I am a big fan of the Olympics, and the winter Olympics in particular. (As my birth country of Sweden is quite competitive in the winter games.)
But even from a cultural aspect, what I really enjoy about the Olympics is that it is the only time sports coverage come anywhere close to depicting sport in something that resembles gender equality. Typically in prime time sports coverage is 97% mens sports / 3% womens sports. During the olympics, it’s gets nudged up a bit closer towards 50/50.
One reflection of this that it still very odd to me. Roughly 30 hours ago, the US womens hockey team beat Finland to advance to the gold medal game against Canada.
In that semi-final game a woman from Plymouth, MN, Dani Cameranesi scored two goals, another woman from Warroad, MN scored one and two other players scored. In other words, a woman from Plymouth, MN was instrumental in ensuring the US will win a gold or silver medal at the Olympics.
I realize that there are many factors that come into play as to why some sports are more popular and some athletes are more newsworthy. But looking through local news media, gender appears to play a big role in how athletes are treated, especially against the obvious difference in stakes in the reported sports stories.
We’re very much a soccer family now in terms of sport, and gender inequality has received quite a bit of attention in the press. The general sentiment runs that the ruling organizations both internationally and in the US don’t do enough to support the women’s game.
On the other hand, my daughter and I went to the women’s World Cup in Canada a couple of years ago and that was an awesome testament to the growth of women’s sports in North America, and encouraging signs of similar things on the international stage. In the US, the issue is often attention to women’s sports, but internationally it’s often a level lower: Many cultures strongly discourage women participating in sport at all.
I never stop rooting for Noora Raty, the Finland goalie who took the Gophers through their 60+ game (multi-season) unbeaten streak! There were something like 6 Gophers on the US team (plus those playing for other countries), Brandt on US and her sister on the Korean team from Vadnais Heights, etc… lots of MN connections in women’s hockey!
Back to the original point, I think to a large extent it is about $$$ and the big bucks being paid to watch those at the highest levels. I would be thrilled if I could see as much women’s college hockey on tv as I can see men’s & maybe that’s a reasonable request at the collegiate level, but I don’t think the money is going to work for that to be true for most sports at the pro level (which is where most of the coverage is going to happen other than the Olympics.)
That’s actually part of the furor behind the pay issue in US National soccer. The women have won World Cups, and their last World Cup victory against Japan was the fifth most viewed soccer game in US history. The men didn’t even qualify for this upcoming World Cup, and at best rank in the 20’s internationally.
The women have been more successful and bring in tons of money, yet get paid a fraction of what the men do.
I think this is generally true of tennis as well. Women’s tennis is much more entertaining because there are actual rallies. In men’s tennis, it’s just serve and maybe return. Pay equity there should be happening already and it’s not. I don’t have the numbers, but I’d be surprised if viewership for women’s tennis wasn’t equal or better than men’s.
That’s probably one of the best places to call out how the gender pay gap develops and perpetuates. Objectively, there doesn’t seem to be any justification. (There’s all sorts of possible excuses when looking at industry statistics in general.)
I like the discussion. I went to college with Lindsay Whalen who will be enshrined in the basketball hall of fame one day. She took the Gophers to the Final 4 when I was a student at the U, and then she was a first-round WNBA draft pick. I’ll never forget looking up what she was going to make to play in the WNBA. It was like $30k for her rookie season. You can make more than that waiting tables. I know it has to do with consumer demand, TV contracts, etc., but the disparity is just extreme. It is refreshing come Olympic time to see women’s athletics embraced. For my mother, grandmother, and other women in my family, it’s virtually the only time they’re interested in sports.