Brief Thoughts on Playboy’s Sexiest Sportscaster Poll
With the second ever Sexiest Sportscaster poll currently making the news, I had to ask my regular female contributor for her thoughts on the poll; as well as the issues of gender and sexuality that surround it. For insight on how the media's presentation of women in sports journalism can affect and shape public opinion, I asked the perfect source: one with plenty of first-hand experience.
--Paul M. Banks
The balance of power between men and women in the sports industry is one I'm faced with every day. While I could go on for days arguing a variety of points, this isn't a thesis on sexuality and society, so I'll try to keep it brief. My basic belief is that women shouldn't be required to conceal their beauty or sexuality in order to be respected. The secret isn't to de-sexualize women, but rather to accept that someone can be a sexual being while also possessing innumerable other qualities. If Playboy wants to have a poll asking people to vote for the hottest sideline reporter, I say go for it. The problem isn't with the idea of viewing these women as sexual beings, the problem is that many people aren't willing to view them as anything else. I have very strong feelings on gender stereotypes and the oversimplified characterizations society maintains, but I also have a healthy acceptance of the way the world and the human race function. Trying to fight the natural urges and desires of the human body and mind is futile. Rather than chastising people for noticing a woman's beauty, instead the focus should be on proving to them that there's something behind that façade.
As Paul Banks said in his piece, society has trouble dealing with multifaceted, complex people who don't fit into a certain "box." During my Super Bowl media blitz, I was instantly assumed to be an "attention whore" with fake boobs, no brain and no sports knowledge. By the end of the 60-something interviews I did for radio, TV and print, nearly every member of the media I spoke to admitted that I was nothing like the girl they'd expected after seeing my picture. I'm no idiot. A photo of me in a loose-fitting Bears tee-shirt never could have drawn the publicity and interest needed for my e-Bay plan to work. At the same time, never once throughout the process did I carry myself in a cheap or over-sexualized manner. I deflected questions about my looks or my chest and won people over with the truth: that I'm a huge Bears fan, an Ivy-League educated television producer, my boobs are real (for the billionth time) and—the part that's hard for some to accept—that I'm a girl that doesn't fit into a stereotype. (That means you, Colts fan/S&PCB reader who asserted that I know nothing about football without ever having read a word of my work).
The same principle applies to women of the sports media. Rather than feel challenged or bested in a world they consider "theirs," many men would rather subjugate and demean the very women they're admiring. By placing these women in a role that is purely aesthetic, men don't have to accept the idea of a woman who is both knowledgeable and attractive. Unfortunately, there are also many women who assume inferior roles in the workplace and home, conceal their intelligence or withhold their opinions for fear of intimidating or angering their male colleagues or lovers. These women do just as much to preserve stereotypes as men do. This goes back to that Colts fan who, rather than supporting another female, elected to attack me and try to cut me down without impetus or evidence. Society breeds men to view women as sex objects, thereby making women see each other as "competition." Women in predominantly male industries would do well to support each other, but that's a much larger issue that I don't have time to get into right now.
The point is: Let women in sports be sexy! Let men in sports be sexy (hello, Jesse Palmer)! Just appreciate that while you're admiring their beauty, you're also getting the results of their years of hard work, practice and passion. Fortunately, there are plenty of men and women who already accept and support well-rounded, multifaceted, smokin' hot chicks like Erin Andrews, who I think will win this year's poll for her combination of outstanding sports knowledge, a great ass and an undeniably endearing personality.