Tasked with garnering more fans, advocates for women’s sports might understandably think an online community of feminists a good place to reach out. And in fact a WTS blogger tried this recently-with, at best, mixed results. I will here give the essence of what happened, and suggest where discourse about women in sport must go to effect genuine progress. First, though, I should insist that you read, if you haven’t already, the relevant post and its attendant comments at feministing.com.
From the first we see signs of trouble:
I’m not interested in sports, I don’t like playing them, I don’t like watching them, I don’t like talking about them or listening to people go on and on about them. I don’t have to have anything to do with them if I don’t want to. Just because I share a common genital feature with people who like sports doesn’t mean I have to like them too or go to their games or promote their leagues.-Eresbel
Nope. I will continue to ignore the WNBA and NBA equally. I have no obligation as a woman to watch someone throw a ball into a hoop.-UnHingedHips
And it does seem to me a rather difficult sell to promote women’s sports merely as a cause. The opportunity for women to play sports, yes; but to expect that someone by nature uninterested in sport is going to altruistically follow women’s sports is probably unreasonable.
Then, the crux of the matter:
I’m a football fan, I don’t like basketball. I do love gymnastics, track and tennis. Though I think they have a right to play I don’t think they have a right to play indefinitely for an empty court and make no profit.-Phenicks
And, while WNBA players are extremely talented, it is a little like watching minor league baseball — which is why it doesn’t make my list of sports to follow, and why I doubt most men will ever care.-KBZ
Who cares how much effort people put into sports? I may train all day at a sport for my whole life but if I don’t match up nobody’s going to pay to watch me play. If effort counted for anything Rudy Ruettiger would be in the Hall of Fame. He’s not, because he wasn’t a good enough athlete.-dawn_of_the_bread
It simply won’t do to think that women’s sports can prosper as a cause or by fiat. Fighting for opportunities and fair media representation is something we can and should all do, but ultimately it is up to the female athletes to attract fans and dollars to women’s sports.
It would be an error, though, to assume that women are reluctant sports fans. They in fact shop for their sports entertainment much as men do. The NFL’s growth in recent years, for example, has been largely the result of attracting more female fans; nowadays, women make up more than 40 percent of the NFL’s fan base. (Ironically, this may partly be a consequence of more women having played sports in their youth.)
As an aside, a worthwhile suggestion for the WNBA:
The WNBA needs to focus on smaller cities with no (or very few) major professional sports teams or high-powered college sports teams. I live in Houston — with the Rockets, Texans, Cowboys, Astros, Longhorns, Aggies (etc., etc.), the Comets hardly ever even made the evening news. They were basically drowned out by other, far more popular, sporting franchises in the area.-KBZ
One I have put forth as well (viz. here).
It makes sense to end this post by addressing female athletes. What can you, the female athlete, do to elevate your status and that of women’s sports? Primarily three things: 1) Continue to push yourself and train hard. 2) Ignore those who doubt your athletic potential simply because you are a woman, for they have it all wrong anyway. 3) Do not allow erroneous notions about femininity to hold you back in your training or otherwise.