Women Who Watch

I didn’t want to write this article. When I first heard about While the Men Watch, CBC’s new alternate audio feed that claims to “look at the game from a woman’s perspective”, my first thought was, Just ignore it. Remind people that what these women do doesn’t stand for all women and then just never fucking mention it again.  If you’re a woman who writes and you don’t want to end up writing about being a woman all the damn time, the best course of action is usually to ignore pink-ghetto topics. They attract trolls who bait you with silly sexist clichés and start long, winding, unwinnable arguments with men who feel like modern society is somehow wronging them. They put you in the awkward situation of either standing up for women’s right to be girly and being labeled shallow, or critiquing cultural notions of girlishness and being labeled humorless. The only way to win this game is not to play. So mostly I don’t play.

But as I listened to The Current yesterday morning, which featured a teach-the-controversy piece on While the Men Watch, I realized that this is going to affect me whether I want it to or not. Over the course of this program, it became clear that, as much as the CBC and the hosts themselves are trying to evade criticism by hiding behind the idea that this is just lighthearted fun with no implications whatsoever for the larger role of women in sports media, they actually have some rather grandiose ideas about what the program is achieving. The intro explicitly describes it as “commentary for women” and “from a woman’s perspective.” Lena Sutherland described WTMW as “mak[ing] people think” and “breaking new ground”, talking about how she and her co-host were doing something that’s “never been done before”. Cassie Campbell-Pascal suggested that “this is helping push women forward to a certain degree,” while Sami Jo Small was even more laudatory: “I see it as a positive: there’s more women involved in the sports world.”

Now, when WTMW was just two women doing their thing on their blog, expressing their own personal experience of the game in the vast marketplace of people-with-blog-ideas, that was wonderful. I fully support their right to have their blog and their viewpoint. I personally don’t care for it, I won’t consume it, but whatever: it doesn’t affect me just because these people happen to also have vaginas. But when the CBC takes this viewpoint and gives it a national media platform, when it explicitly characterizes it as representing women’s perspectives, when it is described as original and groundbreaking, when it gets talked about in the quasi-feminist language of helping women, then it becomes my problem. Because now the biggest major television outlet in this country, the only outlet that is broadcasting the Stanley Cup Final, is taking the Lena and Jules perspective and putting it on huge high platform with a giant sign that says THIS IS FOR WOMEN. Being as how it’s pretty much the only sign that explicitly mentions women in the hockey media, it is going to affect how people in hockey view women. It is going to affect, indirectly but emphatically, how some people view me.

It’s going to provide fodder for people who already view me that way. On her interview on The Current, Lena seemed perversely proud about how she doesn’t actually understand hockey, talking flippantly about how she can’t analyze a power play. On their first broadcast, Jules was pleased to tell the audience that she doesn’t even really watch hockey. This ignorance and indifference is being defined as a woman’s perspective, in stark contrast to male commentators who are invariably promoted as experts. I’ve had people, quite literally, respond to my articles by saying they won’t read them because everyone knows women don’t understand sports. Yes, those people are idiots, but ultimately they’re only buying a stereotype that is widely sold throughout the culture, and is now being given the CBC stamp of approval.

While the Men Watch participates in an astounding collection of stereotypes about women. Women don’t understand sports. Women don’t care about sports. If women watch sports, they only do so because a man pushes it on them. Women are interested in fashion, cleaning, shopping, and men. The show is essentially the traditional four Fs of pink ghetto journalism- food, family, fashion, and furniture- tangentially tied in to  hockey. It is Cosmo with a game in the background.

To understand why this show is so dispiriting and depressing for a certain segment of female fans, you have to understand the role that sports play in many of our lives. For all the substantial progress of feminism, the larger culture is still awash in portrayals of women that hew closely to the long-standing stereotypes, that push us to think about ourselves in terms of our attractiveness, our sexual appeal, our fashion sense, our youth, etc etc. These issues intrude, one way or another, into almost every facet of life- into our work and the beers after, into our family life and our relationships, into our education. There is always someone critiquing our bodies or our style. There is always someone trying to sell us a miracle skin cream or a pair of shoes or fucking yogurt or whatever on the grounds that it will make us more acceptably and attractively feminine. Now, we’re adults and we can handle it, but sometimes, frankly, the cultural stereotypes of heteronormative femininity are a pain in the ass. Sometimes one gets pretty fucking tired of being appreciated, shamed, warned, and appealed to ‘as a woman’.

Women have always used sports to escape some of the strictures of gender roles and experiment with redefinitions of womanhood and female identity. In playing sports- especially a gear-intensive, aggressive team sport like hockey- women participate in a zone where the normal standards don’t apply for a while, where it’s culturally acceptable to be sweaty and stinky and flushed, where nobody cares whether you’re wearing make-up and nobody notices how long it’s been since you shaved your legs. Hockey is where it’s always socially licit to be competitive, aggressive, and physical, where we can experience our bodies in terms of what they can do rather than what they look like. It’s one of the few major arenas of the social world where, historically, the stereotypes of about women have been less powerful and less influential.  Because of that, for many women playing hockey has feminist overtones of empowerment and liberation. At the very least, it can be a welcome haven for females during the moments in life when they don’t want to be feminine.

For female fans, too, sports can be a site of less-gendered social experience. Say I go to a pub by myself to have a drink and hang out. On a regular night, I get inundated with come-ons and pick-up attempts, and should I say that I’m really not interested in hooking up, I invariably hear something to the effect that it’s inconceivable that a single woman would go to a bar without looking for sex. But if I go when there’s a game on, I spend the evening talking stats and strategies and making Tortorella jokes, chatting with the other fans of both genders, and generally go all night without getting one single sleazy line. For many of the so-called serious female fans, watching the game is one of the best social avenues for meeting people and hanging out in a relatively ungendered way. Being into sports allows us to be guys, not in the sense of men, but in the sense of participants in a laid-back, friendly, easygoing social milieu that doesn’t feel defined by gender lines. Many female fans explicitly resist the category ‘female fans’, because for us part of what is great about being a fan is the sense that female or male doesn’t matter so much. The gender-neutral experiences we have around the game are precious exactly because gender can be such an intrusive category in other parts of life.

So when the CBC decides to throw money at a program that believes it’s ‘breaking new ground’ by bringing the most cliched, generic, traditional gender ideologies into sports… that’s not exactly a thrilling idea. Oh goody, finally, a sports program that gives me the opportunity to talk about important issues like getting grass stains out of pants and how to please my man in bed. Thank fucking God, because, as a woman, I really do not have enough opportunities to hear about these topics already. It’s so sadly neglected, the question of which male celebrity you’d want to be your boyfriend, it absolutely is not exactly the same thing that the culture has been throwing at me since I was eight years old.

“Oh,” but they say, “it’s not you we’re trying to appeal to, it’s not you serious female fans we care about.  It’s the casual fans, it’s the girly girls who don’t like sports that we want to reach out to.” I suppose this excuse is meant to be comforting to us, somehow- they’re not calling us superficial, they just chose to use our gender as a code word for superficiality and appeal to the superficial members of our gender instead of us. So silly of us to feel a bit insulted, yes?

No. There is an enormous constituency of hockey-mad females all over Canada, but when the CBC decided to reach out to women, it wasn’t us they thought of. It wasn’t the girls on the rinks and in the sports bars they wanted to talk to, it wasn’t the women who are passionate and obsessive and fanatical about hockey, who spend tremendous money, time, and energy on this game. Nope, it was the other women, the ones who don’t know the game and don’t give a fuck. Those are the women the CBC is interested in. While the Men Watch is to serious female hockey fans what the glow puck was to serious American hockey fans- an attempt to pander to the desires of those who don’t care about hockey rather than those who do, a sign that the network cares more about appealing to the lowest common denominator of the indifferent rather than the devoted core fan base. So yeah, if you are a member of that core fan base, it is pretty insulting.

