Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reacting to 'While the Men Watch'

I meant to talk about this a long time ago - and now it's really late - but I'm also sure that lots of people haven't seen this.

So, CBC's Hockey Night in Canada has teamed up with While the Men Watch, an "online broadcast" meant to be listened to as an alternative to the regular (ie. "men's") hockey commentary. And, yes, it's schtick and it's tongue-in-cheek. As the site explains, "Lena and Jules...follow their 'boyfriends of the game', interview special guests, and analyze the road to the Stanley Cup in a whole new way." The 'About' page on their site also describes their webcast as "Sex in the City meets ESPN."

Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso.
Although I don't actually know which is which. From their website.

I don't actually find this objectionable. No, seriously, it's cool that someone is doing something like this. Standard sports commentary is generally bad, and I think it's great that people are creating - and  successfully - alternatives to it. Something kitschy and comic and a little absurd? Something playful, that pokes fun at how seriously we take sports? Sounds great.

What sucks, of course, is how it's being marketed, both by the CBC and by the women themselves: as a show "for women", and opposed to what "the men watch". That kind of dualistic framing - all the men onside with the boring, standard broadcast and traditional sports discourse; all the women onside with this gently mocking one - is unhelpful and more than a little insulting. The implication that women must not like sports and don't want to watch it or discuss it on the same terms as men? (Or that men, themselves, must all enjoy sports in only this way?) That's dumb and displays a shocking lack of awareness of their audience, not to mention a lack of respect for the women who are already a part of it. And CBC's pandering to non-fans at the expense - and to the injury - of existing female fans? Well, that could just as easily leave them with no fans.

And, I should add, it makes me not want to listen to this particular webcast. Which is a shame, because this is exactly the kind of thing that sports needs to see more of. (Well, more of the model they're following, that is. Maybe not more of this particular brand.)

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