Excellent Overview of the Relationship of Sports Culture and Women
Sidelined: Sports, Culture, and Being a Woman in America consistently focuses on the place of women in American sports culture. The author, Julie DiCaro, worked in sports media before losing her job during the 2020 COVID pandemic. In the introduction she tells the reader that working in sports talk radio is “like working in a frat house” and goes on to prove it. There are very few women in sports talk radio. When they want to write about some of the larger cultural stories surrounding sports—social justice; the inequity in treatment between male and female athletes including equipment, venues, and pay; sexual harassment of the women who report on men’s sports; cases of sexual assault and domestic abuse perpetrated by male athletes—the station can shut down the story to avoid upsetting an important team or client. Stations also continue to have as guests male athletes who have been repeated and credibly accused of sexual assault because hey are popular. Some even employ these men as commentators.
A Brief History of Women in Sports Media
DiCaro begins with a history of women reporting on men’s sports and includes stories about access to male locker rooms (while raising the question of why interviews are even done in locker rooms). Early on women had buckets of water thrown on them and jockstraps thrown at them. Today many sports reporters are ‘sideline’ reporters who report from the field when there’s a lull in the action. Few have their own sports shows. Even if they are in the studio, they solicit the opinions of the males on the program.
Female Sports Commentating Today
One of the worst aspects of the job for a female sports commentator today is the blowback on social media, where they are cursed out, called slurs, and even receive death threats. A complete chapter covers the toxic, misogynistic environment of Barstool Sports which has a vast following of “Stoolies” who use social media to stalk, troll, and harass women.
The very sound of female voices calling sports make some sports fans irate. Because of all this, women in sports often self-police, following all the rules, leaving off personality, which is so important in sports talk media.
Women Athletes Today
The second half of the book deals with female athletes and women’s sports including double standards for behaviors (the treatment of Serena Williams stars in this section), the fight for equal pay (with an in-depth look at soccer) and finally the state of women’s and girls’ sports in other areas of the world relative to the United States.
DiCaro makes suggestions for female sports fans to support both female athletes and reporters such as tuning in or listening in when females are playing or reporting.
High School Housekeeping
While this is an adult book, it’s straightforward and clear. For high school students who are interested in the sports culture and how it relates to women, as well as those that are researching women in the workplace, the MeToo Movement and more, this is a great book. All of DiCaro’s discussions are backed with facts, stats, and examples from life. Sidelined includes both a bibliography of sources and a helpful index for those looking to do their own research. NB: As women in sports media are trolled, the book details some of the nastier things they are called, so examples of slurs and profanity are included.