Level the playing field for women in sports journalism

Last May, when I got the call that I’d been made Assistant Sports Editor at The Journal, I was elated. Since then, the most frequent comment I get when I tell people about my job is that I must get to meet a lot of hot guys. 

The assumption from my peers is that I’ve taken on my 30-hour-a-week workload so that I have an opportunity to date a varsity athlete. Apparently, people think that my passion for sports extends only as far as marrying a future NHL player. 

As an aspiring female sports journalist, I am vastly outnumbered. Sports journalism is an industry made up almost entirely of men, and that results in some terrible situations for women in the workplace. There are few occupations with a gender imbalance this vast. In 2014, APSE reported that over 90 per cent of sports editors are male.  

Since May, I’ve had almost all of the people I tell about my job mention my ability to meet attractive male athletes — even though we cover many female sports teams. I’ve had players wolf-whistle when I interview their teammates on the sidelines after a game. I’ve had men question my knowledge of sports with the dreaded and patronizing “name three players” challenge. 

There are countless examples of this behaviour beyond Queen’s varsity sports. Just watch the infamous videos of journalists Erin Andrews or Melanie McLaughlin dealing with overt sexism on the job.

Men’s Fitness recently released their list of “40 Hottest Female Sports Reporters.” The secondary headline reads “No athlete would mind being interviewed by one of these sideline hotties.”

When we treat women in sports journalism as objects of men’s desire, rather than valid people with a job to do, we devalue them and the potential talent of 50 per cent of the population. Moreover, young women are left out of the fulfilling and important experiences found on sports teams that shape confident, healthy people. 

This treatment of women in sports media also extends to our treatment of female athletes. Some of the best female athletes in the world were criticized during the Rio Olympics for their makeup choices or referred to only in relation to their famous husbands.

It’s not an easy answer to why women are treated as if they’re encroaching on rightfully male turf, or can’t unselfconsciously embrace a love of sports. 

But we can start by treating female sports writers with the same respect we afford their male counterparts. When we hear people make disparaging remarks about female sports reporters, we can say something. We can encourage women’s love of sports and celebrate their accomplishments on the field, in the newspaper, or on TSN.

It’s our responsibility to ensure that future generations of young female sports journalists are treated better than Erin Andrews, Melanie McLaughlin or myself. 

It’s on us.

Sarah is The Journal’s Assistant Sports Editor. She’s a fourth year Politics student. 

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