July 12, 2012

Sports viewership: Man Smart, Woman Smarter

From Science Codex, a summary of focus groups with 19 women in prime shopping years of 26-43:
Forty years into the Title IX era, female athletes have risen to prominence and populate the sports landscape. Female viewership, however, has not witnessed the same rise. What sports are women watching (or not), and why? Of the many events in this summer's Olympics, which will be favored by women viewers? 
A recent study conducted by Erin Whiteside (University of Tennessee) and Marie Hardin (Pennsylvania State University) explores these questions. The results, published in Communication, Culture & Critique, show that women prefer condensed sporting events like the Olympics to sports with longer seasons, and that in selecting which particular Olympic sport to watch, women often select events that are seen as traditionally "feminine," like gymnastics and figure skating. 
"Our research provides some insight into why the Olympics remain popular with women," said Hardin. "It's not just about the types of sports that are featured, although that is certainly a big part of it. It's also about the way in which the Olympics is delivered: in bite-sized chunks that may require just a 10-minute commitment to see an exciting sporting event, during a time of day when women feel they can make that commitment." 
The study looked at conversations from female focus groups to determine how women consume sports media. The findings show that female spectatorship is often tied to gender roles and related domestic work. 
Nearly all women surveyed expressed preference for the Olympics, for patriotic reasons as well as for the fast pace. "Women preferred the condensed style of coverage, something they described as easy to follow," Whiteside explains. The frequency of events during the Olympics, as well as the omnipresent discussion around it —from television to radio to the news—made it preferable for women who otherwise did not identify as avid sports viewers or didn't regularly have the time to devote to watching sports. 
Women in the study favored sports that were more traditionally feminine rather than masculine. Participants generally saw little value in following women's sports and were especially uninterested in watching or following women in sports such as basketball, which showcase athletic displays that challenge traditional gender roles. Rather, they expressed a passing interest in sports such as gymnastics, tennis, and figure skating."

You have to admit that this is a more sensible way to consume sports fandom than, say, enrolling in a fantasy league. I certainly feel this way about the Winter Olympics. Every four years, there will be short track speed skating, which always starts out as two minutes of elegance and winds up with 15 seconds of Keystone Kops Kaos, with Apolo Anton Ohno inevitably winning some kind of medal, and the South Koreans fuming over Ohno's perfidious Nippo-American good fortune and threatening to expel the U.S. Army. I look forward to each Winter Olympics for this tradition, but I can't say I follow short track speed skating any other time.

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

I look forward to each Winter Olympics for this tradition, but I can't say I follow short track speed skating any other time.

Steve, you might be interested in "keirin". I discovered it recently and found it exciting to watch. It's basically short track cycling and there are exciting sprints and crashes and stuff, just like in short track speed skating. It starts off with a pace cyclist for the first few laps. After the pace cyclist leaves the track for the last few laps, it turns into an all out wild sprint. It debuted at the Olympics in 2000. I'm looking forward to watching it at this summer's Olympics. "Keirin" is a stupid name for it though. They should just call it short track cycling.

Here's a good clip of the sport. There's a good crash in it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9UafA2541c4

SFG said...

Sensible for whose purposes? An extended storyline allows professional sports to serve their purpose as providing stuff for men to talk about with each other.

You're writing from the perspective of the nerd who finds the whole following-a-pro-team thing annoying and would rather minimize the time he spends on it when he can be data-mining world running records to find evidence of racial differences.

I'm the same way, but...

Anonymous said...

"Women preferred the condensed style of coverage, something they described as easy to follow," Whiteside explains. The frequency of events during the Olympics, as well as the omnipresent discussion around it —from television to radio to the news—made it preferable for women who otherwise did not identify as avid sports viewers or didn't regularly have the time to devote to watching sports.

Well then apparently the suits at NBC must have commissioned a similar study about 20 or 30 years ago - it would certainly explain why Olympics coverage [with its overwhelming emphasis on feel-good background stories rather than actual sports events] has sucked so profusely for the last several decades.

Meanwhile, back here on Planet Earth -

DIABETES CARE CLUB: Black Man, White Wife

SESAME STREET: Stupid White Nerd Boy, Genius Ashkenazic Chick

Anonymous said...

What a tortured way to make the point that women just aren't into sports the way men are.

Gilbert P.

guest007 said...

One of the items that the researchers will never mention is that most of those feminine athletes in gymnasitcs or ice skating are white.

It is easy for suburban white women to care about a "feminine" athlete who is white, upper middle class, and has an interesting back story.

Anonymous said...

Men watch sports with a clear winner. Women watch "sports" that are judged.

Auntie Analogue said...

