21 November 2011

He Was the Winner, and Oh Yeah, She Won for the Woman

I know it's partially my job as a librarian at a women's nonprofit that does this, but I can't help noticing how the focus in race reports is always, "HE won!" "He came in first." And then there's a "Oh yeah, and for the women, so-and-so came in 1st, or 5th overall, running ___."


Yes, women rarely win overall. There's a combo of reasons why men are faster than women (less body fat than women; easier ability to lose body fat; more muscles). Occasionally, in ultrarunning, women do win outright, which is awesome. The super awesome Jessi Kennedy outright won the NJ Ultra 100 Miler in March. Yay! Some might dispute this, but based on my personal experiences, women seem to have a higher pain tolerance than men, and thus, can push themselves more. (Feel free to debate this one. It might just be all the men I've known!)

In a recent race on the Willamsburg Bridge, I was the first woman. I was so excited! At the finishing ceremony, the organizer gave a hooded sweatshirt to the male winner - and another to the last place person, and another to a random person. Why not to the first female finisher? I didn't even think of it until a friend complained that he was annoyed that I wasn't recognized.

Yesterday, I was so excited that one of my teammates in NBR won the Brooklyn Marathon. I loved the coverage that often mentioned us, and I cheered him on the entire time. I was really happy for him. It was an amazing honor for him to win a marathon at 24 and the coverage of him was really great!

But then, I started thinking about the woman (whose winning time at 3:14 is just 14 min off my PR...hmmm....) who won. She was mentioned as an afterthought in many of the articles. He got some great press, great quotes. And not much is learned of her.

In this NY Mag article, almost three paragraphs are devoted to the male winner, and a sentences in parentheses is all the female winner gets. Seriously. Why can't both get three paragraphs?

Why? Why does this happen? Why, even in co-ed sports, is the focus still men?

When I run races, yes, I push myself, and I like to see a high overall place, but I know the one that my sponsors and other care about is my gender and age group placing, which, sorry, men aren't included in. So why is so much coverage so male-centric? Why does Ultrarunning Mag way more frequently feature a male on their cover (and thanks to my friend Lesley for raising this point in a letter to the editor to them), and why do their articles focus so much on the top male competition and then gives sparse mention to top women?

When will we have gender equality in sports?

For some stats on Women in Sports, check out this factsheet!


and.e.aitch said...

Don't forget about Lizzy Hawker beating everyone (men and women) whilst setting the women's world 24 hour record in Wales this year. And how about Jennifer Pharr Davis setting a new Fastest Known Time on the Appalachian Trail? I bet we'll be seeing more and more stuff like this in the future. As for media focusing too much on the men? I for one try not to focus too much on the media.

Jessamyn said...

I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that sports are still considered a necessary part of masculinity, and something of an aberration where femininity is concerned. So the narrative of a man winning a sporting event is somehow viewed as more essential than coverage of the women's... anything. That's a really messed up view of sports, though, and I completely agree with you that it needs to change.

When I did bigger road races, I used to use this website called firstgiving to raise money for the Women's Sports Foundation, and do the races in a WSF singlet. They do a lot of work funding sports for young girls, and I think the more we value women's sports from a young age, the more adults we'll have who see them as just as important as men's sports.