There has seemingly been an attack on females in sports and specifically in sports media as of late. I’ve dedicated years to writing about football, and to not be taken as seriously as my male colleagues is often hard to overlook.
Preparing for a media event as a female sports writer, takes a few additional considerations that males don’t typically require.
Before attending my first Pro Day workout at Ohio State, I googled “female sports reporter” to see how they typically dress for interviews and practice-like events. I was more surprised than I should have been about how many half-naked pictures or close-up shots of the reporter’s ass I found in the results.
When I prepare for events, I have to carefully choose my outfit to avoid being “that girl”.
Who is “that girl” you may ask?
The one that everyone assumes is only there because she’s sleeping with a man in charge. The one that wears tight or revealing dresses to ensure the players talk to them. The one that uses their looks and flirting ability to gain media access. The one that doesn’t earn a reputation for being smart and doing a good job, but rather relies on her looks to get the job done.
So every time I go to a media event, I spend extra time preparing to avoid being thought of as “that girl”.
It’d be a lot simpler if there was an easy answer to my oft repeated question, “What is the female version of a polo and cargo shorts?” — the standard outfit for men on the beat. I don’t want to be too casual and not taken seriously or too dressed up and look out of place; and I sure as hell don’t want to wear a dress…because who wears a dress while watching football practice — aside from the mom who came straight from work.
I’d like to see — or be — the sideline female reporter in jeans and t-shirt because that’s how people really watch football. I can’t tell you the last time I decided to put on one of my tightest dresses and strapiest heels to head down to The ‘Shoe for game day…because it’s never happened.
There are already scantily clad females adorning the sidelines for male viewing pleasure — they’re called cheerleaders. Can’t the women reporting on the game do their job and not be there solely as another piece of eye candy?
But to say something about this, would be considered “bitchy”, and that argument tends to open the door to even more sexist overtones.
From the beginning
As a little girl watching football with my Dad, I learned to love the sport and all the hidden life lessons that came with it. I love the lifelong bond it’s created with my dad that continues each season; it just wouldn’t be gameday without at least one snarky text and a post game phone call to recap.
Why are these traditions limited to father and sons?
I used to get excited when the boys at school would be surprised that I knew just a much — if not more — than they did on Mondays. But over time those “biggest female sports nut” awards went from exciting to sad and from sad to disappointing.
After spending years dedicated to following and learning about the sport, people still didn’t take me seriously. It still isn’t until mid-conversation with a group of men that they accept my views as legit. In almost every football conversation that I partake, I have to justify my opinion with my background and “credentials” on the subject. I shouldn’t have to name drop or in some way qualify how much I know about my teams and players any more than a man does.
Not much has changed
I’ve been asked, “How can you write about a sport you never played?” more times than I can count, and with each question at least two dozen sarcastic and somewhat bitchy replies come to mind.
Why would I have to have played football to understand it?
In my school days I played a lot of sports — soccer (5 years), tennis (3 years), basketball (3 years), softball (7 years). Like a lot of football players, I too was coached by my Dad, benched and injured. Playing a team sport, no matter which, still provides an understanding of following orders, becoming a cohesive unit and fighting for one common goal.
I know what it takes to be out with an injury and have to rehab back into the starting line-up. I know what it’s like to put the game ahead of your health, and consider self-medicating as a way to avoid the pain. I know how hard it is to watch someone play your position while you sit by the water cooler. I don’t need to have played football to understand these universal truths about team sports.
I may not know all the X’s and O’s, but can assure you, few reporters actually do and far less fans rely on that information.
The world we live in is not fair, nor just, but as females begin owning their voice, and working hard to be among the best — regardless of gender — the barriers will start to fall. The sports writing community for the most part has welcomed me as one of their own, as I’ve slowly evolved from one weekly post on a local blog for 500 views to a newsdesk position with a sport heavyweight.
I don’t want any handouts just because I’m in a minority group within the industry, I just want the same respect that is afforded to the people who have held these positions before me.
“I trust everyone. It’s the devil inside them I don’t trust” – The Italian Job
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