We have a catch-22 here: for the ‘serious’ female sports fan, the male commentary is supposed to be enough, so anything that includes female as an explicit category has to be somehow lesser. Men get to be experts, women get to be eye candy and window dressing. We can either be ignored because of our gender or stereotyped because of it, and maybe, if we’re really really lucky, grudgingly respected despite it.  But we’re always on the margins, not quite a big enough percentage of women, not quite a big enough percentage of fans. We exist in a demographic no-man’s land.

This sounds like complaining, doesn’t it? This sounds like whining, or perhaps even envy. Those ladies got a parade, why don’t we get a parade too? she cried, stamping her foot angrily.

Fuck it, though, I’m tired of being quiet and hoping silently that the powers that be see fit to advance more women to the upper echelons of sports commentary. If they’re going to advance proudly ignorant women to the national stage, then hell yes, I am going to complain that they’re not advancing knowledgeable women whose hockey ideas are ten times more deserving of being heard. Where is our fucking parade, CBC? TSN? Globe and Mail? HUH? Women have been covering sports on the local level for many, many years now, women have written their way to prominence on the internet, but somehow they are still almost totally invisible in the national media. As men work their way up the food chain, getting ever bigger and better gigs, women tend stay where they are. It was six years ago when Cassie Campbell first lucked her way into color commentary on the CBC and she’s still the only woman to do color, and even she has trouble getting the opportunity to do it often. I have never seen a woman sitting at the far right of a long desk, being asked her opinion about where Luongo would be a good fit or whether Ovechkin should get more ice time. I have never seen a woman, other than Ms. Campbell, be presented as an expert voice in televised hockey.

Outlets will say, oh, we can’t find any. We can’t find any knowledgeable hockey women who are up to the exalted standards of our panel discussions. Bullshit. This is a field where the standard for intelligence is Mike Milbury and the standard for articulateness is PJ Stock. There are women who can meet those standards. If you can’t find them, you’re not looking. Glorious Leader Bourne has been running this site for less than a year and he found three female writers, whose work ranges from the silly to serious, impassioned to impartial, who are comfortable talking about the relative attractiveness of playoff beards AND the relative merits of goaltending styles. This is one site and it has women who can look at the game intelligently through the lenses of science, history, culture, and personal experience. I have no sympathy for editors and producers who complain that smart female hockey analysts are like fucking unicorns.

That’s the excruciating thing, the thing that makes the elevation of While the Men Watch to the national spotlight so acutely painful: it would be so easy to have done it the right way. The CBC wants an alternate feed for casual fans? One that brings a lighter, sexier, more playful tone to the game? Great. Find people who can bring that fun, irreverent perspective and also have the knowledge to back it up, who could talk about the hottness of players and explain a little bit about power play strategy while they’re doing it. It doesn’t have to be an either/or. Light doesn’t have to mean ignorant. And, if you’re aim is to turn non-fans into fans, wouldn’t light and passionate about hockey be a better marketing strategy than light and contemptuous of hockey? Wouldn’t it have been better for everyone to reach out to non-fans through the voices of people who love the game?

What’s done is done. The CBC, they paid their money and made their choice and there’s no undoing it now. Up in some high office somewhere, someone is looking at reports of all the media coverage this show has gotten and fairly coming in his or her pants with joy. The sponsors, I’m sure, could not be more delighted. In a way, by writing this, by participating in the conversation, I am contributing in some small way to the certainty of its survival.

So I’m not going to ask the CBC to take it down. Rather, I have a humbler request. Dear CBC: don’t lie to me. Keep up your party line, if that’s what you have to do to feel good about this. Say it’s fun, it’s light, it’s silly. Say it’s just a gag and it’s making a ton of controversy and controversy means ratings and it’s all good for business. Say you honestly don’t give a shit whether you perpetuate gender stereotypes or feed into already existing negative views of female sports fans so long as it gets ratings. But stop lying. Stop patronizing me.  Stop telling the world that this is groundbreaking or thought-provoking or different. Don’t wrap this show in reductionist gender imagery like fucking Christmas lights and then tell me it’s not supposed to represent female fans. Don’t tell me that giving hockey-broadcasting jobs to ignorant women with no training who didn’t pay any dues in the business and can’t even be bothered to actually learn about the game in front of them is somehow helping intelligent, passionate women make progress in the hockey media. Don’t tell me you’re honoring the female perspective by dismissing the women who have loved watching your broadcasts for decades in favor of those who only watch because their man does. Don’t tell me you respect serious female fans. If you did, you’d have found some.

If you haven’t read Julie Veilleux’s excellent, piece by piece takedown of the gender ideologies of WTMW, do so immediately.  I am indebted to her for both that article and her performance on The Current, which inspired this post.

Comments (140)

  1. Today, such a performance can only be described as Lidstromesque.


    • thank you! thank you!
      just one thing…to make clear…’feminine’ is not a ‘negative’.
      when playing goalie, i dont do it to ‘not be feminine’.
      associating ‘hockey’ or sports with ‘non-feminine’ or ‘anti-feminine’ even…is
      saying ‘sports’ is a ‘guy thing’ or a ‘masculine’ thing…
      THATs the problem. yes more males may play sports…? or watch [mens] hockey…?
      but lets not keep buying into that patriarchy culture…and presenting ‘it’ as the
      ‘opposite’ of ‘feminine’ and there for ‘freeing’…
      we don’t play hockey as a ‘F u’ to ‘feminine’ or a chance to ‘not be ‘feminine’.
      whats your definition of ‘feminine’ ?

      if you put gender on a ‘sport’…thats slippery sport.
      its no more ‘masculine’ for a women to play a ‘sport’[competitive, aggressive] than if its men playing said sport.
      ANYONE can play a sport. and ‘what’ you do as a person playing said sport, the sport does not care about your gender. you are just sweating, stinking, being aggressive, assertive, competitive like ‘anyone’ else playing said sport.
      the sport ‘neutral’. hockey doesn’t care if you are male or female player. men and women stink, sweat, can spike our testosterone[competitive] when needed. if a guy wants to wear ‘make up’ when he plays, his choice… or a woman, hockey doesn’t care.
      if i understand the point being made….its pretty sad when a womyn has to play a sport, like hockey, in order for her to be treated ‘neutral’…not ‘like a girl’. cuz in patriarchy culture society…’throw like a girl’…we learned early on our gender is not a ‘compliment’. so playing a sport is ‘liberating’ from society’s digs.
      there’s nothing wrong with ‘feminine’, there’s something wrong with society ‘putting it down’ as a ‘joke’. on the ice, womyn ‘get respect’ by Default…cuz they are ‘perceived’ by society as ‘not feminine’.
      if i get ‘respect’ cuz i’m not ‘feminine’ then no, i don’t want that ‘respect’.
      if i get ‘respect’ cuz i can play said sport [hockey], i’ll say thank you.
      ps-the rest is splendid :)

  2. This is outstanding. Absolutely outstanding.

  3. Standing O. Well stated.

  4. Your points about the CBC’s doing this, while not in any way advancing female participation on HNIC are particularly apt. Even the NHL Network is doing better in that respect, with at least some constant female presence (though there continues to be an unfortunate bias towards have the woman play the ‘host’ and not the analyst).

    Mostly though, I’m guessing at it’s heart the decision to run this was all about laziness, greed, and short sightedness. It’s easier to be target ‘women’ than ‘the type of person that reads Cosmo’. It’s easy to convince yourself that by appealing to this ‘market’ you are bringing new fans in (and new ratings), and not just appealing to those knowledgable women who will be watching anyways.

    It’s a classic short-term gambit. Try for the instant success that will grow the ratings a few points this year, instead of trying to really develop the game amongst the female audience, and have long-term impact. It’s a missed opportunity and it’s certainly nothing they should be proud of.

    But what can you really expect of an organization that still features Don Cherry?