It would be interesting to survey women to learn if they also like the Olympics because of its participants' festive national costumery and its colorful feelgood "we are really all alike" pageantry. It would seem that to women sports having long seasons are akin to the drudgery of preparing and clearing up after dull daily meals, while the Olympics are like special festive occasions for which women enjoy decorating the house and the opportunity to bring out the good china and heirloom silverware.

Anonymous said...

IOW, women don't really like to watch sports but will watch if you make it brief and give them some other reason to watch like Patriotism, human interest, or spectacles.

10-1 someone will write a dumb post that They (or their wife/girlfriend/lover/niece/daughter) is a SPORTS JUNKIE - so there.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between Trayvon and Trayon?

Trayon chose someone who would not fight back.

Justin said...

So, women only like to watch women's sports done in a skirt or bathing suit, too? Well, I'll be!

jeanne said...

It seems like broadcast sports are where men can go to hide from troublesome stuff like relationships, politics, race, etc.

Oh I know dudes argue about sports, I've heard them going at it in sports bars..but they're just regurgitating what one or another sports commentator said. Stupid shit & nothing original.

Especially at the local level, college and high school sports are an escape, something safe We Can All Agree About! (Can't we?)

That's fine, I feel the same way about music, but while we're hiding, our world is sliding out from underneath us.

Anonymous said...

Steve- you're not in a short-track skating fantasy league?

Dan in DC

josh said...

I wonder how race plays out in this. Gymnastics,skating and swimming are pretty much white sports. White women I surmise do NOT want to watch black women sports figures. Past BF stars like Marion Johnson,Flo-Jo,and Debbie Thomas, the black ice skating champ,seem to gather no interest from the Big White Woman Media Monster. Shutting down....

Anonymous said...

Canada's Olympic Team just chose Simon Whitfield as Canada’s flagbearer. He is white, male and apparently not gay (based on a word search). What is going on?? Why is the flagbearer not a differently gendered First Nations woman of colour? Is ham-fisted tokenism finally getting a little stale?

WmarkW said...

This is, in a nutshell, why no one pays attention to boxing anymore. Used to be, boxers made their reputations at the Olympics, and this carried over into their pro careers. Now, NBC has determined women leave the living room when boxing comes on, so they air zero of it.

Forbes said...

Title IX is responsible for the emergence of prominent female athletes? Name them...

And professional tennis doesn't count because Title IX isn't responsible for the Williams sisters.

Anonymous said...

watching professional sports is a waste of time, money and resources - find me a political philosopher who ever thought that it was a good thing. CIcero didn't, Theodore ROosevelt, though a big fan of the outdoors, warned of the dangers to a republic.
yet now we have taxpayer funded stadiums. Wonder why?

Scarlet Knight said...

Every four years I am the biggest curling fan there is. Otherwise, I couldn't care.

Anonymous said...

The only sports this gay man would voluntarily watch are men's gymnastics, men's diving and possibly the World Cup Soccer final.

Anonymous said...

This is something that I agree with women on. Spectator sports are a complete waste of time.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

"Every four years I am the biggest curling fan there is. Otherwise, I couldn't care."

Haha, same here. The only reason I watch the Olympics is the chance to view some obscure, interesting event I wouldn't otherwise see. Of course, the Idiot Box tends not to care about niche markets.

Incidentally, I never watch track. I see plenty of TV coverage of black athletes running very fast, and they put them in a human obstacle course as well. Way more exciting.

Anonymous said...

The World Baseball Classic has been pretty good. I didn't think it'd be that good but enough foreign talent has developed by now where it's pretty fun to watch.

agnostic said...

This is part of women's lower committment to communities or networks outside of their narrow nuclear family / kinship circles. Men are into being part of a much larger team, community, army, etc.

Just dipping into the group of sports-watchers for a brief moment is OK. Beyond that demands too much in membership dues for them to sign up.

They're the same with music. They might get psyched up when a band is coming to town, is going to play live on the air, or what have you. But the enduring, day-to-day chatter, enthusiasm, and group-based activities around music are mostly a guy thing.

Same with movies too. Guys are more into the steady immersion in one or another type of film nerd, group-oriented scene. Regularly taking in lots of movies on DVD, Netflix, etc., to exhaust some canon, for example.

Women seem more energetic for fleeting happenings like a film festival, screening of a classic, etc., and not so much for the more committed kind of fandom.

peterike said...

A lot of Olympic sports are easy. People go from Point A to Point B, the one who gets there first wins.

No complicated rules, nothing much to follow. Easy for dah wimmins to know what's going on.

The other types of Olympic sports like gymnastics and skating and diving are artistic and nobody at all knows how to judge them, so it's immaterial.

