When It Comes To The Olympics, More Women Than Men Watch Sports
A recent edition of The New York Times shared the results of a recent Gallup viewership poll. The poll was looking at the planned viewing of the 2012 Olympic Games.
One of the percentages reported in the poll was the discrepancy between planned viewing for men and women; 53 percent of men reported that they were planning on watching the Olympics, while a significantly higher percentage, 63 percent, of women would participate in the viewing of the games.
These statistics beg the question, why is there such a significant Olympics viewing difference between men and women?
Traditionally, the Olympics were a way for individuals from city-states and kingdoms around Ancient Greece to show respect and honor to the Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus. This expression of religious deference provided individuals a venue for the display of their strength and prowess in many skills that mimicked the battlefield.
Competitions proving physical strength, weaponry, and equestrian skills represented the military skills for individuals from the differing regions. The Olympics were games designed by men to show the world that they were worthy opponents representing strong, virile regions that were not susceptible to conquering.
The backstory of the competitors is designed to appeal more to feminine than masculine sensibilities
This tradition of symbolic military strength does not translate the same way it did two hundred years ago. While economic disparity is still apparent in the numbers of Olympic competitors from various countries, powerhouse countries have other means of proving military strength.
Instead of a direct representation of the power of the nation, today’s Olympians represent the more global characteristics of human perseverance and sacrifice.
So why would American women plan to watch the Olympics in a significantly higher proportion than American men?
Two specific reasons are apparent.
First, the Olympics provide a venue for female athletes worldwide to appear on television. Second, the backstory of the competitors is designed to appeal more to feminine than masculine sensibilities.
Women’s athletics has certainly gained more time in the spotlight over the past several decades. Championship games for women’s volleyball, national and international gymnastics tournaments, and collegiate women’s softball tournaments have become mainstream annual televised events.
In fact, during the 2012 season, there are five Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) games televised on ESPN2, a relatively mainstream channel. Comparatively, there will be four NBA games televised on ESPN the week of Nov. 12, and 72 games televised during the regular season.
The point is not that there is an injustice in terms of the number of televised games relating to gender inequality. The franchise operations and network time allotments cannot be equated for the two sexes. The point is, if men want to retreat to their man caves or the nearest bar and root for male athletes, the opportunity is abundantly available.
Women are not afforded the same consistent opportunity to connect with women athletes through the mainstream television.
So just how important is it for women to make these connections to female athletes? In short…very. Long gone are the days when feminine daintiness and pristine manners are the ultimate in desirable traits.
Women welcome the strenuous activities that make us stronger, faster, and more powerful than ever before. We recognize and connect to the beauty of the athletic body in comparison to the staid Victorian blue bloods and waif-like Twiggies of previous eras.
Every woman who as a child has done cartwheels in the yard or an ‘around the world’ on the playground monkey bars can appreciate the dedication and athleticism of each of the female gymnasts.
Watch the final seconds of flight during a dismount, we understand that the years of practice, the hours spent trying to perfect that singular move come down to less than a split second and variables that are literally measured in tenths of points.
That moment is one so powerful that we transcend barriers of age, distance, and reality, and physically and emotionally share in either the stuck landing, or the giant step off the mat.
Regardless of country of origin, women can appreciate the battle of the female Olympic swimmers. Women connect to warriors like Jessica Hardy who faced the disappointment of ineligibility after making the 2008 U.S. team, to battle back in 2012 and medal in her first Olympic race of her career.
We celebrate warriors like China’s young Ye Shiwen, who will hopefully remain in the spotlight, continuing to break barriers and records for years to come. For the majority of viewers, the Olympics put these strong, passionate women on our radars and in our hearts.
Women do not simply watch the Olympics; we internalize the power of these exceptional athletes…
Televised sports give viewers the ability to critique, applaud, and live vicariously through the athletes. The Olympics take these elements to the extreme. By providing the backstories to these most amazing athletes, the networks ensure an emotional content to the games that brings the viewer not just into the careers of the athletes, but into their journeys and their lives.
By not only describing the sacrifices of families, particularly the parents of Olympians, the networks appeal directly to their female viewership.
It is impossible to watch the families of the competitors and not be drawn in to the absolute intensity that the Olympics create. Each event builds momentum within itself, and the importance of each skill and maneuver becomes more and more critical as the competitions build.
The t.v. networks allow us to see and feel the emotional momentum by showing us behavioral responses and expressions on the faces of those who love and care about the athletes. Every parent who has watched their child step up to bat during a Little League game or take the stage during a piano recital, knows how it feels to try, through personal willpower, to aid their child in becoming successful.
During the Olympics, women gladly take on the emotional intensity of the athletes and their families. In spite of global distances, time zones, cultures and nationalities, we join wills with the families of these warriors to encourage personal bests and conquer otherwise insurmountable obstacles.
Women do not simply watch the Olympics; we internalize the power of these exceptional athletes and in a global effort, externalize all of the most positive characteristics of spirit for the cumulative successes that Olympic families have sacrificed so greatly to bring us.