Last week, SI.com ran a post debating the issue of sexism in sports media with comments from some of the industry’s better known female contributors. None of the women involved in the piece represented hockey; nor did they represent bloggers, the sports medium with the highest growth in the last few years.
Being a female and a hockey blogger, I felt it was important to get a look at our side of debate. I gathered together some of the strongest female voices and leaders in the hockey blogging world and adapted the SI questions to focus more on what we experience on a day-to-day level.
Laura Astorian (@hildymac): Managing Editor at St. Louis Game Time & Associate Editor at Puck Drunk Love
Cheryl Bradley (@cherylcbradley): Managing Editor at Mile High Hockey
Sarah Connors (@sarah_connors): Managing Editor at Stanley Cup of Chowder
Erin Cozens (@ecozens): Associate Editor at Stanley Cup of Chowder
Becca Henschel (@BeccaH_JR): Associate Editor at Japers’ Rink
SK (@SKeleven): Associate Editor (ret.) at Anaheim Calling
Langluy (@langluy): Managing Editor at Jewels From The Crown
Jen Neale (@MsJenNeale_PD): Staff Writer at Puck Daddy & Managing Editor (ret.) at Anaheim Calling
Laura Saba (@theactivestick): Associate Editor at Eyes On the Prize
Emilie Wiener (@eminemilie): Managing Editor at Hockey Wilderness
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1) When you tell people of either gender you blog for and/or run an NHL team fan site, what kinds of reactions do you get?
Astorian: Normally I get reactions along the line of “wow, seriously? That’s cool!” especially from other hockey fans – living in Atlanta, fans seem to seek out other fans and are always happy to find them. We need a secret handshake. When I get Wings fans telling me that it’s cool that I run Game Time, I know we’re hockey starved here.
Bradley: Once we get past the “No, it’s not something I do from my mom’s basement sans pants,” they are genuinely interested. Most Avalanche fans have already heard of the site, so that helps. Recent access to player interviews also promotes a sense of legitimacy and appreciation. Many say they’re impressed that I’m able to run the site while working full time. I don’t believe the fact that I’m a woman colors that conversation one way or the other.
Connors: Generally the reaction is pretty positive. The actual act of telling someone, man or woman, that you run a site isn’t offensive or threatening – anyone can write or blog. It’s not hard. In my experience, people have most often been impressed at the level of coverage we get and the skill level of our writers, when they see our site
Cozens: It varies pretty wildly. Sometimes people (both men and women) are pretty taken aback. Some guys get a little huffy, for sure, and I’ve definitely had dudes scoff and question my hockey-knowledge cred. It’s definitely not just men, though — for example, I had a woman tell me that she thought it was “pretty weird” that a lady would be in to hockey enough to write about it regularly, then ask me if my boyfriend got me into it (spoiler: nope.). On the other hand, some folks get really excited, especially other hockey fans. I’ve definitely had guys want to start talking teams/players/Olympic rosters the second they find out. Reactions have been mixed, to say the least, but there is almost always a tone of genuine surprise regardless of whether the reaction is positive or negative.
Henschel: I’ve never really gotten any extreme reactions either way. The people who already know about my hockey obsession usually chalk up the blogging thing to just another part of the crazy; the ones who don’t, seem to accept it as they would any other fact about my life.
SK: Well, first off I get a response of shock that I’m a hockey fan. After all, hockey isn’t mainstream here in SoCal. Then I get people who want to know more about what I write about. Usually they think that I just spit out stats. When I explain that the idea is analyze and talk about the team and the game as a whole, they seem to be even more impressed about what I do.
Langluy: Generally, I don’t tell people that I blog for an NHL team fan site unless I already know that they’re interested in sports, because I don’t want to bother having the “I just don’t understand what’s so great about hockey” conversation. When I do tell people, reactions are generally positive, although I have noticed instances where people – mostly men – take my hockey opinions much more seriously after I bring up that I write for a hockey blog, even though neither the content nor the form of said opinions has changed.