Short version: Olympics = sports for dummies.

Hnery Canaday said...

Mary Cox in tennis socks
Mary Cox in shorts
Teacups tinkling in the breeze
Tables underneath the trees
And Mary Cox with suntanned knees
In tennis socks and shorts.

White lines drawn across the lawn
And Mary Cox in shorts
Jugs and glasses in the shade
Lilac trees and lemonade
Racquet presses carefully laid
Beside the tennis-courts.

But summer dies and summer skies
Grow cloudy in my thoughts
Yet still as in a crystal creeps
The shadow of a rose that sleeps
And Mary Cox’s shadow leaps
In tennis socks and shorts.

-Philip Larkin

Anonymous said...

"The only sports this gay man would voluntarily watch are men's gymnastics, men's diving and possibly the World Cup Soccer final."

Shouldn't you gay guys be into wrestling?

Anonymous said...

"I see plenty of TV coverage of black athletes running very fast, and they put them in a human obstacle course as well."

You mean TEEN athletes.

Anonymous said...

"So, women only like to watch women's sports done in a skirt or bathing suit, too? Well, I'll be!"

I wonder if this is true of all women as a whole or of certain groups of women.

For example, I think there may be a racial angle to this. Women's basketball is heavily black, and that may be why non-black women are not interested in it. But are black women more interested in, say, synchronized swimming than in women's basketball?

And what about class? Maybe some working class women with tattoos on their butts might go for women's boxing, but I don't think it will be very popular among educated women--though, ironically, it was the feminist agitation of educated women that got stuff like WOMEN'S BOXING included in the Olympics.

Anonymous said...

"...sports are an escape, something safe We Can All Agree About! (Can't we?)"


I dunno. I've seen some pretty intense angry arguments break out over sports, particularly team sports.

Dennis Dale said...

What a tortured way to make the point that women just aren't into sports the way men are

tortured? Did you get sleepy reading the whole, what, five hundred words? (you are aware it isn't mandatory, right?)

You don't even have it right--the post begins with the premise women aren't into sports like men are, and uses the Olympics as a way of understanding why, and what that implies about the overall differences between men and women.

Sailer, you've been put on notice yet again by yet another reader who thinks you exist to amuse and humor him alone. Get with it!

Lucille said...

A lot of Olympic sports are easy. ...No complicated rules, nothing much to follow. Easy for dah wimmins to know what's going on. The other types of Olympic sports ... are artistic and nobody knows how to judge them, so it's immaterial. Short version: Olympics = sports for dummies.

What is your idea of a sport of "intelligent people", and why don't you think the official events don't meet your criteria?

Anonymous said...

About ten or a dozen years back, the UK Guardian was very upset at the fact that women couldn't join the MCC, home of cricket (they caved in when the State lottery withheld funding). There must have been dozens of items on this insult to the dedicated women cricketers of the UK.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/1999/mar/17/cricket1?

Around the same time we (me/wife/kids) were driving back from a family visit, and I'd noticed that a women's cricket international (a 'Test Match' between England and South Africa) was taking place not far off our route. It was a nice day, we had plenty of time, so we diverted to watch the game for a few hours.

There were 22 players, of which 13 were on the pitch. And around 40 spectators. We talked to most of them as we walked round the ground, and they were all relatives of the players (in fact some WERE the players on the batting side). Other than ourselves, no one seemed to have come purely to watch a game of cricket.

Women themselves do not care about women's cricket, yet the Guardian and the BBC ran with this campaign until victory. It's just "Who, whom?" all the way down.

Steve Sailer said...

English girls play rounders, right, while boys play cricket? Rounders seems like a perfectly decent game.

peterike said...

What is your idea of a sport of "intelligent people", and why don't you think the official events don't meet your criteria?

I don't think there are any sports for intelligent people. Any idiot can follow any sport.

BUT if you are not familiar with a relatively complex team sport like football, baseball or soccer, it's hard to know what the heck is going on and it's boring. This is one reason many women don't like these sports (or Euros don't like football/baseball -- they have no idea what's happening).

But for stuff like track, cycling, swimming, all you have to know is whoever gets there first wins. So you can get fully into the sport in about three seconds without having to understand a bunch of arcane rules.

Also sports like tennis/bandminton/ping-pong/volleyball: hit ball good. Miss ball bad. Again, simple. No complex rules, no strategies, no formations. Tennis pretends to have arcane scoring, but really it's four points you win.

On Behalf of Albertosaurus said...

or their wife/girlfriend/lover/niece/daughter

You left out "submissives".

Anonymous said...

