks with their amazing ball handling skills and stand alone ability to score especially when it comes to dunking. The W.N.B.A. markets itself on team basketball and a sound fundamental game.
The male counterpart just looks more exciting than the female one and all sports are facing this problem in the eyes of the viewing public.
The women’s game in all sports have shown great signs of improvement but their still in the infant stages of generating a solid following. A number of the leagues have not had the chance to develop that following or the revenue that the male leagues have.
The ratings for the 2015 World Cup show that things can change as time goes on and societies views of gender roles continue to evolve. Women’s sports can and hopefully will gain the notoriety it’s looking for one day. It will just have to go through some growing pains to get there.