Women in sports journalism limited by double standard

Women have come a long way since fighting their way into sports journalism. Still, the struggle continues and sports networks exploit the obvious commonality among the field of female sports journalists: They’re all conventionally “good looking.” Most notable is former ESPN sideline reporter Erin Andrews, who left the network for Fox Sports last year. It seems that there are female journalists like Andrews everywhere: Rachel Nichols, Michelle Beadle, Hannah Storm and Samantha Ponder; the list goes on. Unfamiliar with the names? Thankfully, Bleacher Report and Complex magazine offer photo galleries of the hottest and sexiest women that have graced the sports broadcasting world. Because we only know these women by their looks anyway, right?

Somehow women have settled into a niche in sports broadcasting with exactly that: their beauty. Sure, it’s opening doors for female journalists. Forty-one years after Title IX, we can celebrate having women in leadership positions, establishing the Association for Women in Sports Media and bringing in more women into sports as players, journalists and fans.

But we need to keep progressing.

Because, really, male sports broadcasters are not held to the same image standard. Instead of their good looks – and let’s be honest, those are pretty scant – men are actually hired based on their knowledge and sports expertise. ESPN even hires former athletes, and some professional leagues facilitate this by hosting seminars for players interested in pursuing careers in broadcasting.

Women shouldn’t have to think about their attractiveness if they’re interested in becoming sports reporters. It shouldn’t matter. We shouldn’t have to settle and hide our faces behind our words in print newspapers just because we aren’t gorgeous. It’s hard enough to come by a talented woman interested in sports journalism. It’s how we’ve become the minority.

Still, anchors are split between two roles: men as reporters and women as entertainers. As with any broadcast, viewership is key. But it seems that men can only tolerate a female sports broadcaster if she's attractive. That seems to be our only value, since we are supposedly unable to offer any valuable information as it pertains to sports.

While the men get to do the real thing, women are left as the “Sideline Barbie” or “Sideline Princess” as Andrews was dubbed in her early years. But women can do the same thing: We can interview, talk, write, analyze, manage – the whole deal. Given the opportunity, we can prove that we offer something similar, maybe even better.

Moreover, we’ll bring a different perspective on sports and athletes. Like any topic – politics, education and religion – certainly men and women will offer contrasting insight given their own experiences. While women remain the minority in the sports journalism field, we still represent half of the population in the world. Let’s hear from the other half of the human race.

We’ll know when we’ve reached true equality in the sports journalism field: When women aren’t questioned on their knowledge of sports, when we aren’t butting into sports talk because it’s “guy time,” when we aren’t belittled for our lack of athletic participation, when a female can proudly host her own show on ESPN or call a NBA game and is as nonchalantly recognized as Andrews on a NFL sideline.