Neale: People seem generally confused and automatically assume I work for the team or NHL (even if the person I’m having the conversation with is at my actual full-time job). Once we get past the ‘no, I do this for free out of passion for writing and hockey’, I end up with the comment of ‘you don’t look like a hardcore hockey fan’. No one seems to be able to tell me what I’m supposed to look like, though. Outside of my family, close friends and the hockey community, I get asked about my work as if I’m writing in my diary and no one reads it but me.
Saba: Most often, the reaction will be along the lines of “that’s awesome! What’s that like? Tell me more.” etc. It still surprises a few people, but more often that not, people want to hear about it or ask me for help with their fantasy hockey teams.
Wiener: Typically positive ones. Most people think it’s pretty cool, and want to talk about what’s going on with the team. Every once and a while someone will say “You’re just a girl, you don’t anything about hockey”
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2) What’s the most common misconception about female bloggers?
Astorian: I’ve never gotten it, but usually I think it’s the “puck bunny” misconception just because that seems to be the go-to assumption. I like to think that misconception fades once folks read our work and realize that every post isn’t a “Top Ten Hottest Players ZOMFG!” kind of thing. I did mention Patrik Berglund being on Cosmo’s list of that, but a) that’s Blues news and b) it’s funny.
Bradley: There’s a misconception about bloggers in general in that people think all we do is write opinion pieces or promote rumors. I think it goes even further with women, especially when it comes to the assumption that our articles are more surface-level than what the men write. The hard-hitting analysis is assumed to be generated by men, so when a woman with a unisex username posts a story or adds comments that are highly analytic, readers usually use the pronoun “he” until her gender is pointed out. We’re lucky on MHH, though, as we have a number of female staffers who regularly produce strong analysis pieces, so there’s a lot of respect in our community.
Connors: I’d have to say that the most common misconception I’ve run into is that when we screw up a question or write something that’s wrong about what we’re covering, it’s because we “don’t know enough about the game.” No, it’s actually called making a mistake, friends. It’s rather unfair that male bloggers can futz fancy stats and spell things wrong and they get all the free passes in the world, but spell Reilly Smith’s name wrong and suddenly you don’t even belong here anymore, if you’re a woman.
Cozens: One of the most common misconceptions I’ve seen is that female bloggers are only into a sport and blogging about it because they think the players are hot. Which of course leads me personally to get incredibly defensive and feel as though I need to prove my knowledge/interest by claiming to not notice or care at all about the way players look. I find that intensely problematic, because that isn’t true either. Crazily enough, I am capable of both being interested in the sport AND noticing that Henrik Lundqvist is dreamy, all at the same time. I contain multitudes, what can I say. Ironically, I feel as though male bloggers can get away with saying players (again, looking at you, Lundqvist) are good-looking without anyone questioning the legitimacy of their passion for and knowledge about the game. Double-standards, ahoy.
Henschel: The most common misconception is probably that we all think the same way, that one voice speaking out on an issue is representative of the whole group. I happen to think ice girls are a somewhat vile and wholly unnecessary element of the live hockey experience. I don’t like pink jerseys. I find certain aspects of Hockey ‘n Heels programs to be patronizing to women. Those are my opinions, but I don’t expect every female blogger to agree with me on those topics – in fact I know that not all of them do. And that’s fine. Female bloggers are just like our male counterparts – the community is filled with a variety of diverse and (mostly) intelligent voices, and sometimes they disagree. We all, myself included, forget at times that none of us should assume we speak for the whole group – and there’s usually not just one right answer.
SK: I can’t really say. It’s probably that we should be writing about things like sewing or cooking. I love to cook, but I can’t sew to save my life. On the other hand, I’ve got tons to say about how crappy the Ducks power play is. So who knows.
Langluy: The misconceptions about female bloggers are such an unfortunate conglomeration of misconceptions about hockey bloggers and female sports fans. Specifically, that we fall into two categories: a)monomaniacal freaks with no other interests or b)hockey boys are so cute in their jerseys!!! Either you’re obsessed with hockey because you have no social life & you can’t get laid or you’re getting laid a lot, by hockey players, who you seek out and fawn over blindly. Sarah Connors and I wrote a piece earlier this year called “While the men watch” which touched on the issue of how hardcore female hockey fans are forced to prove their credentials in a way which male fans aren’t, and everyone else is assumed to be a puck bunny, meaning that there isn’t much space and acceptance for casual female hockey fans. Similar misconceptions frame the experiences of female hockey bloggers, who aren’t trusted as analytical voices in the same way that male hockey bloggers are, unless they “prove” themselves rigorously, over and over again, and never admit to differing from a male perspective.
