Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Gender Equality and Sports Locker Rooms


I have a question. I hear all the time about issues surrounding women
reporters in mens' locker rooms - harassment, trysts with athletes,
general assertions of gender equality, etc.

I would be interested to know if it works in reverse. Are men allowed
inside women's locker rooms for interviews? I understand womens'
sports aren't as popular, generally, and the ones that are tend to be
individual sports with no "locker room" to enter. However, certainly
womens' college basketball and the WNBA are significant enough to
warrant news stories. Are male reporters allowed into those locker
rooms? Because if not, it's hard to argue that gender equality is
being respected.

On another note, why does it make us (including me) so uncomfortable
to consider men doing interviews in womens' locker rooms, but not the
converse? Does it have to do with stereotypes of gender roles (men as
self-confident, don't-care-what-people-think-of-me vs. women as demure
and vulnerable)?

Similarly, why do Clinton Portis' comments make us so uncomfortable? He said:
"You know, somebody got to spark her interest, or she's going to want
somebody. I don't know what kind of woman won't, if you get to go and
look at 53 men's [bodies]," Portis said. "I know you're doing a job,
but at the same time, the same way I'm going to cut my eye if I see
somebody worth talking to, I'm sure they do the same thing."

If a woman on a sports team said that a male reporter made her
uncomfortable because "of course he'd be checking some of us out", I
don't think anybody would dispute that. Why is Clinton Portis held to
a different standard?

I'm not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing that Portis was offensive
or that reporters of other genders in a locker room are appropriate or
not, just pointing out that 99% of people respond very differently
depending which gender is in which position.

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