  5. Well said, Ellen. I find the pandering to “this is for non-serious hockey fans” to be the most offensive thing. Why would you ever pay someone who has, as you so accurately said, contempt for hockey to cover it on the biggest stage that exists?
    Back when I was in university (I graduated in 2005 so it was a while ago), my classmates often said that my “back up” career should be hockey commentary and would come to my desk for better analysis than they saw on TV. Now, in my office, I regularly regale my coworkers (mostly male, being in an engineering firm) with my opinions and rants, to their delight. These same people who complain about the inanity of Milbury, of Glenn Healey and so many others that CBC has seen fit to promote. If I, someone so far outside of the actual world of hockey, can attract an audience, how much more so are these many women who are inside the sports broadcasting world do so?
    These women are out there. Promote them. If you want to pander to the lowest denominator, than at least give the other side a lift as well. The misuse of Cassie Campbell by CBC is disheartening. Tessa Bonhomme has worked for Leafs TV multiple times to the delight of many a hockey fan, regardless of sex. Yet, she has no permanent gig on any of the major networks who broadcast hockey nationally.
    I’m sure While The Men Watch is signed through the whole SCF and will have to continue to exist through this series. But when that cup is awarded and players do their laps of the ice, I expect that to be the end of this ill-advised, idiotic promotion of a program by CBC. Let the women go back to their podcast and those who want to listen online. But there is no place for them on the most influential Canadian network covering hockey today.

    • Ellen, do you have any links to where the CBC explicitly says this is for women? I have been addressing this issue with a CBC executive who is stating otherwise, I would like to be able to point him towards these previous statements which concern me greatly.

  6. I can’t thank you enough for this intelligent and articulate article concerning that abomination of a “hockey” show. It sickens me to read about it even.

    Of course being in the states I have not actually seen it but can only imagine the trite frippery and insipid blather of the females hosting this idiocy.

    Keep up the great work, Ellen

    • No one in Canada has seen it either.

      It exists solely so that gender equity champions can flaunt their progressive bona fides by yelling at something that would otherwise be completely ignored.

      • Thanks for labeling gender equality as something smelly under your nose! It’s not as though it has anything to do with my quality of life.

        • Sing it, Julia.

        • If gender equality means that there’s only one “appropriate” way for women to consume hockey and that any other alternatives are to be loudly denounced as superficial, demeaning, heteronormative attacks on all female hockey fans, then I’m not on board.

          • Yet this IS superficial, demeaning, and heteronormative. It IS painting out one “appropriate” way for women to consume hockey and trying to sell that to all women.

            What exactly are you arguing?

          • “It IS painting out one “appropriate” way for women to consume hockey and trying to sell that to all women.”

            I don’t see how it’s selling it to “all women”. Clearly it’s catering to a specific demographic that is less interested in the sport itself than it is at snarking at their TV set; much in the same way that people on twitter watch the Emmys, or reality TV, just so they can make fun of it.

            Seems to me that we have to pretend like we’re dumber than we actually are to believe that this show is catering to all female sports fans. I’m sure most people are more than capable of distinguishing between Ellen and the pink jersey crowd and that we don’t see the actions of one particular segment of female sports fans as being representative of *all* female sports fans.

            But this type of “if don’t like it, don’t watch it” position won’t get you any attention, so I can see what’s it’s not terribly popular.

          • Way to not read the article at all, mclea.

          • lol mclea still trolling away after all of these years. And of couse still nary a constructive word. Same old mclea

  7. I want to run through a fucking wall right now. This is such an amazing piece. Thank you so much for writing everything I’ve thought about this entire debacle but couldn’t find the right words to do so.

  8. An entirely justifiable use of profanity. If I were in Ellen’s position I could not help but be incensed by this whole thing, no matter how much I wanted to just ignore it.

    Looking at the last paragraph, it seems that the problems with this show are representative of the problems with the CBC–going after ratings and trying to attract new viewers through gimmicks and ill-conceived ideas like this one, then trying to justify it after the fact by clinging to its roots as a broadcaster with high intellectual standards. If it looks like dog shit and smells like dog shit, you’re going to have a hard time convincing anyone that it’s a truffle.

  9. You made all the points swirling in my head about this and many more, much more eloquently than I could have.

    (Still, my favorite phrase was “fucking yogurt” because yeah… totally.)

    Hallelujah and Amen.

  10. Outstanding article. One additional thing – it is not CBC’s money that went into this – it is every Cdn taxpayer’s money as we fund CBC. This puts an extra duty on them to (a) be evenhanded in sport coverage and (b) don’t put insulting shows on the air. Cheers

  11. Wow, so well written and bang on.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

  12. BRAVO! Loved it, well written and bang-on point!

  13. This was my favorite part: “Outlets will say, oh, we can’t find any. We can’t find any knowledgeable hockey women who are up to the exalted standards of our panel discussions. Bullshit. This is a field where the standard for intelligence is Mike Milbury and the standard for articulateness is PJ Stock. There are women who can meet those standards. If you can’t find them, you’re not looking.”

    • That was my favorite part as well. “Oooh, look at us our standards are so lofty, we can’t find anyone without a penis who meets them.” I CALL BULLSHIT OUT LOUD ON THAT. When you find the men who offer “expert” commentary at Mumbling Morons For Hire you can find smart, articulate, knowledgeable women. Just look for the ones getting treatment for eyeroll fatigue and start looking there.

  14. Took ya a while to get to the point, but after about half way through the third paragraph, great article. Of course it was 12,000 words long so it’s ok to start slow, dip a toe in a little…hahah… either way, fantastic!

  15. Bravo Ellen, bravo. /bows

    Next time I see you I’m buying you a gin and tonic. Or whatever you are having that night.

  16. Fantastic work as always Ellen. It’s incredibly insulting that the CBC is trying to sell us the idea that WTMW is groundbreaking or progressive for women. It’s patronizing as fuck. And makes me want to repeatedly bang my head against my desk.

    Props s to Justin for running a blog that showcases a diverse array of viewpoints (ie. stats lovers, hockey historian, former player, etc.) without being self-congratulatory or condescending ( ahem…CBC).

    • I guess I just don’t see the big deal.

      I speak of this as a parent of a young girl who watches Family Channel on a fairly regular basis. Almost every show is about a smart and/or talented girl and her dumb/always in trouble younger/older brother.

      Should I be offended that men/boys are basically idiots in these shows?

      I mean yes, there are serious female sports fans out there, but they are a minority. My wife tolerates sports (barely) and she got a kick out of this show because it is her to a T. I think what they meant by ground breaking is that there isn’t a show about this subject (even if it just ends up rehashing media stereo types about women that have been around forever).

      • And then that smart, talented girl will receive a lesser salary than the less efficient boy. This is statistically proven.

        I’m feminist enough that seeing guys saying ‘I just don’t see the big deal’ angers me. Yeah, it may not be a big deal to you. It is a big deal to us – and why are you speaking *for* us, anyway? You should invite your wife to hold her own court here.

        • I’m not speaking for anyone. I’m just curious why you’d bother with something that upsets you.

          Not every thing that goes on TV is meant for everyone. The fact of the matter is this show wasn’t written for the women that enjoy sports. It was written for the women who tolerate sports to spend time with the guy they are with.

          It’s TV and not every TV show is meant for everyone to enjoy it.

          (And for the record, I made the suggestion to my wife and her response to me was “Stop picking fights on the internet stupid”).

          • Why not bother with something that upsets you? Did you just say that in public? Generally speaking, people who express their opposition to a viewpoint they find degrading are absolutely crucial to societal change. Hey, Ghandi, British colonial rule got you down? Plop down and watch some more TV, it’s not worth getting fussed about. Just don’t participate, they’ll get the message.

          • It’s a television show, based on an idea formed by 2 women. This isn’t oppressive Britsh Rule on an independant nation, but nice example Eric, it works well.

      • There are a lot of male writers who have denounced the tendency of scripted television and advertising to portray men as stupid and incompetent in the domestic sphere. I am completely supportive of that critique. If such things don’t bother you, congratulations, but when single dads or men who choose to stay home to raise their kids feel insulted by these portrayals, I sympathize. Reductionist gender roles are a two-way problem.

        • I guess my point is, you always have the option to ignore it if it is to the point that it bugs you. I fully understand making the point that this show doesn’t represent all women, but I think trying to do anything that goes beyond that is a waste of time and there are other fights worth diverting this energy to.

