Author’s Note: I initially wrote this for the hockey site I write for (and if you like hockey, please check it out), but it’s a broad enough issue that I thought it had a place here as well.
There’s no real need for an intro (I am however going to fix the grammar and blend together three tweets (that were meant to go together) into one quote):
“Good http://SI.com piece on women in sports media from @richarddeitsch. Check out question No. 7. [Why have we not seen a woman calling play-by-play full-time in the NFL, MLB, NBA, or NHL?] For me, women calling games isn’t about skill [or] knowledge, [because] there are women who can talk circles around current, terrible men [play-by-play announcers], but [they] play a role. Women’s play-by-play voices on NFL/NHL changes [the] viewing experience for me. Personal preference. (Doesn’t apply to analysts).”
The quote was then followed up with what is really a tremendous amount of backtracking:
“[Play-by’play] is a role, [and] male voice better fills it, for me, for now. Open-minded about it. I wanna see woman Doctor Who. And Angelina Jolie as Bond.”
“As @chiparm notes, a lot of [male] [play-by-play announcers] don’t have that voice either. I could die a happy man if I never hear Ian Eagle call another NFL game.”
“@tcita You’re confusing analysis w/ narration. I’d love for women to crack analyst role in sports. But the real Old Boys Club is in studio”
“@tcita I apologize if there was confusion here, but I was never arguing women shouldn’t get a shot on PbP. Just my preference.”
“@theycallmedubs “I would rather listen to a male voice in that role, but I’m open minded about it” Let me narrow down your generalization.”
“@theycallmedubs That said, kudos for being the first to call me a misogynist. Should have taken the under on that bet.”
“@theycallmedubs Check my feed. 140 characters doesn’t really allow for the details in a single tweet sometimes.”
Wyshynski’s error was twofold. First he did an awful job at articulating what I assume was supposed to be his actual meaning, that he hasn’t yet found a female play-by-play announcer that he likes. Unfortunately, what he said was that he does not like women play by play announcers because they are women. Second, he failed to understand that neutrality on the issue (or open-mindedness) as he calls it, is reinforcing a status quo that is currently unequal. He’s saying he’s open to change if it satisfies his undefined criteria of what a makes a good female play-by-play announcer (we can already see that it’s exclusive of knowledge and skill), but he’s also fine if the current sexist system remains in place. I believe him when he says he doesn’t think he’s a misogynist, at least I believe that he isn’t a willful, intentional misogynist, but he’s still a misogynist. In fact, he’s the kind of confirmation-bias misogynist that makes progress so difficult.
Part of the reason (probably a large part) that male voices shape Wyshynski’s “viewing experience” is because of the misogyny and sexism that was present in the system to begin with (and still is). That sexism has brought Wyshysnki’s brain to make “male” and “play-by-play announcer” inextricably linked. So much so that Wyshynski couldn’t even do the bare minimum to head off the growing rage-storm, that is, admit there is a problem in the first place. It’s not affirmative action, and it’s not propping up the under-qualified for the sake of diversity to admit that regardless of all other factors, it’s kind of a disturbing trend that there are so few female play-by-play announcers. And if you really aren’t ready or willing to listen to a female play-by-play announcer, admitting that there is a problem doesn’t conflict with that.
In fact, in his zeal to backtrack, Wyshynski doesn’t ever admit there is a problem with female representation anywhere. Sure, he’d love to see Angelina Jolie play James Bond because, thanks to her roles in various action movies, she embodies many of the stereotypically male-identified traits that we associate with Bond, athleticism, charm, reveling in violence. (Get back to me when you want, say, Rooney Mara or Natalie Portman to play a willowy, feminine Bond and actually try to break stereotypes.) He wants to see her play Bond because it’s an amusing novelty, not because it’s a small step in reversing the trend of male-dominated action movies. (Or the representation of women in movies in general.) It is in fact counter-productive for Wyshysnki to cite so many examples because each and every single one of them is coming from a perspective of male dominance.
The best he can do is call his words “personal preference” as though that allows him to gracefully step out of the conversation (a Wyshynski trait if you’ve ever gained the upper hand on him in an argument before). He can’t even admit to the possibility of there being subconscious bias in his thoughts, instead growing combative with detractors and throwing out examples of his definite non-sexism in the hopes that one of them sticks. It’s not weak to admit that you’re lacking perspective…we’re all lacking perspective on one thing or another, it’s weak to continue to stand your ground out of a need to prove…something.
The wort part is that he seemed genuinely baffled that his own poorly chosen words had ignited such a firestorm, as though it was somehow okay to say that he doesn’t like female play-by-play announcers solely because they are women (going so far as to explicitly say it isn’t about knowledge or skill) and that the “personal preference” of a major hockey columnist is something that 1). people should let be, or 2). isn’t an enormous part of the problem.