"Sailer, you've been put on notice yet again by yet another reader who thinks you exist to amuse and humor him alone. Get with it!"

Calm down, Dennis. Sailer writes a lot of posts sending up the way MSM writers and academics dance Swan Lake around the obvious. I choose to see this post as one in that genre.

Imagine two professors set out to find out why men just aren't into shopping. They decide that men DO love shopping; it's just that men prefer short, sharp, concentrated ten minute episodes every four years or so.

Gilbert P.

Anonymous said...

If Jennie Finch was a black lesbian, softball would be the premiere women's team sport in the Olympics, but instead they dumped it. I remember Olympic commenters raving about Lisa Fernandez and ignoring the beautiful (and better) Finch.

At least we still have the women's Marfan's/ acromegaly afflicted white women, and black lesbians, of the women's basketball team to root for. USA, USA, USA.

Anonymous said...

Men watch sports with a clear winner. Women watch "sports" that are judged.

Agreed, women want sports to be like beauty contests. It's weird, the one male dominated sport that is more subjective like figure skating, particularly at the amateur level is boxing, and women absolutely have no interest in it. It's also never covered anymore on the main network, but relegated to NBC's third tier Olympic channel, usually CNBC, where it won't take away air time from human interest stories about female gymnasts who are 16 years old but look like they are 13. Title IX has nothing to do with American female athletes success at the Olympics, just the fact that Americans are much more interested in all sports than people elsewhere in the world.

Matra said...

English girls play rounders, right, while boys play cricket? Rounders seems like a perfectly decent game.

Rounders is (was?) played by both boys and girls at a young age (under 10) not just in the UK but also Australia/NZ. I played it at several schools on both continents but it was always a teacher-led light-hearted play activity with both boys and girls participating together. I've never heard of actual school teams or leagues.

Peter said...

This is, in a nutshell, why no one pays attention to boxing anymore. Used to be, boxers made their reputations at the Olympics, and this carried over into their pro careers. Now, NBC has determined women leave the living room when boxing comes on, so they air zero of it.

It's just one of many reasons for boxing's decline and probably not one of the major ones. More significant are the multiplication of title belts and weight classes, corrupt promoters, crooked judging, and the way top fighters routinely avoid each other.

Anonymous said...

I don't know about anyone else but I'm dying to know which black guy will beat the other 7 black guys and win the 100m dash by .01 seconds.

Greg Louganis said...

The only sports I ever watch are heptathlon, Le Mans, and Ryder Cup.

Kylie said...

" Guys are more into the steady immersion in one or another type of film nerd, group-oriented scene. Regularly taking in lots of movies on DVD, Netflix, etc., to exhaust some canon, for example.

Women seem more energetic for fleeting happenings like a film festival, screening of a classic, etc., and not so much for the more committed kind of fandom."


True, though women do tend to be fans of the "rom-com" genre (which I hate, I'd rather have a root canal).

I'm an exception to female movie viewing. I go through phases. After emerging from a post-WWII French movie phase, I'm now in a South Korean crime movie phase. Looking at my instant queue, I think I'm about to enter a WWII documentary phase. Netflix is wonderful for this, especially if you take the time to rate movies so its algorhythm can more accurately recommend things you'll like. So far, I've rated 973 movies and I really like most of what's recommended to me. I'd be happy to make a few recommendations if asked.

"You have to admit that this[women prefer condensed sporting events like the Olympics to sports with longer seasons] is a more sensible way to consume sports fandom than, say, enrolling in a fantasy league."

Actually, no, I don't have to admit any such thing. The preference for condensed sports coverage expressed by women is more sensible if and only if a person is not interested in investing much time and effort in watching sports.

Otherwise that statement is like saying it'd be more sensible for me, as a movie-watcher, to look at Netflix's "Popular on Netflix" category and just choose something from it that I might like, rather than spend the time to rate nearly 1000 movies so I get personalized recommendations for movies I'll really enjoy.

But that's not what I want to do. I really love watching movies, the way sports fans really love watching sports.

I don't get how not watching much of what you aren't interested in is smarter and more sensible than watching a lot of what you are interested in.

Or was this just more of your dry humor?

Anonymous said...

"panem et circenses"
Cicero.

"I believe in rough, manly sports. But I do not believe in them if they degenerate into the sole end of any one's existence."


" I am a thorough believer in vigorous manly out-door sports, but when they become, instead of a past time, a permanent business, or whenever they interfere with serious work, then they are a sure sign of decadence."

- Theodore Roosevelt

Anonymous said...

So far, I've rated 973 movies and I really like most of what's recommended to me.

Kylie - at a 50-week work-year, and 40 hours-per-week - the average American only works about 2000 hours per year.

