“While the men watch”: ESPN meets “Sex & the City”

Photo from Winnipeg Free Press

Cross posted on The Rabbit Hole.

The CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) has come up with a, shall we say, intriguing gimmick for the Stanley Cup finals this year.  It will be introducing While the Men Watch, a

live, sports talk show for women. Hosted by Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso, the program [will follow] the discussion of two women watching sports “from a woman’s point of view including everything from interpreting the rules of the game to coaches in need of a makeover.”  Apparently, it’s been called ESPN meets “Sex & the City.”

Ya, because that’s what the world needs – ESPN and Sex & The City in one show.  “Female non-hockey fans” will be able to go online to “listen to an alternate commentary from [Sutherland and Mancuso].” CBC has received considerable backlash from both genders concerning the show synopsis:

As two women married to sports fanatics, there was really no escaping hockey on TV – especially during playoffs. As our men were glued to the game, we were on the phone talking to each other about what we saw on the ice in a way that was completely different than what our guys or the real announcers were saying.  Why were the players getting a seat and a drink in the penalty box if it’s supposed to be a punishment? And how exactly did that coach pick out a brown suit and tie combo four sizes too big?

Congratulations CBC! You have officially regressed to the 1950’s.  Women having their own sports talk show isn’t a bad idea.  Having them talk about it from a woman’s perspective isn’t a bad idea.  But, and I hope that when the show airs this introduction statement was meant to be more inflammatory than true to form, having a show premised on the idea that women and men fundamentally experience hockey (or any sport) differently is detrimental to both genders.  Also, saying that what these women discuss can be “completely different [from]…the real announcers” say implies that men are the only ones able to really announce hockey.  Puck Daddy calls out the CBC highlighting the fact that it has Helene Elliott and Cassie Campbell as hockey commentators on their staff who represent the opposite end of the spectrum of Mancus and Sutherland.  However, as the Winnipeg Free Press reports:

Julie Bristow, executive director of studio and unscripted programming for CBC Television, said she doesn’t think the optional commentary is sexist.

“We think this is a really interesting and fun way of engaging people in our national sport – both men and women,” she said.

“I think it really just captures the kind of conversation that happens in living rooms and bars across the country when hockey is on.”

In an email, Canadian gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser said she looked forward to hearing it.

And in a press release, Cassie Campbell-Pascall, an analyst on CBC’s “Hockey Night in Canada,” said she too wanted to hear the alternate game call.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for more casual viewers,” she said.

Say it ain’t so Hayley and Cassie! Sutherland defends the show as “all in good fun” but just because it’s fun doesn’t mean that it’s not counterproductive.  Also, are we assuming that the casual viewer wants a different type of commentary?

Puck Daddy asks if this show is sexist or incredibly sexist?  I’m not entirely sure that there are degrees of sexism. As I see it this is one of those you’re either dead or you’re not – there are no degrees of death.  I was inclined to say incredibly sexist because this show pigeon-holes both genders into two very defined and confining boxes, but doesn’t all sexism do that? Since we live in a dichotomous society whereby everything is either or (e.g. straight or gay, white or non-white, conservative or liberal) that means that what happens to one side must also affect the other, whether “positively” or “negatively”.  Putting women back into the archaic “you don’t understand sport because your feminine brain cannot conceive of the strategy and skills going on” box also places every man into the “you love sport, understand all sport and are less of a man if you don’t bond with other men over sports” box.  Maybe the show will turn out to be slightly more insightful than what has been proposed thus far; therefore, I suppose I will have to watch an episode or two and report back (I’m taking one for the team here folks!). But for now, to the CBC I say – stop putting your viewers into boxes!  You already have Don Cherry to do that for you.

Updated: Check out While the Men Watch’s “NHL’s Best and Worst Dressed List

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One thought on ““While the men watch”: ESPN meets “Sex & the City”

  1. Pingback: Weekly Links: Reactions to “While the Men Watch” and reflections on hockey media; US participation rates rising; New arenas in Detroit, Edmonton, and Seattle « Hockey in Society

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