          • Television shows perpetuate and influence ideas what we think are truths about people. We all like to think that we have complete control over the way we think about men and women, or tall people and short people, fat people and thin people, people of different races, etc etc. But in fact the media that we consume really affect the way we think about groups of people. One commenter on this thread says her dad just doesn’t like women doing sports commentary. Another one says women never have good opinions about sports. Opinions like this are not created in a vacuum, they don’t occur just because that commenter is a jackass – they’re created because that commenter’s dad has just hardly ever heard women doing sports commentary, because that commenter has hardly ever been confronted with women who are being treated as though they have authority to speak about the game. When you add two women to hockey programming who are then talking about stuff that isn’t hockey-related at all, really – and by doing so apparently double the number of women in visible, on-air roles on HNIC (I don’t get it so just taking the word of others there) – you are just confirming for the real assholes, and adding on to the cumulative weight of opinion for people who aren’t really assholes but really are influenced by what they watch, that that’s what women are into. This affects women in a whole lot of ways, but to pick just one way that’s really worth fighting for: if you don’t think a woman can do good sports commentary, you’re probably not going to hire a woman who applies for a job as a sports writer.

            When CBC further pushes this as “the women’s perspective”, they really are taking it into “not only is this what this show implies about women and hockey – it’s actually what we think about women and hockey!” territory.

            And as for ignoring it if it bugs me – this point has been made before, and often, but it is really very difficult for women who are sports fans (or fans of other male-dominated interests) to ignore prevailing attitudes towards women who are hockey fans, because *people keep telling us what those attitudes are*. “Oh, so your boyfriend/husband/dad/brother is a hockey fan?” “Oh, you only like to watch hockey because of the cute butts, right?” “So can you actually name five players on your team?” “Let me explain to you what a powerplay is!” Not that there’s anything wrong with being a new fan or getting into hockey through a partner or a relative or a nice ass: but the assumptions that those things apply to women grate, and aren’t always easily avoided.

          • But is this about just finding something one doesn’t like and complaining? I don’t think so. I think this is more a matter of a show with a particular demographic (“non-sport-fan women killing time while that damn hockey is on again”) that is being marketed and promoted as being to a much wider demographic (“anyone with ovaries”).

            I’ve got to say, I’m kind of offended at that myself. It takes women and boxes them up: girlie girls over here, hockey fans over there. And it turns out that “over there” in this context is “where we don’t really have to think about you.”

            It’s generally no problem if someone guesses wrong about my thoughts on politics or religion or whatever based on knowing me only from the rink. It happens. It’s quite another to be told that I’m somehow defective or incorrect for not conforming to those guesses. Through this show the CBC is definitely crossing that line. Good for Ellen and everyone else for taking a stand.

          • Okay, but again, the target audience isn’t the female sports fan. The target audience is women who tolerate sports to be with their guy. I’m not sure of the numbers but I’m pretty sure that group out numbers the sports fan group by quite a margin.

            I mean is that any different than how Spike TV markets itself as “Men’s TV”? It’s all shows men watch! It’s the network for men! Does that reflect all men? Of course not.

            Yes, there are guys out there who don’t take women in sports seriously. But you know what, they are going to do that anyways. How many great articles has Ellen written? How many times does she still get knocked for being a woman? You can put a panel of women out there who read a script of a Hrudey, Stock, McLean, Healey conversation and some guys will complain that these girls know nothing and I wish the guys were back.

            You aren’t going to fix their ignorance and this isn’t going to add to it in any way either. It’s a harmless show and just because it doesn’t speak for you doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad.

          • “You aren’t going to fix their ignorance and this isn’t going to add to it in any way either. It’s a harmless show and just because it doesn’t speak for you doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad.”

            This is the key issue for me: I don’t believe that it is harmless and I do believe that it does add to their ignorance. People are not born sexist. If you take an eight year old boy now, and you make sure that all the sports commentary he watches involves women and men in equal numbers and of similar talent, in 40 years’ time is he going to think that women can’t do sports commentary? And if you take that boy and make sure that the only sports commentary he ever sees women do is While the Men Watch, how’s he going to feel about women and sports commentary?

            What we see of people given positions of authority affects how we feel about whether people should be given positions of authority.

        • Exactly! Shows like this perpetuate outdated male stereotypes as well. As I have said previously, it makes you wonder if the CBC is capable of evolving at ALL, and it makes you sad that they seem okay with being lazy and opting for the easiest, most obvious./cliched programming choices.

          This whole topic is so offensive on so many levels… So many of us have had opinions on a few or many aspects of this situation and have attempted – with varying levels of success and coherence – to express those opinions or haven’t bothered because of the ensuing headache. You have succeeded in crocheting together all of the many aspects of the problem into a piece that is insightful, coherent, moving and entertaining to read. Congratulations, and thank you so much for doing this.

          • So this show perpetuates male stereotypes, despite being created by 2 women.

            I think it’s absolutely hilarious that women are getting mad at the CBC (and their old, set in their way men who think women only belong in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant), yet the women who created the show have not been touched.

            This is a show based on an idea created by women. This isn’t men projecting their stereotypes of women.

            How difficult is this to comprehend?

      • It’s confusing because there are two Julias commenting. Anyways, I’m the Julia that originally posted the comment that you responded to. I’m with the other Julia though, it really irks me when guys imply that -gosh, women! So emotional and making a big deal out of nothing. It is a big deal when WTMW is showcased by CBC ( read mainstream) while CBC doesn’t really make an effort to promote knowledgeable female analysts. It’s also incredibly problematic that ( like Ellen wrote) the CBC and WTMW are pushing this load of crap that somehow this is progressive for women. Oh really? Sex and the City themed products marketed towards women? Don’t really see how that’s progressive for women.

        I really couldn’t care less about this show if A) CBC made more of an effort to promote more female analysts ( don’t about you but I’ll take Campbell’s commentary over the mumbling incoherence of Milbury and Cherry, or the load of hot air that comes from PJ). And B) If the marketing/packaging was more gender neutral and gender essentialist. I understand that casual sports fans may find this stuff entertaining and I’m all for them getting their programming, it just bewilders me that CBC and WTMW think that only women are casual sports fans who might be interested in commentary about doing laundry.

        It’s been awhile since I’ve seen the programming on the Family Channel but as Ellen already expressed so eloquently, gender reductionist roles are harmful to everyone. They’re sexist, heteronormative, cissexist…basically gender reductionism is sucky. So yeah, if that was the case, I would find those portrayals problematic as well.

        How do you know that serious female sports fans are a minority? You could say that men comprise a majority of sports fans, and that wouldn’t even be a dominant majority. But when you add a subjective qualifying characteristic like serious? Are “serious” female sports fans any less of a minority than “serious” male sports fans? How would you even quantify that? I guess you don’t, you just assumed that based on faulty stereotypes about the average female sports fan right?? Like the same regressive stereotypes this show is pushing? Hmmm….now you see why I as a sports fan who happens to be female might find this frustrating?

        • *and less gender essentialist

        • So your counter argument is to infer things I never said and to end it with “see, not so fun is it?”.

          First of all, I’m happy to have a discussion with someone as long as they are willing to discuss the points I’ve made. If you are going to go off on a tangent and accuse me of stereotyping women, I don’t see what value of continuing this conversation is.

          So I will be taking my own advice and ignoring it. I responded simply so I don’t get accused of a hit and run.

          If you are interested in talking like reasonable adults, I’m more than happy to. I’m not that hard to find.

          • Am I missing something? What did I misinterpret? Are you not trying to tell the rest of us outraged folks that this is no big deal? Nothing to get worked up about? Sorry but I feel differently, and so do many others judging from the sheer quantity and quality of comments here.

            What exactly was your point about “serious” female sports fans being a minority? Sure they’re a minority, but can you prove that they are any more of an oddity than “serious” male sports fans?

            “Okay, but again, the target audience isn’t the female sports fan. The target audience is women who tolerate sports to be with their guy. I’m not sure of the numbers but I’m pretty sure that group out numbers the sports fan group by quite a margin.”