Neale: I do what I do just to date/marry/sleep with the players. If that were the case, don’t you think I would have taken an EASIER route to gain access? I’ve spent the past four-plus years of my life working to earn a place among the big boys in the hockey world – for free – while going to college (now grad school) and maintaining a career outside of hockey. A boob job, actual use of my gym membership and a couple trips to The Roxy would have been quicker and less stressful.
Saba: That there are far fewer of us than there really are, and that we don’t know what we’re talking about.
Wiener: We live in our parents basement and just want to marry hockey players.
3) How much sexism exists today in professional hockey media?
Astorian: I don’t know if there’s a lot, but I’m sure that it’s there. Outwardly I’ve never encountered it as blogger, but I wouldn’t be shocked if there was some unconscious bias. It’s traditionally an old boys club, and that’s fine. I’d be surprised if there was no bias and they welcomed women in with open arms.
Bradley: I’d like to say that it’s less than other sports, but I’m inclined to say it’s worse. Rarely do we see women working the between-period analysis segments. Usually, there’s a token woman who does short interviews with often generic questions. There are few that represent that “hard-hitting reporter” role, and I’ve yet to see a woman provide play-by-play or color commentary during game action. It’s rare even for women’s hockey.
Connors: Plenty, and it manifests exactly how you think it would – whether it’s Mike Milbury calling the Sedins “sisters” or articles about which rinkside reporter is the most attractive – this is not the garbage I want to read about when I go looking for hockey coverage. I don’t want to be made uncomfortable by the things I read, and while obviously reading this stuff isn’t the end of the world, it’s still crappy to have to deal with.
Cozens: It’s hard to generalize this, because I think it can vary from place to place/outlet to outlet, but I think there is kind of a lot (in news that shocks no one). Not of all it is as obvious as “girls are dumb! don’t hire them to do sports stuff!” — in fact, a lot of it is much more subtle and insidious, in my opinion. The use of gendered language by professional hockey media to describe players who whine/dive/are weak in some fashion as feminine might be an example. Of course, there are more overt examples of sexism, but I think the problem runs even deeper than the relatively few number of women participating in important roles in hockey media (though the lack of representation is a huge problem as well, let it be said).
Henschel: I think there’s still a fair amount, although I don’t think it’s anywhere near as blatant – or even intentional – as it once was. There are those who probably think women don’t belong in the field at all, sure, but they’re likely the same ones who don’t think women should be doctors or serve in the military or do anything outside the home… a (hopefully) dying breed of chauvinist that’s getting phased out as more women make their mark on sports media. The more widespread issue in terms of sexism is in the casually sexist language that still exists in the media and the hockey world at large. Just as referring to something bad or stupid as being “so gay” is casual homophobia, so too is the use of some feminine adjective to describe a player as a way of insulting them – and it’s not just the Mike Milburys and the Don Cherrys who use this kind of talk (although they’ve certainly got the biggest megaphones). Reporters or commentators who say things like “[Player X] should just hit them with his purse” aren’t creating a friendly environment for their female colleagues, or for their female readers/viewers/listeners.
Langluy: I think there’s a great deal of both overt and also structural sexism in professional hockey media. First, there’s the way that the professional hockey media markets hockey as a product by men, for men, except for when us ladies can take a break from shopping or watching “Girls” or whatever. Second, there’s the complete disregard for the contributions and roles of women, from the lack of coverage of women’s hockey to sidelining women analysts (for the love of something, will somebody please get Andi Petrillo an actual desk where she can talk about actual things). Third, there’s the way that hockey players’ issues with women are covered, like poor hard-working little Nick Cousins striving valiantly to overcome the adversity of being charged with sexual assault – I mean, doesn’t your heart just bleed? I could go on, but you take my point. Not a ton of respect for women happening. And that’s all I’m askin’ for, is a little respect.