And yet you're claiming that you've already wasted almost 2000 hours of your life just watching NetFlix movies?

Would you please turn off the TV and get busy making some progeny so that the human race doesn't go extinct?

Thank you.

PS: If you want Albertosaurus to knock you up, then I am sure that he would be happy to watch that Maggie Gyllenhaal vehicle with you.

Just please make sure that you don't forget the baby-making afterwards.

Anonymous said...

My daughter is rounders captain for her (UK) school year. Throws a ball like a boy and is pretty accurate.

Of course in the US, they call it baseball.

Kylie said...

"'So far, I've rated 973 movies and I really like most of what's recommended to me.'

Kylie - at a 50-week work-year, and 40 hours-per-week - the average American only works about 2000 hours per year.

And yet you're claiming that you've already wasted almost 2000 hours of your life just watching NetFlix movies?"


You sure put the "ass" in "assumptions".

Reread my comment that you just quoted. Now tell me where it says I've watched 2000 hours of Netflix movies. It doesn't because I didn't. I rated 973 movies. Yes, I'm sure I've watched 973 movies in nearly 50 years of movie-watching. Which brings me to my next point.

"Would you please turn off the TV and get busy making some progeny so that the human race doesn't go extinct?

Thank you."


First, as I've noted here before, I'm in late middle age, way past the baby-making stage. Second, even if I were in my fertile years, why would you want someone who wastes her time watching movies (according to you) to have a kid?



"PS: If you want Albertosaurus to knock you up, then I am sure that he would be happy to watch that Maggie Gyllenhaal vehicle with you."

What does Pat have to do with my movie-watching, baby-making or anything else? Leave him out of it. He doesn't deserve your stupid sniping any more than I do.

"Just please make sure that you don't forget the baby-making afterwards."

Apparently that's a phenomenon with which you are overly familiar--would-be partners preferring just about any recreational activity to (procreational or recreational) sex with you.

Do us all a favor and stick to solitary pleasure. (That shouldn't be hard for you.) There's enough of your kind around already.

pat said...

I've been commenting on Steve's blog for several years now. Strangely the one thing that seems to stick in the mind of other readers is that I have occasionally defended BDSM. That's very strange.

The first time I noticed this was when someone assumed that I was a male submissive. There are such men and I have met a few of them but they are rare. The standard pattern is simple - males are dominant and females are submissive. This incident was the first clue that the otherwise enlightened readership of this blog only knows about BDSM from Hollywood.

Hollywood likes to show strong masculine business men who in private want some Dominatrix to beat and humiliate them. This no doubt makes for drama and laughs on the screen but is a rather rare. When I have met male submissives they have been meek lower class guys, not strong successful businessmen. Maybe I don't move in the right circles.

More common are females who are the boss at work but long to be dominated by a man in private. Lots of women fantasize about being carried off. How else can you explain Valentino's "The Sheik".

Mainstream BDSM is also biologically mainstream. Humans are primates and most primates have a lot of dominance behavior in the wild. Normal BDSM results in normal heterosexual intercourse. This can and does result in babies. Gay sex makes little sense from a Darwinian perspective but normal BDSM makes perfect sense.

Women often express a preference for "strong" men. Game fans also note that Alpha males are more likely to score.

No matter how you define it male homosexuality is only about 3% of the population. Male dominance in the BDSM sense is possibly as high as 30%. No one knows for sure of course because of the taboos, but the pattern of male dominance and female submission is much more common than homosexuality.

Every reader of this blog knows several women who like to be spanked. But don't expect them to admit that in polite conversation.

BDSM sex is hot - especially for the submissive women. It results in more sex.

Darwin smiles.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

Did Darwin beat his bitches?

Anonymous said...

And this is news?

I am a woman. The only sports I am likely to watch at all during the Olympics are gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and platform diving. During the Winter Olympics I watch figure skating. They are pretty and artistic sports and I like the costumes and storytelling in skating. It's more like a ballet.

I know the rules of basketball and football and even played basketball but I am bored by both. I suspect most women who watch football do it mainly to appeal to their dads or husbands or boyfriends.

Julian O'Dea said...

It is always a feminist crusade in America. As if this Title IX is such a huge human rights breakthrough. Always with the moral posturing.

Australian girls were winning gold at the Olympics in running events in the 1950s. Betty Cuthbert, Marjorie Jackson, and all the "Golden Girls" as they were known when I was a kid.

American feminists did not invent women in sport.

David Collard said...

pat, there was an article in Slate or similar online that said about 30% of wives like to be spanked. It has disappeared now, but that was the claim.

My wife likes to be spanked. As foreplay. I suspect it is common enough.