            Honestly, where are you getting this idea from??? This really bugs the heck out of me. Why do you presume that women who tolerate sports to be with their guy outnumber the women who actually enjoy sports and watch it for themselves? Seriously, ask yourself why you assume this and get back to me. I made sure to address all your points, and I’d like you to address just this one point.

            And I will reiterate, reducing people down their genders and and employing/perpetuating subversive gender stereotypes ( both male and female) to appeal to a certain group is exclusionary and harmful to everybody.

          • You started off with this:

            “gosh, women! So emotional and making a big deal out of nothing.”

            I never said anything of the sort about women.

            “you just assumed that based on faulty stereotypes about the average female sports fan right??”

            I’m not basing anything on any stereo types.

            I’m basing it on things like personal experience and numbers.

            Female viewership for televised sports is significantly lower than male viewership (though the gap is bridged slightly for the NFL, for obvious reasons).

            The Male to Female ratio in terms of attendance (at least for NBA games, which is the only data I can find on that) is 3.5:1.

            If the majority of women were sports fans, why wouldn’t that ratio be higher, especially given the face that females out number males in population (in North America at least).

            I don’t think this is particularily earth shattering, and I’m curious why the hill you chose to fight on is the number of female sports fans.

            Do they exist? Of course. Are they just as involved as their male counterparts? Yes. Are they somehow worse than their male counterparts? Of course not.

            Are their numbers anywhere equal to men? I can’t say I’ve found any evidence of that. Calling Female sports fans a minority is in now way a slight against women. I can’t even fathom how someone could conclude that it is and be offended by it.

      • I’m not familiar with the shows on family channel, so, I took a look at the shows listed on their page. If you hover over the shows section, 10 shows come up. By briefly looking at their descriptions, 3 center around a male character, 4 around a female characters and 3 are either co-led by a male and female character or are mainly ensemble shows. So yes, out of the 10 main shows that pop up, there is one more female-led show than male led show. Keep in mind that this is a small sample size though.

        However, if you go to the shows page there are 42 shows listed. From previous knowledge about certain shows and by glancing at the show icons, I made a tally about which shows appeared to be male-led, female-led/ or co-led/ensemble. 16 shows out of the 42 seemed to be centered around males, 13 were centered around females and 13 were co-led/ensemble. So in my estimation, Family Channel actually plays more male-centered shows than family-centered.

        Now I don’t watch any of these shows so I can’t speak to their respective character developments, but I’d imagine that the shows that either center around males or are co-led/ensemble probably have well-defined, well-rounded male characters. However I could be completely off the mark about the male characters because I don’t actually watch those shows, I just wanted to point out that not “Almost every show is about a smart and/or talented girl and her dumb/always in trouble younger/older brother.”.

  17. Thank you. I’m so tired of trying to explain to several clueless males why this stupid show irritates me so much, and you’ve done it for me. Thank you.

  18. As an long time hockey fan, I remember the first time CBC decided HNIC need to hace a “woman’s perspective” on the programme. They had Helen Hutchinson join the crew as an interviewer. Theory no doubt being – she is an excellent interviewer (and she indeed was) and a journalist therefore could bring something positive to the programme. The challenge was that instead of doing regular interviews with the current players of the day on the usual topics, she would ask one hockey questioin then veer into what does your wife think about that. The best answer was from Guy Lafleur who looked into the camera and shrugged his shoulders answered her – well you would have to ask her. This experiment did not last long at all as you can well imagine.

    I find it interesting that the French broadcasters have had a few ladies over the years as real reporters and analysts. They had Diane Sauvageau (former player and coach of the ladies Team Canada squad) do the analysis between periods for over a season and now on RDS the excellent Chantal Macchabbe is the beat reporter for the Canadiens.

    I would love to see more ladies on the programmes talking sports with real opinions and being “insiders” not just with the CBC. Imagine if one of the networks could get Haley Wickenheiser as a commentator. I am sure she would be much more interesting than Pajama Stock, or Mike (here is my shoe) Milbury, and do not get me started on Don (in I mispronounce the name loudly it does not count) Cherry.

    Here is hoping TSN and Sportsnet are listening.

  19. Outstanding piece. Thank you for drawing such parallels and expressing the feelings of female hockey fans and players across Canada and beyond, in such a fucking dead on way.

  20. Standing ovation. Well said.

  21. Great article.

    I’m very disappointed that some women have come out in favour of WTMW, in particular, Cassie Campbell — if she thinks this is good for women, I’d seriously reconsider hiring her as a motivational speaker — and Andi Petrillo. Why should men in sports respect the women who work in it now, when those women don’t even respect themselves?

    • I’m wondering if their support for WTMW isn’t somehow tied into trying not to piss off their employer. It’s been established that landing a job at HNIC as a woman is not easy, I’d imagine neither Cassie nor Andi would want to rock that boat.

  22. Excellent, this sums up everything Ive been thinking perfectly. the way CBC continues to defend this show as “entertainment” and making light of everyones points makes me sick . I know I’m not the only one who is enjoying the finals on NBC now.

  23. This rocks. You rock. Thanks.

  24. Betty Friedan et al and my generation engaged in a transformation where definite progress has been made. But progress clearly implies an ongoing process. Can only hope that this insightful article lights a bulb for those reading through naive or rolled eyes.

  25. Really, really, really good. Putting a woman on a panel would do 100 times more for generating interest in the game than talking nonsense over the televised feed. I guess I could be referring to WTMW or PJ Stock when I refer to nonsense.

    And you are exactly right. Fans are fans. My sister feels the same pain I feel while she watches the Oilers.

  26. This is a goddamned thing of beauty. Throw down the mic and walk off the stage because you just pwned the CBC


  27. This is much more coherent than my frothing rage and keysmashing. Thanks, Ellen. (And thanks Bourne, for giving her a platform for us to find her work)

    • also, I’m curious as to what Daniel “it’s not that big a deal” Wagner’s response is to this.

  28. You are my hero.

  29. Brilliant! Bravo!

    My husband basically married me because I’m a hockey fan. Our first date was at a WHL game while we were both university students. We spent our first anniversary at the NHL draft in Vancouver. My water broke during my first pregnancy while I was watching my husband play rec hockey.

    I have no time for a condescending show hosted by a couple of nitwits who think they represent me. I like nail polish, boys, and baking cookies, too. But not at the expense of being treated like a proper sports fan, like my husband is. Remember equality?

    • EXACTLY THIS. Good on ya, Janey.

      • To sum this up: liking hockey does not make me a puck fuck.

        CBC’s new show is made by puck fucks for puck fucks. While they’re hanging out by the dressing room door hoping for sloppy seconds, I’ll be in the stands with my man enjoying a beer thank you.

  30. Slow clap.
    Thank you for writing this.

  31. If this doesn’t rate a mention in Friedman’s 30 Thoughts next week he should serve two minutes and feel shame…

  32. Ellen, thank you for absolutely nailing the point most of us have been trying to make during this whole debacle. I’ve had so many thoughts running through my head about all of this, most fueled by rage, and I’ve not been able to hold a single one of them down long enough to put them into words. You’ve not only held them down, but driven stakes through the tiny black hearts of each and every one.

    • Liz, glad to see you are using CWGAP rather than your spelling it out. Step in the right direction….

  33. *slow clap*

    *wipes tears from eyes*

    Thank you for this wonderful post which perfectly articulates the issues with the odious WTMW. Thank you for all of your thought provoking posts. Thank you to Bourne & The Score for giving smart articulate women like Ellen the opportunity to speak for us (‘us’ meaning both ‘women who are hockey fans’ & more broadly ‘hockey fans who like to read interesting cultural commentary’).

    I’m a woman and academic with lots of opinions about hockey. While I knew I was smarter than the average meatball, I never would have even dreamed of starting my own blog a year ago. The sense of community, diversity of opinions and respect for intelligent commentary fostered by sites like Backhand Shelf & Puck Daddy (particularly the MvsW podcast) inspired me to write and instilled me with confidence that my writing wouldn’t be dismissed because I was a woman or because I wanted to write about certain things from a more academic perspective.

    So, thank you again for this post and for everything else as well.

