Is this the type of message that you want the CBC to share with its female audience?
The CBC seems to think this is a really good idea. We beg to differ.
(Photo screenshot from whilethemenwatch.com)
Yesterday, CBC announced that it will debut a new show during the Stanley Cup Final targetted to women and the female perspective of watching sports. At least, that’s the spin they’re putting on it.
Something’s going wrong at the CBC.
"While The Men Watch" is (this is their words, not mine) “a first of its kind, live sports talk-show for women. An overnight sensation, hailed as Sex in the City meets ESPN, WhileTheMenWatch reaches thousands of women (and some lucky men) every month.” On their website, they have articles titled "7 Phrases To Yell Out If You Don’t Follow Hockey", "Love Me Like Lundqvist: 5 Sex Games For The Hockey Season" and "Sex on Game Day: Does He Lock it Up or Love You Down?".
These vapid articles sum up everything you need to know about this website. They’re not trying to teach new and emerging female sports fans about the game. Instead, they dive straight in and exploit the most tired stereotypes about women and why they would even bother to watch sports at all: men’s butts, the cute uniforms, coaches in need of a makeover, and how to treat your man before and after the big game.
To be fair and clear, the CBC did not create the website. They simply created a show for "While The Men Watch" and are broadcasting it during the Stanley Cup. The idea isn’t theirs, but the idea to create a show around it sure is. The website and the podcast could have just existed on its own, and these two women would have had their 2000 fans show up to watch. Most of us probably wouldn’t have heard about it, and certainly wouldn’t have cared about it. Instead, there will be promotions and TV ads and time and money and resources wasted to putting this on Canadian airwaves.
There were a flood of good takes on this issue yesterday from Dustin Parkes, Tim Burke and best of all from Julie Veilleux. Our pal Daniel Wagner chimed in too, and defended the show’s concept, while lamenting its ham-fisted execution. We’ve read and argued about this for a day or two now, so I realize this take is a bit "late" – but I had a strong personal reaction to this controversy and wanted to get into with you in this space.
I hate that our tax dollars are going towards a program like this. I realize that CBC has spent lots of money on stupid programs before, so this is nothing new. At the same time, there is plenty of quality programming on the CBC and has been for decades. The fact is, this is a publicly funded network, and this type of blatant pandering is unbefitting of the sort of public network I would like to support. Imagine if PBS showed a supplementary show to Ken Burns’ "Baseball" which showcased a pair of women talking about cute those men looked in their old timey uniforms. Imagine the outcry from the people that donated their money to find that.
But the worst part for me is that my 10 year old hockey playing daughter loves the game for what it is: she plays in a girls league, and she watches games with me. Lots of them, actually. She’s going to see these ads and I’ll have to explain what it’s all about. Sure, this isn’t like having the sex talk with my daughter, but I’d really rather not have to explain to her why there’s a women’s hockey show on the CBC where all they talk about is how hot the players are, and how to sex up their men.
My daughter has been playing hockey for 2 years now and has done really well at learning the rules of the game. So has my wife, who shows much more interest now in hockey than ever before. "While The Men Watch" demeans both of them, and all girls and women who follow hockey, by directly implying that women just don’t care about the competitive aspect of the sport – they only care about the cutesy sideshows and nonsense soap operaesque plot lines.
I am proud of my daughter and my wife for having genuine interest in hockey and wanting to learn the sport. If they didn’t care about the sport – I’d still be proud of them. Luckily they’re both smart enough to see how trivial and frivolous and empty this show is, and they won’t pay any more mind to it. Neither will the hundreds of women in my Twitter timeline who know hockey, and know it REALLY well. These same women have, en masse, condemned the very idea of “While The Men Watch.” Sure, they’re not the demographic this show is going after, but it’s telling that serious female hockey fans are offended by this concept – no?
So CBC, why not target serious women hockey fans? Have a show hosted by women who discuss the game, where they explain the game to new female hockey fans, and showcase women’s hockey in Canada. Hell, why not have two existing HNIC talents, like Andi Petrillo and Cassie Campbell, host the show. Right there, you have an experienced ex-Olympian and gold medallist, one of the greatest female hockey players of all-time, as well as a talented on-air personality who both obviously understand the game, and can speak the game’s language intelligently. Why not have recognizable female hockey players, such as Hayley Wickenheiser, speak to girls and women about playing the game? Why on earth would you debase your female audience by pedalling this schlock? I really want to believe that CBC and Hockey Night in Canada is better than that… but the proof is in the dolled-up, Barbie Doll pudding.