Saba: I would say it’s mostly institutionalized more than it is overt. There are many female beat writers, but women are still in the minority by far. I can’t think of very many columnists. The same goes for radio. Unfortunately, I don’t know the ratio of female to male editors and producers, but I would guess it’s very small. Television broadcasting, however, is a whole other story. There are no women anchoring hockey broadcasts, there are no women calling games or regularly providing colour commentary, and there are no women on intermission panels. A few years ago, RDS had an all-female broadcast team for International Women’s Day but that was it… once that day was over, it didn’t happen on a regular broadcast. There are plenty of knowledgeable female TV reporters-why hasn’t one of them become a regular on an intermission panel yet? The closest we see women come to a panel is when the CBC’s HNIC throws to Andi Petrillo at the “iDesk” which she stands beside, not behind, so viewers can admire her latest outfit as she hosts a tiny segment of the broadcast. She could be an extremely intelligent hockey analyst but we’ll never know, because her job is to be eye candy. It’s worth noting that when Elliotte Friedman, Jeff Marek or Scott Morrison previously hosted the iDesk, they got to stand behind a desk and not be on display. Anyway, however long the distance between the actual panel and the iDesk is, is the closest women currently get to an intermission panel and that is embarrassing. I’m not sure whether this problem exists because of who is in positions of power at major sports networks, or because it’s what they see as the demand, or because that is actually what the target audience is demanding, but it’s something that needs to change. So no, it’s not overt, but can I still call it rampant?
Wiener: There is sexism in all sports and the media, and hockey isn’t exempt. Once you show that you know what you’re doing to other media members, for the most part they treat you like you belong.
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4) What, if any, personal experiences do you have when it comes to sexism – either institutionalized or overt?
Astorian: Believe it or not, I only have one and I really don’t count it: Some barely pubescent Jets fan tried to tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about when it came to the relocation of the Thrashers. Honestly, though, that was just a troll job. I’ve never been treated differently as a blogger or a fan because I’m a woman, at least not that I’ve known of. The Thrashers were very welcoming of me as a blogger and the Blues have been as well.
Bradley: When I’ve disagreed with a man and offered solid, fact-based reasoning to support my position, I’ve experienced men who seem to feel threatened. They’ll come back with, “You’re just a chick. What do you know anyway?” The sad part is that I’ve also had women take this approach, too. In terms of interaction with teams, I’ve watched my male counterparts develop close connections and even friendships with coaches, players, and other team employees, giving them access to information I can’t get. They get direct contact information easily, while I get apprehension if I even suggest it. There’s a lack of trust which I think is based in doubt over my intentions. Perhaps they think I’ll give the number out to others, or maybe it’s a concern that I’m after it for social purposes. It’s much easier when working with prospects because they’re just excited that someone wants to do an article on them. Once the players solidify themselves in the pro ranks, however, my access is shut down while men continue to enjoy the inside track.
Connors: I‘m very lucky in that my experience covering the Bruins has largely been a pleasant one with regards to lack of sexism. I worked my way up from covering the Providence Bruins, and I was always made to feel welcome – the only uncomfortable moment I had down in the AHL was when all the male reporters went plowing into the dressing room – I followed, of course, because I was reporting on the team and I needed a few interviews – and suddenly I was confronted with a whole team of naked dudes. SHOCKINGLY, it’s super awkward to interview a person you hardly know while he doesn’t have any clothes on! The PR staff was incredibly acquiescent about my request to have an equipment guy grab whichever player I wanted to interview while I waited outside the locker room, and I was surprised at how pleasant the whole experience was. In fact, after that one game where everyone went into the locker room, the interview experience with that team has entirely shifted back to interviews done outside the locker room – for everyone, including male reporters! In the NHL, I have never had any issues with actual coverage of the team – there are plenty of women who cover the Bruins, including a few whom I have seen as role models during my time in Boston. The NHL make their locker rooms a very comfortable space to conduct interviews, with one primary “dressing” room that reporters are allowed in, and smaller rooms where the players have their private space, and I have never experienced any sort of discomfort. It puts everyone on equal terms, and I very much appreciate it. Most of my experiences with sexism have come from the internet, shockingly. It’s so easy to tear at people when you’re safely behind your computer screen, isn’t it? I’ve made comments on twitter and in my blog that make straight white guys uncomfortable, I guess – including but not limited to the time I took on Barstool Sports for an article in which they pondered “when did girls in Boston start pretending like their lives revolved around the Bruins?” I received literally hundreds of tweets from men telling me to “get back in the kitchen,” excusing the site’s degradation of women as being “satire,” and…well, if you’re interested in seeing what else, here’s the storify I made from it for posterity. Long story short: sexism and misogyny on the internet is horrendously prevalent, but luckily, not so much in my case with regards to actually covering the teams!