  34. Excellent job. Thanks for distinguishing between the two women producing this (who have been unfairly attacked in sometimes sexist ways) and the CBC. The CBC is where the blame and the attack needs to be focused. The problem will continue well after While the Men Watch is forgotten. CBC needs to improve female representation in responsible ways immediately. Hire female journalists and analysts. Fire blatant sexists (using “girl” or “sisters” as an insult should be a clue).

  35. I was going to come back here again and write something about how the problem is largely about marketing: who it’s being marketed to and how. Then I watched an interview with the hosts on Urban Rush. Yeah, no. The problem is that it’s fucking disgusting. And, ladies and gentlemen, OUR TAX DOLLARS ARE PAYING FOR THAT CRAP! Sure, put a low brow comedy on TV. Sure, let them giggle about pubic hair. But put that garbage on public television? And tell women that it’s groundbreaking entertainment? Dudes, I could walk down any high school hallway and hear the same conversations being vomited out of the mouths of teenagers.

  36. If I could make every person who told me to ‘ignore them and they’ll go away’ read this article, (and Julie’s also) and make them understand how ignoring it doesn’t help, I would. You’ve expressed all my thoughts amazingly. I hope someone forwards this to the CBC (I sent the link to one of the producers from last night on Twitter also).

  37. I absolutely could not agree more. Thank you for the hard work you do, Etchingham; you and other writers here have really been instrumental in both educating and making me feel welcome as as new (and yes, female) fan of this game.

    • I’ve been following hockey for 10 years (since I was 14) and I remember the early days of trying to understand all the rules. It’s a fun time when you are first becoming a fan.

      Welcome! : ) And may I suggest a certain west coast Canadian team to cheer for? ; )

      • Thanks!

        Sadly, I live in Toronto (and what’s worse, have a soft spot the size of the sun for the Blackhawks) so the Canucks are kind of a no-go for me *hides*

  38. Ellen,

    As a rec player (with women in the league), a youth coach and hockey dad to an amazing 12 year-old girl – thank you for writing this piece. The show is ridiculous and insulting – thank you for putting to words what core hockey fans think on this subject. Nothing irritates me more than people (and there are many) who look down upon women in sports (playing, broadcasting, etc). Once again – thanks!

  39. Thank you so much for writing this! I love it!

  40. So fucking well said Ellen – thanks for doing what you do so well and speaking for those of us who aren’t nearly as coherent and eloquent.

    Tell it sista.

  41. Awesome. Well done.

  42. Well said! You really hit it on the head with playing/watching hockey and how fun it is to just enjoy the game without the games. Women can cheer, scream, yell and just enjoy the hell out of the game with their friends, male and female, without worrying if they are not behaving properly as a woman. That is a great point. There is more to the female gender than buying shoes. We can love hockey and we can know hockey. WTMW is horrible and the CBC are just as horrible for promoting it. Just look at how often Cassie Campbell has done colour commentary (rarely). If not her, someone else. There must be other options….time to start looking.

  43. I think what it comes down to, Ellen, is that there’s a lot more women like Lena and Jules than there are like you. You wish that wasn’t the case, and as a male who has never had luck finding a female who shares his interest in the hockey department, I do too.

    • “Ellen, is that there’s a lot more women like Lena and Jules than there are like you”

      With all due respect, how do you know this? And what do you mean: as a portion of the female hockey fanbase, or women as a whole? If it’s the latter, then you are painting some broad strokes.

      The issue alot of us female hockey fans have is that CBC (and other media outlets) don’t even really address the serious female hockey fan. Yes, the Lena type of indifferent “fan” is out there, but why don’t media outlets try to represent the more serious fan? There are alot of us out there, particularly in Canada.

      • To be fair, I don’t read Cosmo, but clearly a lot of people do – that’s why it’s on the racks beside the checkout. And I’m guessing that the studies would show that most of the readers are female.
        That said, the issue here I think is that CBC has made a choice. They could put their energy into focusing on the serious female fan, who always seems to get the short end of the stick when it comes to participation and coverage, or they could go for the controversial quick hit, geared towards short term ratings.

        I’m guessing their argument would be that the serious fan is already watching – and they would be right – so why focus on them?

        But they then have made the situation worse by claiming that this short term, superficial move is in some way beneficial to women and their standing in the hockey world. That is just crap, and I believe the heart of Ellen’s excellent piece.

        • I definitely don’t think it has to be an either/or though, like Ellen mentioned. I mean, look at the brilliance of Ms. Conduct’s pieces, she combines great analysis of the game with some fun ‘foxy player’ type rhetoric. I showed her articles to a girlfriend of mine who has no interest in hockey and now regularly reads her articles because they are clever and fun to read! THAT is how you get more girls into hockey, if that is the intent…don’t pick two women who freely admit to ‘knowing nothing about the game’

      • I think it’s obvious that there is a much higher percentage of men who are knowledgeble sports fans than there are woman. To argue otherwise is just being contrarian. Some evidence… I participate in a baseball blog where there are over 1000 members I know, at least, the gender of most of them. I can count on two hands how many woman members there are.

        There shouldn’t have to be a program that caters to the woman sports fan, because gender should be irrelevent here. The only problem with the current system is that there aren’t more woman experts on TV. There should be disproportionaltely more men, because their are disproportionately more men who care about sports, but the imbalance is too great at this point.

    • Mark, can I hook you up with a single, hockey-loving lady? I know some.

    • Mark, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you’ve got some pretty narrow social spheres and/or physical standards, because this is freaking Canada, and I’ve been surrounded by girls and women who enjoy hockey (both play and watch) since, like, Kindergarten.

      I can enjoy watching the game (or any of them), but am not obsessed with any. I tend to get into the Olympics more than pro leagues. I don’t follow the leagues and player trades and have no interest in memorizing monotonous stats (and find men who can do nothing but incredibly boring and tiresome), but throw me down in front of a game and I know what’s going on and will cheer for the underdog and/or the Canadian team. I like hitting the bar with friends and watching the World Cup (or the Euro) and admiring the handsomeness of the Spanish footie team, and taking part in the ritual of hitting a live game.

      The CBC *could* have made a show smart show geared to that more- casual–and-playful sportsfan demographic, but went this way instead – which does nothing but reinforce that “sports are for boys” cultural message that girls get fed constantly and CREATES that situation where you have quote-unquote “no one” to share your hockey interest with.

  44. The Internet has turned into one mob scene after another where people complain about the silliest of things and blow everything out of proportion.

  45. Thank you so much for this thoughtful and extremely well written article. As a woman in sports broadcasting, I share your frustration. It puts a smile on my face to know there are women like you in the industry who can convey their thoughts so eloquently. Cheers.

  46. THANK YOU.

    Great, great piece Ellen. Puts exactly how I feel into words. Can’t say enough good things about this post.

    And may I say, I really think Ellen would be amazing on a hockey panel. You’re a fantastic representation of a serious female hockey mind.

  47. This a very well-written and thought-provoking piece, but let’s focus on one thing: “an attempt to pander to the desires of those who don’t care about hockey rather than those who do”. Whatever other buzzwords CBC has thrown out about it, this is essentially the market they are catering to and — not having seen the program — I don’t think it’s an attempt to be “hockey for women” writ large.

    It is a program presupposing an audience of hockey widows out there who don’t care about the game. I imagine that such a market most definitely exists, but I also suspect, because I wasn’t born yesterday, that they will not be watching this program — because it is the very televised hockey they have no interest in. So this is going to fade out quickly when ratings dwindle after the initial curious tuners-in, and for that reason alone I think it doesn’t merit much of a reaction.

    But there’s nothing condescending about the presumption that actual fans will watch the normal broadcasts. In fact, this is taken for granted. I don’t think anyone realistically sees these as “the men’s broadcasts”. They are dominated by men because they are dominated by former NHL players. There are very few (Ron MacLean being a notable exception) that weren’t hired from that limited pool.

    • But J21, the women themselves say it is “for women” and “from a women’s perspective”. However CBC wants to frame this, they literally doubled the number of women on the HNIC broadcast by adding two women who pander to the lowest stereotypes about women that exist. Were they simply not hockey fans trying to make the game fun to watch, it would be less of a concern – but instead they claim the woman’s perspective. That’s outrageous.

