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Commentary, Critical Media Analysis

Tell us how you really feel about women CBC

No sports network is perfect. Not even close. CBC has always been a bit of a mixed bag. The Hot Stove is always better than the NBCSN intermission segments for example and while Don Cherry is a relic, Elliotte Friedman is one of the most measured and thoughtful commentators in the sport.

One thing I always respected about CBC was their inclusion of Cassie Campbell. (There are other great women at CBC as well, but I’ll be honest, as an American I don’t get to watch CBC enough to know all of them.) She’s not treated as either dumb or as eye candy. While the hockey blogosphere is very accepting of women, those inroads have not been made in the MSM. So, as women who constantly deal with sexism in sports fandom (as we’ve written about several times) the position and respect that Cassie Campbell is given means something powerful.

That’s why the new partnership of CBC with the insipid blog While The Men Watch didn’t just make me angry, it made me disappointed and sad. What I’ve seen so far is utterly vapid, unfunny and offensive. Their twitter bio reads: “Live sports commentary by girls while the men watch. Sex and City meets Hockey Night” which really tells you all you need to know.

Twitter has been doing a fantastic job skewering CBC today and there will be endless blog posts on this issue but there are a couple of important points I want to make.

1. Is there anything inherently wrong with these women and their readers being fans this way? No. But the sexism involved at CBC elevating a blog like this is offensive and alienating their viewers, women and men who respect women. Especially since CBC isn’t just a business, it’s a federally subsidized public broadcaster!

2. There is something to be said for reaching out to women who aren’t fans or who are newbie fans. Most of the women I know who are rabid hockey fans became so later in life. Partially because as women they weren’t socialized to care about sports but even more so because they came from communities where hockey wasn’t a part of the culture. Those of who didn’t grow up with the sport had to learn the rules by watching the games, asking questions and reading up on it. Some of us got into because of guy friends or boyfriends and some of us got into because of our girl friends or girlfriends.

So the idea of reaching out to non-fans who happen to be women is fine, even admirable, but you can do so without being sexist and treating those women as dumb and shallow.

About Karen M

Recovering academic/pop culture junkie/crazed hockey fan.

Discussion

14 thoughts on “Tell us how you really feel about women CBC

  1. I am going to do my best not to sound sexist in my response.

    I think the CBC is going after the puck bunny crowd with this effort. There are a number of “fans” of the sport that pay more attention to how a player looks than how well they can play.

    This is not exclusive to hockey, it’s true in all sports. I look at it as a different type of fan. They may not look at the game the same way that I do.

    Now the question: Is there value in giving them coverage on the biggest stage?

    For Canada, this year’s Stanley Cup final is not a critical draw. There are no Canadian teams playing. Even Canada’s adopted team, the Phoenix Coyotes has been eliminated. The hard core fans that are watching the cup finals will tolerate this experiment.

    Some good news: This won’t last. Even if I am wrong and it shows success, it will get moved into the background or be presented in a different format to not scare away the “regular” fans of the game.

    Posted by sk8hrd | May 23, 2012, 6:31 pm
    • I think there is something to be said for going after the puck bunny crowd as an untapped market. I’d argue though that you can do it in a less offensive, less vapid way than these women. I also think it’s a dubious longterm business strategy if you aren’t including some content with ogling you’re not cultivating lasting fans. I know a number of women who got started in the sport for the eye candy but fell in love with the game became hardcore fans.

      As for looking at them as “just a different type of fan”, theoretically that sounds great and I’d agree, but in practice, as long as all female fans are judged based on those types of fans this remains an issue. (Especially when you’re talking about public broadcaster.)

      Posted by Karen M | May 23, 2012, 7:47 pm
      • Your comment about “all female fans are judged based on those types” may be the differing of our opinions. I think there are fans of hockey and then there are “casual fans”. The stereo typical casual female fan is regarded as a puck bunny, while the casual male fan is the drunken idiot sitting near you at the game (I am using a wide brush stroke here). I think there is always an opportunity to attract new fans of the game but many of the casual fans will always be that way.

        Look at the way that beer companies market their sports commercials as a beer drinking party atmosphere. Las Vegas commercials take similar approaches and have gender specific commercials and promotions.

        Don’t worry,once they conquer the puck bunnies, they will target the LGBT demographic. Makes you wonder what kind of promotions they will do to attract that community?

        Posted by sk8hrd | May 23, 2012, 8:25 pm
        • Yep, my issue is definitely with stereotyping. Female fans are generally labeled as ‘puck bunnies’ until they prove otherwise.

          I also wonder about the notion of puck bunnies as ‘casual fans’ as a misnomer, as well as varied based on Canada vs. the US. (And, for clarity’s sake, here we’re using the term ‘puck bunny’ to mean women interested in the hot players not the game, not necessarily the women who hang out at bars that players frequent and try to sleep with them. The term ‘puck bunny’ is unfortunately used to describe such a broad range of behaviors and practices that writers would do well to explain exactly which definition they are operating on each time they use it.)

