Women want to play but don't want to watch TV sportsJuly 18, 2012 @ 5:43 am (Updated: 1:31 pm - 7/18/12 )
A new study says women don't watch TV sports in large part because it takes too much time. (AP photo)
Forty years after the landmark Title IX ruling guaranteed equal funding for female athletes in college sports, women continue to gain ground on the field and court. But when it comes to sports on TV far fewer women are watching. And a new study (pdf) aims to figure out why.
The assumption was that a huge increase in female participation in sports would eventually translate into more women watching these sports. After all, millions of boys take part in sports and most of them grow up to become fans. So here come the girls, right? Not even close. Female audiences have just not materialized. And if most women do not watch sports in general, they especially don't watch women's sports like the WNBA.
In a paper university researchers titled "Women (Not) Watching Women: Leisure Time, Television, and the Implications for Televised Coverage," they did in-depth interviews with groups of married women, many of whom had played sports in school, and most of whom had kids.
So why don't women watch as much sports as men? It starts with leisure time. Men in general have more leisure time than married women. Despite the advances the women's movement has had in getting men to do more work around the house, the majority of domestic responsibilities still fall on the wife/mother, and that only increases when children arrive on the scene. Simply put, women feel like they have less time to sit around and watch a three hour football game.
For a lot of women, there is no such thing as "leisure time" at home. When they do try to relax, it's marked by constant interruptions, often tied to taking care of the kids. They also tend to worry about all the undone work during their free time. They also often feel guilty and selfish if they do try to do something just for themselves.
The study found men prefer to watch sports attentively whereas women prefer to watch it in quick snatches, a little bit here, a little bit there. Unlike men, women don't schedule their viewing time around the time a particular team or game is playing. It's much more catch as catch can.
And since time is of the essence for most women, they prefer concentrated doses of sports, like how networks cover, say, the Olympics.
The next significant factor, besides not having the time, is that when women do decide to watch sports, it's usually not for their own enjoyment as much as it is a way for them to connect with their husband and by extension their family.
In essence, watching sports is domestic work. Hardly a recipe for encouraging more women to watch more sports. Women, even former athletes, saw little value in following women's sports, especially sports that are traditionally seen as masculine - especially basketball and football. They do have a passing interest in gymnastics, figure skating, cheerleading - sports more often thought of as feminine.
The study's authors suggest that many women have a hard time watching female athletes in traditionally masculine sports because it clashes with their own images of their domestic selves.
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