Originally this column was going to be about the Vancouver Canucks giving head coach Alain Vigneault a two-year extension on Wednesday, but then something else happened – something much bigger, that completely shoved the Canucks news right out the window.
It was announced on Wednesday that the CBC had picked up a new kind of sports talk show in time for the Stanley Cup Final that starts May 30, a show which supposedly showcases the “female perspective” in hockey.
As soon as the news emerged, the Internet exploded, and not because of the intriguing new idea of an all-female sports broadcast, but because of what they would be broadcasting about.
Ready for this?
Prepare to feel humiliated for the entire country.
This new sports show is called “While the Men Watch”, a sports commentary created by two wives of avid hockey fans who were apparently tired of losing their husbands during the NHL playoffs. Annoyed with being left to their own devices during the post-season, they began gossiping about hot hockey players, coach’s outfits and other mundane observations, and thought, “Hey! This could be a great show for Canadian women everywhere!”
Clearly these two don’t know the average Canadian woman very well at all.
They describe the show in their own words:
“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…”
“After rigging up an audio stream from our living rooms, we started broadcasting our ‘girl talk’ version of commentary…”
(They go on to say this involves fashion, gossip, attractive players, etc.)
“We just think it's more fun to talk about why so many gorgeous players come from Welland, Ontario and why they all skate around with scotch tape holding up their socks.”
They also say that basically there is FINALLY a hockey talk show that women will want to listen to, yet clearly neither woman actually cares about the sport at all. Why have a hockey show if you don’t want to talk about hockey on it?
That this idea for a show exists isn’t surprising – after all, the Internet is an endless supply of strangers in a strange land, to say the least.
What is surprising is that a publicly funded network would pick up this show during the peak of the NHL playoffs and think it’s a good idea in the 21st Century.
By the backlash on the Internet and radio yesterday, it’s safe to assume the public (which pays for the majority of the CBC’s existence) does not think it’s a good idea at all. Maybe the CBC should have thought of this in 1961. It would have been a hit!
In fact, the main message flying from Canadians, and even Americans, left, right and centre was that the show “While the Men Watch” is one of the most sexist, backwards ideas seen in the world of hockey in ages.
It basically sends the message that women don’t actually care to know or watch the sport of hockey while their husbands fully abandon them during the postseason. Reality is that 36 per cent of NHL fans are female, while husbands, boyfriend, brothers and fathers who love hockey often include the females in their lives by teaching them the ropes of the game so they can enjoy it together.
So basically this “show” insults two birds with one sexist stone.
Another surprise was the male reaction to this whole thing, which actually seemed louder and angrier than that from sports-loving women everywhere. Men, especially those in media, jumped to the defence of their female counterparts and ripped the CBC a new one for even considering partnering with a show most consider to set back sports fans into the Fifties.
Andrew Bucholtz, who writes for Yahoo! Tweeted: “Moral of the story for female sports fans: be smart and serious, get nowhere, conform to the worst stereotypes, get hired by CBC.”
Shannon Proudfoot, who works for Rogers Sportsnet, was visibly enraged by the news, Tweeting:
“If that CBC disaster was simply ‘Hockey for Non-Fans,’ smartass comments about the game from an outsider perspective, zero problem, but when you make it ‘Tee hee! Girls don't like or know or care about sports. Here are two women being dumb!’ it undermines all of us. It can be tough to be a female in a dude-dominated world and feel like your opinions and knowledge are legit. Hockey Barbie does not help.”
There are countless examples of sports professionals who have shown disdain towards the CBC for promoting this kind of message in the year 2012, and as a female sports reporter, it warmed my heart to see so many of them (especially the men) defending the rights and dignity of passionate women who love sports.
It isn’t always easy being a woman in the sports industry, whether you’re a fan or a member of the media, and shows like While the Men Watch threaten to throw many of us back a few feet after we’ve inched our way forward for years, hence the reaction of Shannon Proudfoot.
If the CBC was smart, it would take the public outcry seriously and reconsider airing While the Men Watch. It’s understandable that the company is somewhat desperate for ratings with recent budget cuts, but throwing Canadian women under the bus to get them isn’t the right way.
The last time I checked, the word “fan” was gender neutral.