      • Red Bull also claims to give you wings, and every movie is the “must-see event of 20XX”. Marketing is marketing. There are approximately 4 people in Canada who honestly believe that something like this is “a woman’s perspective” of hockey.

  48. Outstanding article, and one that ought to hit home across the board. While I’m not a hockey fan, I see the same marginalization and pandering take place in the “fandom” community (what you hockey types would call “nerd stuff”). Female journalists and media professionals who work in gaming, in comics, etc face the same kind of uphill battle towards being taken seriously, and mainstream media continues to stick puppets in the spotlight who don’t know a thing about what they’re talking about. It’s disheartening across the board, and I think women who are fans of *anything* ought to read this article, because it applies to every interest and every obsession. I can’t get my head around the idea that we’re still doing this in *any* community, and I applaud you railing against it. I’m reposting this article to all the female fans I know – great work!

  49. Nice column, and I applaud your passion and completely understand why you feel the way you do.

    That being said, I’m not sure how you’re surprised that CBC would cater to female non-hockey fans instead of the passionate female hockey fans, the ones that are, “passionate and obsessive and fanatical about hockey, who spend tremendous money, time, and energy on this game.” From a business perspective they have no reason to cater to those fans because those fans are already going to watch the game on CBC. CBC is a business, it exists to make money for its shareholders, it makes money by selling advertising, it sells advertising by getting ratings, and it raises the price of advertising by increasing those ratings. Catering to the passionate female fan doesn’t improve their ratings because those fans were going to watch anyway. Catering to the female non-fan has the potential to increase viewership, which increases their ratings, which increases what they can charge advertisers, which increases profits. At the end of the day that’s what adding this show is all about, the almighty dollar. I completely understand how it’s prejudiced and insensitive towards the passionate female fans, but to CBC that is a side effect of chasing profits. And since those fans are going to watch anyway (because they can’t watch anywhere else) alienating them doesn’t hurt the bottom line, so they don’t care about it. It’s completely offensive and your outrage is completely correct, I’m just not so sure I would be surprised by a business making a profit-based decision instead of the right decision.

    • Then why not appeal to both male and female non-fans? “While the Fans Watch” – a MST3K-style takedown of hockey fanatics from the perspective of a couple of people with, well, perspective. Instead of relying on tired stereotypes about women it could say something funny about hockey fans – you know, stuff that’s actually relevant to hockey – it would appeal to more people and it would also be 7000000% less sexist.

      If CBC were really invested in appealing to non-fans, there are so many better and less offensive ways to do it than WtMW, so I really don’t buy this argument.

      • Exactly. While the CBC is smart to try to appeal to a larger market of non fans, that’s not what WTMW does. WTMW itselfs says it’s a “woman’s perspective” so what non-hockey watching male wants to turn in to hear tips about how to cheer up your man after his team loses the big game?

      • Not saying that wouldn’t be a better idea, I’m just saying that CBC’s decision isn’t really surprising when you look at it in the light of a business decision. That doesn’t make it right, or any less offensive.

        • Well the decision, from a business perspective, isn’t in line with their goals. They want to target non-hockey fans of all ages and genders. Instead, they signed someone who targets women who have nothing to do while their husbands/boyfriends watch hockey. I think the first group is much larger than the second.

        • Other than the brief spike of traffic you get by offending people – which lasts for a news cycle – I’m not sure how “hockey programme aimed at a group of women interested in shoes and facile jokes but not interested in hockey” is a smart business move. At minimum “hockey programme aimed at men and women not interested in hockey” has a broader potential audience. “hockey programme aimed at men and women who want to know a bit about hockey, for whatever reason, but aren’t megafans” has quite a lot of potential, and could even grown the market of megafans, but does require that it is hosted by people who know something about hockey and who are able to communicate about it in an amusing AND meaningful way.

  50. Thank you. I always look forward to reading your pieces because I learn, think, and am inspired by your words and ideas.
    This piece is sublime.

  51. Thank you for so perfectly articulating all the complicated feelings I, and many others, have about the existence of While the Men Watch. For pointing out that saying who has the best hockey beards does not diminish being an intelligent fan. For saying what I have so failed to get across to many others: that being a fan is a really gender neutral proposition. Really really well done.

  52. blah blah. didnt read shit. all women sports fans are a joke.

  53. Amazing article Ellen!!! I couldn’t agree with you more. Without knowing anything about that program, I was instantly offended by the title. “While the Men watch” gives me the same feeling as the phrase “while the parents talk” and leaves me with the feeling of a little girl not invited to the conversation. I’m glad you addressed it, even though it is a sickening topic.

    Reading your article I had another idea though. As a non-hockey fan who occasionally watches hockey, the idea of having separate feed for people unfamiliar with the intricacies of the game is interesting. However, the notion that this needs to be gender based is ridiculous. You are simultaneously offending women who watch hockey (and those who don’t) while not allowing men to admit they don’t know everything about hockey. They are trying to pre-determine what people of a gender should watch.

    It’s the adult equivalent of pink and blue toys. It’s disgusting at toys’r'us and it’s disgusting on the CBC. Thank you for writing this article.

  54. This piece is amazing, I too had decided to just leave this whole issue alone because I didn’t feel like it was even worth my time when all female hockey fans looked at it as such a joke and such an insult to our demographic. You have put down the words that I could have never mustered so eloquently, I could not agree with you more and you have shown (yet again) that there is a presence of female writers and fans who truly give a fuck about the game. Backhand Shelf is progressing hockey media more than our nationally funded CBC; thank you to you, Ms. Conduct and Jo Innes for being so brilliant.

  55. “an attempt to pander to the desires of those who don’t care about hockey rather than those who do, a sign that the network cares more about appealing to the lowest common denominator of the indifferent rather than the devoted core fan base”.

    I don’t think they care about appealing to the lowest common denominator, so much as they wish to capture more viewership. Thats the goal. They want people to watch their station, whether it’s about hockey or about gardening (with hockey playing in the background). The problem, as you say in your summation, is that they lie about what it is they are doing and who they are talking to. I won’t go so far as to call WTMW despicable, but I will call the CBC despicable for labeling it “the” women’s perspective.

    Great article.

  56. “This is a field where the standard for intelligence is Mike Milbury and the standard for articulateness is PJ Stock. There are women who can meet those standards. If you can’t find them, you’re not looking.”

    I agree that “analysts” Milbury, Healy, and Stock are clowns who could probably be replaced by any sports journalist or educated fan (regardless of gender). But that doesn’t matter. The program requires someone recognizable to the public, or someone who has been directly involved in hockey at its highest level, or has been reporting on hockey for a long time (with “credibility?” or some nhl inside knowledge/information). Am I right when I think that, at this point in time, these criteria virtually eliminate women because the interest and acceptance of women’s hockey in mainstream sports is a relatively new phenomenon? There simpy are not enough heros like Cassie out there.

    Incidently, my main issue with the progam is the title. It should be called “bored bimbo skanks” then all would be fine.

    • PJ Stock is that recognizable?

      • Well, he did play in the show, but I do see your point.

        Plus, I should shorten my title recommendation to “bored bimbos”. Anyone should be able to talk freely about sex regardless. My frustrations with the program got the best of me.


  57. …the next thing you know they will broadcast the games in a foreign language!

  58. Excellent post. And if you’re looking for unicorns, I mean women knowledgeable about hockey who are fun and witty, we meet at our local pub on Wednesdays after our ball hockey games. Except we’re all over 30 so I bet that’s another thing the CBC doesn’t like. “Old” ladies aren’t sexy.