Cozens: This is more anecdotal, and represents a response to an article rather than sexism at the institutionalized level, but I wrote a piece on how problematic it is when fans (and the media) refer to Sidney Crosby as “Cindy,” and how deeply it reflects the problem professional sports have with using gendered/sexist language (also it’s lazy, let’s be real). While some folks were supportive, there was also a ton of backlash, replete with accusations that I was whining too much and being oversensitive. I suppose that’s more reflective of society/fandom than the institution of sports media, but the one certainly impacts and echoes the other.
SK: When I first became a hockey fan, a lot of friends assumed it was because of the guys. I feared getting the “puck-bunny” name and did whatever I could to avoid it. I remember early on picking out players on the team who I found to be impressive, but I distinctively remember not being a Ryan Getzlaf fan (back when he had hair) because there were so many girls who were fans of his for reasons that had nothing to do with his play on the ice. Thankfully, and regardless of the hair, it’s hard NOT to be a fan of that guy these days. Needless to say, it took a long time for some of these friends of mine to accept that I was a fan of the game and not the individual players.
Langluy: I should note, again, that I don’t use my real name when blogging, so many people don’t realise that I’m not a man. A male Jewels from the Crown commenter once said, “I thought you were just a dude who really loves feminism.” I can’t remember who that commenter was, and I’m sure he is a very nice person (almost all of our commenters are very nice) but, I mean, get real. People always assume that I’m a man, and will continue to cling to that assumption despite all evidence to the contrary, because the default understanding of a vocal hockey fan is a man. Denise, the former Editor-in-Chief of Jewels from the Crown (currently on leave), who writes under the username Niesy and a picture of Bernie Nicholls, has had the exact same experience. On a more personal level, I’ve been attacked numerous times for discussing women’s issues in hockey. For example, when Drew Doughty was being investigated for sexual assault, I got a stream of vicious responses implying that I was both a bad Kings fan and a bad person, every time I discussed the issue on twitter. Even when I’m just discussing hockey in general, every so often a charming person will pull out a gendered insult (and then accuse me of being overly sensitive when I point that out, of course).
Neale: When I write something someone disagrees with, I get one of two responses on Twitter or in the comments of a post: 1) a reference to my menstrual cycle and/or 2) something to the effect of ‘stop trying to sound like a guy’. It really did bother me when I first started writing and occasionally ramps up my temper when people get particularly nasty and disrespectful. It’s a sexist remark but unfortunately, it’s pretty normal and we accept it to be that way. I’d love for sexism in sports to go the way of the You Can Play campaign. Yet, without the partnership of a high power, namely the NHL clubs and the NHL itself, we have to continue to chip away from the bottom up to a point where we can’t be ignored.
Saba: The biggest example I can think of is when I wrote a very short post on my own personal blog about how people should stop using the word “Sisters” to insult the Sedin twins. The blog post was shared very widely, mostly for good reasons, but there was a lot of negative response to it, of the “you need to get laid” and “you must be a hideous man-hater” variety. The insults continued for days, and very often when other sites linked to that post, I’d get insulted in their comments as well. This one is really hard to admit to, but I also haven’t been as brave as I should be about tackling serious topics or extensive analysis pieces, mostly for fear of failing at them and then having people think I can’t handle pieces like that simply because I am a woman. It’s a fear of reaffirming people’s sexist preconceived notions about female hockey writers. If I fail at a piece, I know it’s because I just didn’t do a good enough job at that particular article, but I don’t want to perpetuate the idea that women can’t write about hockey.
