A few years ago, a rabid football fan roommate strategically enrolled me in a fantasy football league so that I would be amenable to the endless sports coverage. I’m competitive by nature, and earned a reputation in our league as a tough “coach,” benching players pretty quickly if they didn’t perform well, making trades, and picking up different guys off the waiver list with some regularity. Yet I rarely watched football. There is so much media coverage, and so much statistical information available, that I mainly relied on some modest number crunching each week to set my lineup. (I was eventually eliminated in the finals.)
My league, unlike most, was almost half women. Yet sports, including fantasy sports, is generally the province of men. As with politics. Last week in the discussion on my campus re: the Presidential election, I was one of only two women in the room who spoke during the 90 minute event, and the only one who spoke repeatedly, and at length. This gender gap is news to no one, but only recently has the similarities between endless sports coverage and political quarterbacking become so clear to me.
For example, who needs policy platforms or legislative records when you’ve got polling data, voter demographics, and “the math?” Over at Shakesville, white, liberal blogger Jeff Fecke has been coming under fire from his feminist female counterparts, for what they see as some latent sexism and pro-Obama bias in his political coverage. This debate has particularly raged over Jeff’s discussions of Clinton’s “right” to remain in the race, a position he’s defending, with extended explanations of her strategic options. Yet, his colleagues keep pushing back on him when he raises this issue, because they perceive a double standard at work in this “right” frame being applied only to Clinton, as well as subtle sexist language in his coverage. For me, the disconnect is due to Fecke’s orientation to view the race as one might a sporting event, versus his colleagues who are emphasizing the inequality of the playing field. It’s a discussion of the Super Bowl versus Title IX.
Obviously, as in sports, women are making headway in political punditry. But it remains a man’s domain, and thus the frames and narratives through which we examine the race are also gendered. “The math” argument, for example, is seen as a “rational” analysis of Clinton’s chances, yet the trait of rationality is considered an inherently masculine quality, versus a more emotional, feminine view that Clinton just might pull this thing off, “facts” be damned!
I wrote in a recent late night comment at Shakesville…
A friend over the weekend was telling me that he finds following sports so freeing and pleasurable because in the end dudes (mainly) are discussing with great passion teams and players and competitions that have little material bearing on our lives – unlike politics, he added. Hence, another reason why I think this cheerful handicapping [Jeff keeps] offering of the two candidates is falling flat for many of us. (emphases added)
…from which Salieri, another commenter, came up with two new primary slogans:
“Democratic Primary 2008: Just Like Sports, Except It Actually Counts”
“Democratic Primary 2008: Cheerfully Handicapping Our Fucking Lives”
Originally posted at NYC Weboy