  59. Thank you so much for this. I was absolutely shocked while watching the earlier playoffs with my dad. Cassie was doing the pregame setup and he turned to me and said he just doesn’t like women doing sports commentary. I said “but she plays nationally. She knows more than you, and she could kick your ass on the ice. I’m a girl Dad, and we have intelligent conversations about hockey every day. As far as current teams and players I even know more than you. Does this mean you wouldn’t listen to me if I was on tv?” He couldn’t answer that, just mumbled something about that’s just how he grew up. This is the man who took me shopping for my hockey equipment, encouraged me to play and is now thrilled to start teaching me football.
    I know my generation is far more accepting in general, but I was still shocked that this came out of my dad. He’s not usually a gender stereotype kind of guy, but apparently he doesn’t like women doing sports commentary. I’m not ok with this, and I hope someday I can show him that he’s wrong.

  60. I couldn’t say it better myself…well done, it’s about time, we should be as equal to guys…now that we have to worried about playing with guys in level of some professional sports [example: hockey]…agree?!!

    Speedy D25

  61. Marvelous work. I’ve said before you’re my newest favorite hockey writer and this has done nothing but convince me even more. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go read it again.

  62. I don’t understand why a show that hasn’t even aired yet has gotten so much negative attention. We live in a world of choice. You can choose not to watch it if you think it’s going to be the worst show ever. But that doesn’t mean the tv stations can’t broadcast it. I loathe reality television, so I choose not to watch it. Doesn’t mean Survivor, Biggest Loser, The Bachelor, and America’s Got Talent are going anywhere.

  63. A-fucking-men. This is precisely, EXACTLY what I had been thinking about the whole travesty. Thank you for voicing it so concisely. Now I can just point people here and say, “THIS”.

  64. Kind of ironic that the picture on theScores homepage shows two women at a Phoenix Coyotes game, cause neither men or women watch the yotes

  65. Thank you for writing this. You have put to words so eloquently what I have felt since hearing about this.

    It’s been hard enough to fight all these stereotypes portrayed for women, I once being an athlete, training with my brother to help him progress as an athlete, my father and I having intelligent conversations about football and ice hockey, and being a Sabres season ticket holder that can talk with the men around me about the game. This show is just going to perpetuate them and I only hope that the general hockey population can recognize it for what it is so I don’t have yet another bold-faced hurdle to jump to be considered legitimate.

  66. This pretty much sums up everything I have been thinking. I agree that they have the right to do what they want, and I applaud them for having the tenacity to create their site. While I don’t share their views, I respect their rights to have them. The only issue I have is CBC (a national TV network, who is funded by taxpayers) deciding they were the “woman’s voice”. This idea could have been so much better. I would love a so-called “learn the game” feed where people can learn about the game in a fun way. Both women and men would enjoy a little humor and a way to learn about hockey. I know hockey can be a difficult sport to just pick up. Creating a way for people to learn, without being demeaned, and also while being entertained would be amazing. That’s how you expand the sport, and not piss off your core fans. Unfortunately, feeding into a stereotype is easier than actually trying. Thank you for this article, it was amazing.

  67. And the award for most comments goes to….


    Congrats. You have brought a whole shwack of women fans out of the wordwork to express their agreement with your article. Now lets hope all the big shots at all the top networks read this article and get rid of this show and prevent any further similar ones.

    Also, vaulting you to stardom on the way.
    It needs to happen.

  68. Thank you so much for writing this article! You have articulated so well all of my own anger and annoyance at this show. THANK YOU.

  69. Also would like to add that having heard Ellen on various hockey podcasts I can safely say that I would much rather listen to her provide thoughtful, intelligent analysis than the likes of Milbury, Stock, Healy, and yes, even Don Cherry. Though it’s extremely telling that CBC showcases the inarticulate PJ Stock over the informative and very articulate Cassie Campbell. It’s the same reason why nobody bats an eyelash at male coaches in women’s sports leagues, yet female coaches in male sports leagues are essentially non-existent. It seems there is a belief ( faulty or not) that men won’t listen to women yet women will listen to men when it comes to matters of analyzing the game. So nobody takes a chance, and homogeneity dominates sports panels, and young girls see only men as the authority on sports, and most young women won’t see sports commentary (esp. in traditionally hypermasculine sports such as hockey, football) as a viable career option, and the cycle self-fulfills and self-perpetuates.

  70. Wow, I have no idea if you’ll even have the time to go through all these comments but I just had to add my own.

    Thank you.

    I don’t live in Canada and there’s no way I’ll end up seeing this program, but I’m absolutely with you on this. In fact, reading through the article I was thinking of things I’d want to add, but by the end I had nothing as you’d pretty much covered it all. And I loved how colorful it got at the end (fucking unicorns :D).

    One thing I did want to add though is how much this reminds me of the ‘Guardian’ project from last year. It just reeks of cynical, lazy marketing. That was an attempt to cater to kids by taking a thing they ostensibly liked (Superheroes) and branding that idea with Hockey™. Trouble was, kids don’t care about made-up superheroes when the real thing in Crosby and Ovi (for example) are so much more fun to watch.

    WTMW seems to be the same to me. The light-entertainment woman’s talkshow format combined with Hockey™, but not really doing either very well. I can see this doing about as well as the Guardian project did.

    In the end, it really is just cynical marketing. If it fails, they get to say that they tried but there’s just no market for Hockey with women viewers . If they succeed (somehow), they’ve done so with a minimum of effort and risk.

  71. Fantastic. Just plan fucking fantastic. Outstanding article. I thought we were past the point where what between your legs decided how smart you were on sports. This article should be required reading for all CBC staff.

  72. Damn. This is awesome. Very, very well done. That this runs on a theScore blog makes me proud to be affiliated with theScore — Duane Rollins, Footy Blog.

  73. Ellen, I’ve read some great blog posts by you but this might be the best of all. Awesome, awesome stuff. So much good analysis here, but the line that sticks most is about the choice of “experts” to appear on the show. The thought that Milbury or Stock are somehow better than Campbell, or any other knowledgeable and talented woman, is complete BS. Hell, Andi Petrillo has been far more impressive in an extremely limited role than Stock has ever been and I would be more than happy to see her get the chance to do more on HNIC.

  74. I run a college basketball blog on Tumblr. I have never done a single thing to TRY to attract a female audience. I just post what I would usually post. Guess what? Women follow the blog in almost exact proportion to men (unscientific data, but still). The message is, you don’t have to sing this song at a different pitch for women to be able to hear it. In fact, if you try, you probably accomplish the exact opposite of what you intended. That’s my take, admittedly from a dude, but one who pays attention.

  75. I agree with this piece the idea of pandering to women who don’t watch hockey with trivial flighty commentary is ridiculous. The NFL has done a great job with trying to explain the game to people less familiar with the jargon, but it isn’t so demeaning as to try and spin it as for women. I think people like Pierre Maguire have tried very hard to invent jargon like ‘active stick’ and ‘boardwork’ to try and somehow present themselves as experts. I think this trend adding a plethora of former hockey players as well as the proliferation of websites and newsletters have made casual fans feel like hockey is this intense, extremely complex sport they couldn’t possibly understand unless they spend every minute of their free time watching and listening to experts. Perhaps if CBC and other news services did more to demystify the idea that hockey is rocket surgery, the casual fan or non fan would be ok with watching the odd game armed with just basic knowledge. I think perhaps this blog is a response to that notion, really I think educating fans rather than trivializing the sport would be a better purpose for a blog directed at non-experts.

  76. “On their first broadcast, Jules was pleased to tell the audience that she doesn’t even really watch hockey. This ignorance and indifference is being defined as a woman’s perspective, in stark contrast to male commentators who are invariably promoted as experts.”

    As a youth I was a fan of the Sex Pistols and later the Beastie Boys, and one thing I liked about both these groups was their irreverence and indifference to the music industry, going so far as to proclaim that they didn’t really even know how to play music. I like it when something that’s treated excessively serious (IE, like being a “rock star”, or a journalist who covers a bunch of guys on skates trying to hit a piece of vulcanized rubber into a net) is treated somewhat more self-deprecating by the professional in question.

  77. I’m late to the game here, but I was blown away by this article. Typically this type of polemical rant is dissociative and rambling… and tends to be heavy on the emotion and light on logic, regardless of the writer’s gender. But this one is a doozy of pristine reason and fiery, kick-ass awesomeness. I’m definitely going to forward this to my wife’s hockey team.

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