Wiener: I’ve only had one instance of overt sexism with an NHL player. As far as institutionalized sexism goes, there’s no question that women who cover hockey often have to prove multiple times that they are there to work, and not to have a good time.
5) Don Cherry believes women don’t belong in men’s locker rooms. What do you think?
Astorian: I’ve actually written about this before at Puck Drunk Love. From a propriety sense, I don’t like being in there. I have been before, and I felt awkward, and it wasn’t a bit due to any of the players that I was around. I would be happier with media availability for everyone after the guys have had their locker room time, and not just to give women a chance at interviewing the guys. I view the room as the players’ space, not the media’s.
Bradley: I think he’s wrong, of course, but I’ve experienced firsthand players who agree with him. On my first night doing post-game interviews for one of the local minor league teams, my colleagues and I were taken back to the locker room to conduct our interviews. A player walked out of the shower area and towards his stall. He saw my male colleagues first and didn’t seem phased. Then he saw me, blurted out some obscenities, and scurried back behind the wall separating the rooms. Someone pulled aside the team’s media coordinator, and we were quickly escorted out of the room and to a corner in the hall where we conducted our interviews for the remainder of the season. I understand why the players felt the way they did, but I was a bit insulted that either they didn’t think I could be professional enough to be there or that they couldn’t be professional enough to handle me being there.
Connors: Has Don Cherry been in a professional sports team’s locker room in the last 20 years? It’s not all naked dudes and tomfoolery in the year 2013. As I said earlier, the NHL dressing room is a space very conducive to equality in reporting, a space that is very respectful to everyone. Cherry’s obviously a little bit out there in most of his opinions, and this is no exception – luckily most people, including the teams themselves, don’t share this one in particular.
Cozens: I think that who the hell is Don Cherry to say a woman can’t be in a locker room. Might it be awkward for a while? Probably. Will everyone get over it? Yep. Might it change some things about locker-room reporting? Sure, but if that’s the only reason for not encouraging more female reporters to be in locker room situations, it’s a pretty poor one.
Henschel: It’s ridiculous. Don Cherry is just disguising a blatantly sexist attitude with pretend concern for the womenfolk. For starters, the majority of players aren’t walking around completely nude when the media is present – and those who do so are probably not doing it just to put on a show for the female reporters who might be in the room, which is basically what Cherry is suggesting. But let’s say for a minute that they are, that some of these guys are letting it all hang out just to show off for the ladies or make them uncomfortable or whatever their motive may be… if that’s what they’re going for, why is it that the women in the room are the problem, and not the men who can’t control themselves in their presence? Cherry can claim that women are “on pedestals” all he wants – it’s just his way of saying they’re weak and in need of protection from scary naked men, that the locker room should be a male domain because those womenfolk can’t handle it. But the women who cover these teams are professionals, paid to do the same job and in the same professional capacity as their male counterparts. Women don’t need protection from those players who might try to take advantage of the situation; what they need is for that to be unacceptable so they can do their job. That’s certainly not too much to ask.
SK: I find this hilarious. You know that whole sexist idea that only women will stop to ask for directions? Well, lets just say that the same thing could be applied here. According to that rule of thumb, women are therefore probably better equipped to ask questions and listen to answers, right? Unless men were the only ones born with the ability to ask questions and hold up a tape recorder then I think he’s nuts. And…this isn’t the 50’s, we can handle seeing naked men if that’s the problem.
Langluy: Don Cherry apparently believes that women are incapable of doing their jobs while being reminded that men have penises. We are not. Further, Don Cherry is an antediluvian crank who represents the worst in xenophobic sports fandom. The possibility that Don Cherry will no longer have a platform for his casual bigotry and misguided paternalism is the best thing about the new NHL media deal in Canada.
Neale: Full disclosure, I have never seen Don Cherry’s penis. (Just threw up in my mouth and so did you!) However, I have a feeling it’s probably like most penises out there, and sorry guys, they’re not exactly the most attractive part on your bodies. If I’m in a locker room, I’m there to get my information and get out, not ogle while inhaling one of the worst smells on the planet. I won’t write about a players junk unless he decides to wiggle it at me and even then I think we’ve got bigger problems than my pristine lady-eyes seeing it.
