Progress: so close yet still so far
A headline from NPR recently caught my eye while I was looking for something interesting to read. “Andrea Kremer and Hannah Storm will be first female duo to call an NFL game” read the title at the top of the Sept. 25 article. The two aforementioned women will cover 11 upcoming Thursday Night Football games together. Storm is a long-time ESPN commentator and Kremer is chief correspondent for the NFL Network.
It is great to be able to put more women in the broadcast booth. Both Storm and Kremer are highly qualified, and they can offer different perspectives on the game as well as decent analysis and stats and all the usual stuff that comes with broadcasting. They can also serve as an example for all the girls and women out in the world who enjoy sports, particularly football.
The NPR article, however, spent most of its time detailing the backlash to the decision. They cited tweets from angry guys on Twitter complaining about how much they hate the sound of women’s voices, and how much they hate when someone who hasn’t played the sport gets to talk about it. (And yet, the complainers never seem to be outraged with male commentators who never played football…)
The popular term for this kind of reaction is “gatekeeping” which is when fans of something do their best to keep perceived “outsiders” away from the thing they love. (Side note: It’s not just something that tries to keep women out of sports. Gatekeepers often try to keep women away from science-fiction fandoms and video-gaming fandoms and other similar interests.)
Twitter, however, is sometimes a pretty bad gauge for what people feel outside of the internet, so I haven’t actually encountered any negativity, like what was detailed in the NPR article, to the idea of two female broadcasters calling an NFL game. In fact, I haven’t heard anyone I know talk about this at all.
Perhaps because they’re not even aware of it.
Storm and Kremer are calling the game for Amazon Prime Video, and they’re actually one of several options available to listen to if you choose to stream the Thursday night games online. According to NPR, Amazon explained they wanted viewers to “customize their viewing experience” by providing a variety of options.
This is all well and good, but I wonder how many people actually watch football through an Amazon stream instead of on TV. Perhaps it’s an easy option for people who live in areas with amazing internet access. But for those of us with spotty or limited internet access at home, myself included, we’re probably not going to get an opportunity to watch online. If I wanted to hear Storm and Kremer call a game, I’d be out of luck.
Amazon’s attempt to give more women a more prominent voice in football is nice. I would give them a bit of applause for their effort but not a gold star. I can’t help but feel like this merely checks off some sort of “representation” box, one that people can point to later when others say there’s not enough women in sports media.
“But we have two women calling a football game together once a week online!” they’ll say. “Isn’t that enough??”
Honestly, I feel like it’s not enough. Not when I often see female sports reporters harassed on Twitter and other platforms and sometimes by athletes themselves. Not when I hear comments like “I’d rather watch paint dry” than watch women’s sports on TV. Not when college football programs across the country seem apathetic about the harassments and assaults on women perpetrated by their athletes and coaches and staff members. Not when NPR devoted their entire article on Storm and Kremer to the backlash they received instead of the women themselves.
What I’m trying to say is that I want to be happy about Storm and Kremer making history, but it’s 2018 and I’m tired. Yes, this is progress for women in sports. But it feels like we’re still just taking baby steps. It feels like we’re so close and yet still so, so far away.
When will we get to the point in society where we won’t have to applaud diversity and representation efforts because they’ll be commonplace and normal and expected? I’m still waiting.
Holly Taylor is a Staff Writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at email@example.com or by phone at 252-332-7206.