Girls Watch Sports Too

(Photo source: Identity)

Saying “my dad used to play in the NFL” is my favorite party trick. As a woman and a fairly active sports fan and observer, I naturally bring up current sporting events in my conversations. Obviously, not everyone keeps up with sports—or the same types of sports and leagues for that matter. Therefore, each conversation can go in a different direction, depending on who I am talking to. It’s simple to get a read on the situation—whether they agree with my opinions on news about a trade or a controversial call, whether the person I’m talking to is as interested in the crazy March Madness upset as I am or whether they think they know more about the NBA than I do.

I often find that men in particular do not take me as seriously in sports conversation. I have been told that I “probably only watch basketball to look at the players’ muscles,” or that I “definitely looked up the stats before this conversation.” It’s only when I drop the NFL dad card that usually shifts their demeanor into a more respectful manner.

Whether I was a girl who knew nothing about sports, or an ESPN sideline reporter, a man should respect a woman in the same way he would a man he just met. I would bet that the percentage of men who have been told that they watched a basketball game just to look at players’ muscles is close to none.

Although it is frustrating that men are treated more seriously in conversations about sports, statistics show that the percentage of men who are avid sports watchers (44%) is substantially greater than that of women (15%), according to Morning Consult’s 2023 National Tracking Poll. Women (50%) more closely lead the percentage of casual sports watchers over men (42%), while the percentage of women who do not watch sports at all (36%) is overwhelmingly higher than that of men (14%).

According to these statistics, men are more likely to watch or keep up with sports—no surprise there. From birth, our sex dictated how we were brought up in society. Parents dress their newborn girls in pink, give their toddler sons trucks, braid their daughter’s hair, and sign their boys up for tee-ball. 

The Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF) directed a nationwide survey about youth sports participation to identify factors in connection with entrance into sports and associations with athlete retention. Girls were found to have been “more likely to have never played[…] and less likely to be currently playing sports compared to boys.”

The reasons for these differences were found to have been strongly correlated with parental influence, the presence of gender stereotypes and the overall lack of portrayal of and/or attention to women’s sports in society. Because boys are more encouraged by society to participate in sports, they make up the majority of the audience that watches them.

Just because men are more likely to be sports fans does not mean that women are unable to appreciate them at the same level as their male counterparts. As society works to fight gender stereotypes in all aspects of life, sports fans can play their part in respecting, accepting and even inviting women into the world of sports watching. So men, the next time a woman’s March Madness bracket beats a man’s, do not get defensive; instead show respect — it is women’s history month after all.

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