Saba: I think it’s 2013. Seriously. A locker room is a workplace. Players and reporters are there to do their jobs and go home. Nobody cares which reporter is female or which player is in what stage of undress.
Wiener: I’ve been in and out of team locker rooms for a year now, and never really had any problems. No players have ever had any problems with it. No one else in the media has had a problem with it. When I’m working in the press corps, I am there to do a job. I’ve got my story lines, quotes I want to get from specific players and questions I want answered. Just like every single male doing the same job.
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6) In the US market, Kathryn Tappen is the only female appearing regularly on the NHL-Network and there are none on NBC Sports. Why do you think that is?
Astorian: I don’t know if it’s a conscious oversight – I think NBC Sports is just happy with the crew that they have. Do I miss Christine Simpson awkwardly pointing out whenever a player is old (usually on their birthday and to their face)? Yes. Do I think that NBC Sports is terrible for not having a female analyst? Nah. If they want one, though, I really would like to point them in the direction of current CBJ interviewer and former Thrashers interviewer Natalie Taylor. She’s fantastic and more than capable of holding her own with the guys.
Bradley: I think there are two reasons, though one has caused the other. Hockey is as much of a “good ole boys” club as you can get in sports. Traditions run deep, and change is slow in coming. Because of that, women haven’t been given the same opportunities men have. I believe at least part of that is driven by the networks thinking they’ll lose ratings with women in more prominent roles, basing that belief on the idea that these good ole boys watching from home would turn to another outlet rather than watch a woman. She doesn’t command the respect the men do because, according to them, she doesn’t know as much. The problem is that they’re partially right. Because women haven’t gotten the opportunities, they lack the experience the men enjoy. It’s a classic catch-22: can’t get the respect without the experience but can’t get the experience without the respect.
Connors: I don’t know, and in Canada they’re often reduced to crappy roles in hockey coverage, like reading tweets on air (noooo). On NESN, we had Naoko Funayama doing coverage for a long time, and she was excellent. I think women can be just as insightful as men, and I’d love to see someone like Funayama given a shot at a national job. That’s not to say Tappen isn’t awesome – she too used to work for NESN, and we were pretty sad when she left! But expanding coverage by women can only be a good thing.
Henschel: It’s hard to say exactly why that is. To some extent it is still kind of novel to have women in the sports media world in general, let alone to have us represented on a national level – it may just be one of those things that takes time, as more women get into the business and help expand the visibility, offer more credibility, networks will start to respond and adjust accordingly. And as long as that doesn’t mean the female version of Mike Milbury, I’m willing to wait for that time to come. That said, the fact that the League’s own network does employ a woman – and in a high-profile role – is not nothing. It would be great if there were more women on NHL Network, sure, but Kathryn Tappen is much more than just a sideline reporter or a pretty face on set to be the token female representative. She does her job well and she seems to be respected by the men with whom she works as well as the ones she interviews. That’s hugely important, especially for girls who are watching and who dream of getting into sports reporting someday. They need to see that it’s possible to be something more than just window dressing.
Langluy: This is partially due to the hockey media establishment’s fetish for “played the game”. There is, for example, no reason why anyone should value Glenn Healy’s opinion over Elliotte Friedman’s – but Healy (say it with me) played the game. Cassie Campbell-Pascal gets to do real hockey analysis for Hockey Night in Canada in part because she’s one of the few female hockey players anyone recognises. It’s also due partially, of course, to plain old sexism – the intersection of sports sexism and journalism sexism, to be precise. What little girl looks at an industry that contains almost exclusively white men and thinks “I want to grow up and do that because I bet it’s a very welcoming and respectful work environment”? What woman getting her start in sports journalism looks at her superiors who are almost exclusively white men and thinks “the track records of these men clearly indicate to me that they are interested in mentoring and developing female sports journalism talent”? Chicken-and-egg: Women don’t get into sports journalism because there are no women in sports journalism, and there are no women in sports journalism because women don’t get into sports journalism. It sucks. And the problem persists because, in the year 2013, somehow there remains an ongoing and completely ludicrous refusal to even acknowledge that sexism is the problem. Men – prominent men in hockey media, including the editor of this blog – cloak their sexism with excuses like “personal preference”. Give me a damn break. If you have a woman who understands the game and has great, quick insight, what possible reason could you have not to want her to do play-by-play? (Spoiler: The reason is that your personal preference is sexist.) Too often, as well, women don’t speak up to point out what’s going on. The hockey media community is not a big one: mainstream media interact with bloggers/online writers regularly, and even the most popular bloggers/online writers are generally quite accessible to readers. This is neat. But it also means that the community has turned into an enormous echo chamber, where everyone is hesitant to criticize friends and acquaintances, even constructively. To put it bluntly, I think the men who make these hiring decisions are sexist (perhaps unintentionally) and I don’t think that the women who write about hockey and who work in hockey have done enough to help other women.
