Can women sports ever be as popular as men’s?
In the tale of The Children of Hameln, after their parents reneged on their deal with an effective rat catcher who previously rid the town of their pests, the children would later listen to the man with the red hat’s melodious fife, follow him and never be seen again.
If only the female wrestling industry could conjure him up, honor our end of the bargain and entice him to blow his fife so that masses of the female population will follow him to commercial women’s wrestling events.
The fully competitive women’s wrestling industry faces similar challenges that other female sports do. Can we ever enhance and market women sports so that they can have at least close to the same commercial success as male sports?
The writer Anna Aagenes of The Daily Dot, a former NCAA Division I athlete and a self-described consumer of sports media shares, “Although female athletes certainly have more opportunities compared to 50 years ago, male athletes still receive the majority of resources, money, and media coverage. On the list of “100 Highest Paid Athletes,” only three are women, and on the collegiate level women’s teams still only receive 38 percent of the college sports operating money and 33 percent of the school’s recruiting money to build their teams.”
Another writer, Fred Bowen at the washingtonpost.com informs, “A study by the University of Southern California recently looked at three weeks of ESPN’s “SportsCenter” and six weeks of three TV stations in Los Angeles and found that 96.3 percent of the shows’ airtime was taken up by men’s sports while only 1.6 percent of the shows were about women’s sports. (The other 2 percent looked at other activities, such as dog sports.)
Mr. Bowen’s story was published in August of 2010. At that time a study by USC found that “TV sports shows are covering women’s sports less than ever. In 2004, 6.3 percent of the shows’ airtime was about women’s sports. In 1999, it was 8.7 percent. That’s not great, but it’s better than 1.6 percent.
Television sports shows cover women’s sports less even though more girls are playing sports. In 1989, boys outnumbered girls in high school athletics 3.4 million to 1.8 million. Now the numbers are much closer, with 4.4 million high school boys playing sports and 3.1 million girls.
Still, about 72 percent of the sports on TV are the three big men’s games: football, basketball and baseball.”
A news and information site poynter.org reports, “The Women’s Media Center released its third annual Status of Women in the U.S. Media report today, and if you’ve been paying any attention to gender imbalances across print, broadcast and online platforms, it’s more of the same.
“The media is failing women across the board,” Women’s Media Center president Julie Burton said in a press release that accompanied the report. “The numbers tell a clear story for the need for change on every media platform.”
The Women’s Sports Foundation echoes the above sentiments with a thought provoking twist. “In 1971, 294,000 high school girls played interscholastic sports. Today 3.1 million play, much closer to the 4.4 million boys who play high school sports.
Yet network affiliates ran 60 stories on men’s NCAA basketball in March 2009. There were zero stories about women.
It’s not that generous coverage of men’s sports leaves no time for women. The researchers found that newscasts routinely air light sports features, such as a story about a hamburger with 5000 calories and 300 grams of fat at a minor league baseball park in Michigan.”
At Female Competition International, our experience has taught us that even informal side bars with close family, relatives and friends can be very insightful. Co-workers are out because the business world is still not ready to have this subject discussed on their time or carpeted floors.
Within our circle there was a discussion flowing that first asked the question; why in the world are we so obsessed with women’s wrestling in particular but not accepting that women’s sports in general are not very interesting? Their thinking was, even with the men, wrestling is boring but at least they have muscles. Who was pontificating here?
A college educated female about 23 years old.
She concluded that across the board from water polo to basketball, men’s sports are more interesting than women’s simply for the fact that men are more “beastly”.
In fact, my popularity seems almost entirely a masculine phenomenon……….Marilyn Monroe
Here’s another angle.
A reader commented on Mr. Bowen’s article. Here is what he wrote.
“It’s really very simple – sports are more important to men than women. Men watch more sports, and they are exposed to more commercials. Male athletes make more because they deliver more eyeballs. It’s a matter of economics – not ability or anything else. If women want their athletes to make the same as men, the answer is simple – put the time, the attention, and mainly the money into their endeavors that men do.”
Interestingly, in the expanded versions of the above articles, as usual there is a lot of discussion, disappointment and finger pointing (which we edited out).
What appear to be missing are real solutions.
Focusing on the entire women’s sports landscape is intriguing but not our prime directive. The question we often ask ourselves is what can we do to make women’s wrestling more interesting to women?
Our initial response is to move the pendulum so that sex appeal is not the primary reason for coming. We sense the more that women have friends and family members involved in the sport, the greater the chance they will respond with ticket purchases.
The other goal we hope to achieve is to bring the post collegiate female freestyle wrestling world into the Dojo to compete against the highly skilled female submission wrestlers creating title fights against strangers which is always more exciting than matches between competitors who have a history of knowing each other within a circle of friends or associates.
Make no mistake about it, FCI Women’s Wrestling is going to keep turning over rocks, researching, comparing, discussing and round tabling possible solutions because if all else fails………
Do you know where that guy in the red hat with a fife can be located?
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Sources; brainyquote.com, pitt.edu/~dash/hameln.html, The Daily Dot, washingtonpost.com, poynter.org, womenssportsfoundation.org, photos thank you Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: audience, female, sponsored, sports, success, tickets, watched