On the question of why more women aren’t watching women’s sports

The Curley Center for Sports Journalism has published an interesting study on why more women don’t watch women’s sports. Key findings:

In drawing from the conversations, we suggest that fanship is something more than simply developing an affinity for a certain team, but rather a complex concept mediated by one’s gender roles. For example, most of the women expressed a preference for the Olympics (an especially timely finding and one that sparked the initial popular interest in the piece). Indeed, analysts are saying that the female audience watching the Olympics will be larger than ever. Our research helps explain why this is; we note that the way the Olympics are presented – in short, easy-to-digest packages – are especially easy to appreciate for individuals who do not have the luxury of sitting down in front of the television for three uninterrupted hours. Rather, for those who are responsible for childcare and other domestic labor duties (generally women, according to existing wide-scale sociological research), the routine of sitting down only to get back up quickly to tend to something in the house is all too familiar. Thus, the ability to turn on the TV for 15 minutes, see a nice, tidy package of, say, track and field, is especially conducive for people with a hectic and full schedule in the home…….

The challenge to building a women’s sports fan base is also mediated by the form of domestic life. As the women in this study showed, watching sports was not a leisure activity, but rather associated with emotion labor. On the latter part of this two-pronged challenge, media producers and women’s sports advocates interested in building audiences in the short-term need to acknowledge and address the structural impediments facing women with the potential for interest in watching women play. For instance, airing professional women’s sports on weekends is a barrier for many women who perform traditional gender roles associated with childcare.

I hadn’t thought about that, but the theory makes sense.

Next question, of course, is how do we address this issue?

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