Canadian national broadcaster CBC announced today the network's Stanley Cup Finals coverage will include an alternate audio channel featuring Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso of While The Men Watch, a site dedicated to "sports commentary that women actually want to hear."
By their own definition, this commentary means "things that have nothing to do with the game." Indeed, these women have no interest whatsoever in actually describing or understanding the events happening onscreen:
Thanks guys, but if we really wanted to, we could probably figure out how to analyze a five-on-four situation. In all seriousness, there is no shortage of talented female sportscasters out there who we respect. We just think it's more fun to talk about why so many gorgeous players come from Welland Ontario and why they all skate around with scotch tape holding up their socks.
So it's MST3K with "Math Class Is Hard" Barbie instead of robots. Canada's talented female sportscasters (and sportswriters) are having trouble picking up on the respect. Holly MacKenzie, formerly of The Score, called the news "disheartening" and added:
Getting to be at "holy grail of hockey" because you don't know/follow the sport is GREAT.
Sportsnet's Shannon Proudfoot, meanwhile, reacted with anger:
Women already face an uphill battle in sports media—even in Canada, where assumptions might be that the glass ceiling is more fragile. CBC, for its part, has stirred the boiling gender pot for years by employing flamboyant homophobe Don Cherry, a man responsible for lines like:
I've seen some awful smacks, and it's always a woman, yappin' away.
Now CBC seems to be embracing Cherry's right-wing drag queen philosophy, and delivering women their own yappin' channel—for what is year in and out Canada's biggest media event..
But providing While The Men Watch such a public stage demeans all female sports fans, through the message that women don't care about or aren't capable of appreciating ice hockey for the sport itself. (That there is such a focus on "sexy guys" is itself heterosexist, and alone warrants criticism on its face.) What Canadian woman (or man) really wants to listen to commentators who aren't really sure who Ken Daneyko is (though they think he looks like "an older version of Vince Vaughn"? The natural backlash has already begun:
The real message CBC presents to women is that hockey is repulsive, and something unfeminine; it's not just that men won't explain, it's that women shouldn't want them to.
Men, meanwhile, can (or ought to) be taken aback by this assumption. First, it portrays men as meat-headed automatons rendered incommunicado by the seductive mistress that is playoff hockey—leading them to, apparently, abandon their female mates. Second, it suggests men cannot or will not attempt to share the game with the women in their lives. This is damaging on both a personal relationship level and in raising a new generation of girls who might come to love the sport of hockey. Sometimes, men have dated, been in relationships with, and married women who evolved to become fans of our favorite sports through spending time with us. If we actually care for (or, god forbid, love) the women we're with, we'll take the time to explain why the sport is so fantastic—which includes both the rules on the field/court/ice/pitch and the external elements that make sports such a great thing to consume on television. CBC thinks men cannot, or will not do this, and in doing so paints a very dark picture of interpersonal relationships.
Canada's often portrayed as a more progressive nation than the U.S., but this kind of "football widow" portrayal of women is straight out of 1960. I have a feeling they'll change their minds after today's outcry, but who knows. It's possible they'll hear the complaints, and give us all the finger.