Neale: I like Kathryn Tappen. She shows she knows what she’s talking about by asking pertinent questions and offering quality commentary. She also happens to be really pretty. It’s a sad double standard when a sports network is going to put a female on the air, she has to be ‘camera friendly’. A woman could have the encyclopedic brain of Jeff Marek but if she doesn’t look good while delivering the information, she’s not going to make it on TV; Mike Milbury isn’t held to the same level on looks and knowledge. (He STILL calls Anaheim “the Mighty Ducks” among other idiotic statements.) One day I hope the NHL follows what soccer has done in the US by adding more women from the national teams to the broadcasts. CBC has Canadian Olympian Cassie Campbell-Pascal on Hockey Night in Canada. She contributes more than just basic sideline reporting and fulfills the need to have played the game in order to offer analysis. She’s excellent on HNIC Radio where she’s given more of an opportunity speak. To be honest, I’d rather see no women on a broadcast than have one with zero hockey knowledge just for eye candy purposes; something we’ve seen frequently here in SoCal.
Saba: Possibly because the demand for television personalities is relatively narrow, because the NHL is the ugly stepsister of the major sports leagues in the US. Relative to that very little demand, there is a huge number of former hockey players or coaches or executives who can fill those positions. Quite often, for whatever reason, “played the game” or “former fan favourite” will win out over talent or ability. The “talent and ability” pool contains people of any gender, while the “played the game” pool contains only men.
Wiener: I think some of it has to do with the fact that most broadcasters are former players/coaches, and they like to use that experience to “sell” themselves.
• • •
7) Anything else you’d like to add on the topic?
Astorian: I’m probably an atrocious person to ask about sexism and gender preferences in sports hiring, since I’ve never had to deal with it personally. I do know people who have, and it’s awful – and it’s mortifying for people who carry it out to be that dense. I also don’t think a lot of the sexism in professional circles is on purpose. I think a good chunk is just done because it’s left over from a previous age, or done subconsciously. What will it take to get it to quit? A good solid crop of female sports analysts in the vein of Simpson or Tappan. Are they out there? Yes. Are they being ignored? Probably so. But keep at it. Be pushy. And let your talent speak for itself.
SK: Most of my hockey friends are those that I’ve met through the great world wide web, and, honestly, a majority of them are female. In terms of hockey media, take a look at the internet, blogs and twitter specifically, because there are a ton of smart female hockey fans out there who are heavily involved with the social media outlets and they know their shit.
Langluy: Now ask me about hockey’s race problem!
Neale: I don’t want anyone to be discouraged to follow their dreams of writing about sports of any kind based on what we’ve said in this post. Blogging about the Ducks and now the entire NHL has been one of the hardest and most rewarding things I’ve ever done. I am pretty damn proud of where I’ve gotten to this point but I know I still have a long way to go to reach the same respect level of some of my favorite hockey writers. Just remember, everyone has to start somewhere. No one is going to hand you anything in this line of work. It sucks it’s harder for girls to become a respected name but it’s that much more satisfying when you do see your work pay off. Never give up! Never surrender!
Saba: That even though I haven’t been on the receiving end of too many sexist comments or insults (with a few exceptions), I have witnessed many of my fellow female bloggers have to deal with horribly sexist crap for things they have said or written, so my experiences might not necessarily be so representative.