Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Sometimes Men and Women *ARE* Equal on TV

I am on vacation this week. No, I did not go anywhere. I simply am not going to work. Sometimes that is enough. Part of my "holistay" (think The Daily Show) has included watching the Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, NE. The coverage is on USA Network from 8-9pm EST, in case anyone is wanting to see some of the action.

An interesting notion popped into my mind as I sit here. There is a discrepancy between coverage of male and female sporting events. As I have indicated on previous occasions, I think it should simply be sporting events with no distinction between gender. What I realized tonight is that when it is an individual sporting event where the events are staggered between the men and women (think track/field, swimming, gymnastics) then the TV time gets equal billing. Is it because of a greater respect for those particular sports? Or is it because it is harder to separate the two when the entire sporting schedule gives equal time to the men and women?

I'd have to say that it is the latter. I was a swimmer for about fifteen years. The only thing that I ever felt was that we, as swimmers, did not get equal billing as the football team did (who, in high school and college was not very impressive, might I add). I never felt as if I was diminished as a female athlete though. Why? Because I trained with the men and, while I did not compete against them, I was always training against and competing along side of them. Isn't that what our lives should be like?


habladora said...

Maus, interesting post. You write:
"Is it because of a greater respect for those particular sports? Or is it because it is harder to separate the two when the entire sporting schedule gives equal time to the men and women?"
Isn't the problem that networks generally refuse to arrange the schedule in a way that gives equal time to men and women? Why are sports like swimming any different? Are you saying that men and women in the Olympics get equal time because the schedule is not set by networks? Don't men's sports still get the more desirable time slots? Do women's events have to be sandwiched between men's in order to merit network attention?

Casmall said...

I wonder.. Is TV time equal between the sexes in tennis?

Mächtige Maus said...

First the easy question. Tennis gets roughly equal air time. It isn't completely equal because men play the best of five method while women play the best of three. It creates an inherently unequal situation.

Next the harder question. I will stick with swimming because it is what I know. Swimming is an inherently equal sport. Not including Michael Phelps, who is a commercial icon, there isn't a discrepancy between men and women as far as money goes because there isn't a lot of money period. Meets are held at the same venue over the course of multiple days. There are preliminary and final races. The events stagger between men and women. The men and women swim the exact same events.

So, the networks have an interesting issue. To show live coverage, you have to go with the way the meet goes. I guess then it does seem as if the women's events have to be sandwiched between the men's events. In which case, shame on the networks for perpetuating the gender stereotypes.

The Olympics are going to be interesting. Clearly they can't be aired live. I'm curious as to how the air time will be offered.

Honestly, in all the years I have watched swimming, never has there been a difference between coverage for men and women. And that is what I found amazing last night.

habladora said...

Maus, this is an excellent post and an interesting observation. I guess what I was wondering was whether or not swimming's success in creating a more egalitarian sporting environment might be mimicked by other sports. I've noticed a huge inequity between the time and attention granted girls and boys sports in the high schools where I've worked, but you are right that the disparity is between importance given to boys and girls team sports.

sally said...

The Olympics coverage is going to be interesting because this year there will be live coverage available online. This could either be a good thing- people can watch what they want to watch without having to wait until it shows up on tv- or a bad thing- because people can watch what they want to watch, NBC networks will air what they want us to watch.

I LOVE THE OLYMPICS so I'm pretty excited about the live coverage online.

Mächtige Maus said...

See...I'm not sure how other sports will manage to create the same type of environment that swimming enjoys. The only other sports I can come up with that are similar are track/field and diving. Here the men and women are also competing at the same venue, with staggered events that are the same.

If I am missing similar examples, let me know. However, it seems to me that most sports automatically create inequality by the format. I don't think that there is any way around that.

DJ Dual Core said...

RE: comparison with other sports I want to say weightlifting and power lifting, but I don't know if enough women participate in those for the comparison to work.

Mächtige Maus said...

Hmmm...here are my thoughts on the comparison. (1) I'm not sure that there are enough women in the sport to be comparable. Is women's weight-lifting an Olympic sport? (2) Is the training for lifting similar to swimming? I mean, when I swam, I was training in the same lane as the men. There was no distinction. Granted...there are six (eight if it is a long course pool) lanes of people swimming so of course there is segregation based on speed, but still I was smack dab training against the guys. Maybe women lifters train along side the men as well. I am not familiar enough to know.