          In the US at least, it seems like puck bunnies aren’t really casual fans in the same way that men are casual fans, i.e. catching games here and there when there aren’t NFL, MLB or NBA games on, not reading about the team beyond the occasional column in the local paper, etc. They invest time in reading about the players, looking at pictures and watching videos they are just focusing on the off-ice personal stuff rather than the game recaps and stats (and a lot of us hardcore fans do both). In the US at least, you always have to seek hockey out (less so in certain markets). And, if the goal is ogling players you really *have* to seek out supplemental materials beyond the games because hockey gear allows you to see only faces, maybe hair if they take their helmets off.

          Seems to me that women treat it as a fandom in much the same way they do a television show or a film where the players are simply the characters or actors (I think this is true of some hardcore fans as well). It’s a much more active and engaged participation than the casual male fan. It’s also one that’s more likely to burn out if it doesn’t evolve (I speak from experience with traditional TV/film fandoms). So, that’s why I think it’s a worthwhile market to tap but, in a substantive less offensive and stereotypical manner.

          Now, obviously the Canadian markets are more saturated so women might be less engaged than their US counterparts, that’s hard for me to judge. Though, when I think about baseball, football or basketball coverage, it’s super easy to avoid as a woman. The only reason I have any idea what’s going on in those sports in Chicago or beyond is because people I follow on twitter sometimes tweet about them.

          So, Canada may be unique in this regard or maybe there is simply a fundamental lack of understanding about the ways women engage with texts. Given the structural biases in the sports entertainment complex, I tend to think it’s the latter more so than the former.

          Thanks for the comments, you made me think about this in a way I hadn’t really before. Might have to pull out some grad school books and write about this in more detail ;)

          Posted by Karen M | May 24, 2012, 12:03 pm
  2. Hyuuuuuuge difference between being a casual/newbie female fan and only watching to look at men’s bodies (puck bunny). The question for me is, is their target audience really new female fans and are they actually going to talk about the sport? Because that is not the impression I got from their blog post. The impression I got from their blog post is that they are going to talk about inanities rather than about hockey. If they assume their audience doesn’t want to talk about sports, then they’re going after the puck bunnies.

    Posted by janiesmom | May 24, 2012, 8:33 am
    • Yep, I think that you’re exactly right in the distinction. I also think a lot of people assumed that the outrage was premature and an over-reaction because they didn’t actually read the blog post or check out the twitter feed and website. I think that when people did that they went, “oh, ok you’re right it is bad.”

      I also think the notion of the puck bunny as casual fan is a bit of a misnomer (see comment above).

      Posted by Karen M | May 24, 2012, 12:14 pm
  3. Are there actually a lot of women who came to hockey fandom late in life? I caught the bug at 8 years old …

    Posted by fireandair | May 24, 2012, 3:29 pm
    • I’d say at least half of the women I know (myself included) got into hockey as adults. I think it very much depended on where you grew up and what kind of exposure you had to the sport. I’m from the Chicago area but my parents weren’t into hockey (I still have to explain what’s happening sometimes when they watch with me) and the Blackhawks games weren’t even televised so I had no exposure to it (most of my childhood professional sports memories involve the Jordan Bulls dynasty with the Bears “Superbowl Shuffle” as an afterthought). I didn’t become a hockey fan until I went to college and grad school in Colorado at the tail end of the 90s-early 2000’s when Avs were contenders and all of my friends were watching the games.

      Posted by Karen M | May 24, 2012, 3:48 pm
      • I can see that — I’m from Philadelphia, and we practically get chips implanted in our heads at birth. Besides, I was 8 years old in 1974, so that probably explains it. :-D My mom was always a sports nut too — much, much more than my relatively geeky dad. Before she retired, she used to bury all the young guys at work in the football pool. She’s this tiny little grey-haired woman with half-moon glasses and an entire sports almanac packed into her head, so we always watched the games from the time I was very small.

        So I guess part of me internalized sports fandom as a female thing. I still can’t call her on the phone if the Phillies are on TV. It’s like she develops Tourettes: “So I decided to cook a pot roast and BASTARD YOU BASTARD!” “Is there a game on, Mom?” “Yeah.” “Want me to call back?” “Yeah.” *click*

        Sex and the City meets Hockey Night, GMAFB. If a woman likes hockey, it means she likes HOCKEY. Putting a coat of pink paint on it isn’t going to do anything but pique momentary curiosity. I think this will fail mightily as a gateway drug.

        Posted by fireandair | May 24, 2012, 3:58 pm
        • I definitely think mom’s are a huge part, especially in the eras we grew up in where there weren’t women involved with sports journalism (however limited their roles may still be) and there wasn’t the ability to connect with other sports loving women via the internet. My mom was always the casualist of sports fans- she liked watching the Bears and the Bulls but was never hardcore about it and if my dad wasn’t watching she wasn’t ever really the type to go out of her way to do it on her own. She always supported us playing sports and thought that was cool, but pro-sports weren’t all that interesting to her. She still can’t quite believe how into hockey I am and that I have things like player stats memorized. :P

          “I think this will fail mightily as a gateway drug.” I love that phrasing and agree with the sentiment.

          Posted by Karen M | May 24, 2012, 4:27 pm
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