Exeter, Devon UK • May 23, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Sport Punditry: It’s (Not) A Man’s World

Punditry: It’s (Not) A Man’s World

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Alex Scott, the first female pundit at the football World Cup, has faced Twitter abuse during her time as a public figure. (Image credit: James Boyce.)

The much-needed inclusion of female pundits in the sports broadcasting scene hasn’t come without controversy. Print lifestyle editor Anna Romanovska looks at this state of sexism in sporting world.

My timing of writing this article is rather amusing. I have just overheard a conversation between two men and a woman discussing how women are treated within discussions of football. The woman brought up how she is often pushed out of male-dominant conversations about football because said men assume she doesn’t much about it. Because she’s a woman.

My timing of writing this article is rather amusing. I have just overheard a conversation between two men and a woman discussing how women are treated within discussions of football. The woman brought up how she is often pushed out of male-dominant conversations about football because said men assume she doesn’t much about it. Because she’s a woman.

A WOMAN’S OPINION OR ABILITY IN SPORT IS SEEN AS LESS… BECAUSE APPARENTLY, IN 2020, WE ARE STILL GENDERING FIELDS OF INTEREST AND WORK.

This same form of sexism can be found within punditry and the general sporting world. A woman’s opinion or ability in sport is seen as less, just because she is a woman. She may have worked harder, won more titles or awards and be more well-known, but the man will still hold more respect. Because sport and talking about sport is seen as masculine. Because apparently, in 2020, we are still gendering fields of interest and work.

A study conducted by academics from City University London and the University of Huddersfield aimed to find the reasons by the lack of women within sport journalism. They found that though many reported that sexism was not an issue for women sport journalists within modern newsrooms, there were issues present that made it more difficult for women to work as sport journalists. Examples included women being most susceptible to sexist abuse online, along with young, aspiring female journalists lacking role-models within sports reporting.

One reason highlighted in the 2016 study that particularly resounded with me was the prevalence of male-dominated football in sports news and how this can reduce opportunities for women.

Take Alex Scott as an example. She was the first female pundit to cover a world cup for the BBC. In a Guardian article, she talked about how many people are surprised by her skill and attention to detail. She finds it frustrating that people see her as a woman before they see her as a pundit, despite her growing up playing and knowing football.  

She has also received a lot of online abuse, with bullies replying to her tweets with rape threats, for example. Perhaps there is an inherent fear amongst men, stemming from the rise in inclusion and publicity of women within punditry and sports. If so, I do not find it surprising in the least. It is another example of a toxic idea of male purity within supposed masculine fields. I hate to break it to the sexists, but men don’t own the fields of sport and punditry. Times have changed since the need for societies to impose sport as the marker of macho masculinity.

INTERNALISED GENDER SUBVERSION AND SEXISM IS INCREDIBLY DAMAGING… SERENA WILLIAMS IS MUSCULAR BECAUSE SHE IS AN ATHLETE, NOT BECAUSE SHE IS REJECTING HER OWN FEMININITY.

Personally, growing up I felt I had to adopt a masculine persona to talk about sports and be “one of the guys.” This case of internalised gender subversion and sexism is incredibly damaging as it assumes that liking and doing sport is a masculine trait. Even though I was actively researching and watching ice hockey games, I was still cast aside because apparently women don’t understand games such as football and hockey.

A prime example of sexism and the standards imposed upon women within sport can be seen in the way Serena Williams is sometimes portrayed by the media and certain sexist figures. People assume that her muscular figure makes her a “shemale,” almost as if to be a woman athlete, she needs to maintain ‘feminine’ qualities in order to be respected and accepted by the general public. I cannot stress how untrue this is. She is muscular because she is an athlete, not because she is rejecting her own femininity.

Eni Aluko, another former football player turned pundit, spoke about how many male pundits tend to take high-profile punditry roles, such as in the World Cup, for granted. She feels that she has to avoid being perceived as the token woman by geeking out on all of the statistics and facts within her commentaries. This fear of tokenism is a form of imposter syndrome experienced by many marginalised groups who are a minority within majority-dominated fields.

A pundit should not be made to feel out of place within the sporting world just because she is a woman. Privilege of gender, stature and establishment should not force a minority within a field to feel as if she needs to work harder than a man to be successful.

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