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Heidi Shaffer: Sports networks need to start seeing women as equals

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Heidi Shaffer: Sports networks need to start seeing women as equals
Morris Minnesota 607 Pacific Avenue 56267

FARGO – As baseball enters post-season play, I’m not mourning the Minnesota Twins’ nightly absence from my living room.

Don’t get me wrong; I like baseball, and I’ve always considered the Twinkies “my team.” But I can’t stand how watching Fox Sports makes me feel as a woman.

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The broadcasters must think they know their target audience of beer-swilling men there to enjoy America’s favorite past-time. And in my mind they have no chance of changing that demographic when they continue to employ a team of Fox Sports Girls.

I don’t doubt these are very talented women who know their stuff when it comes to baseball, hockey and football. But you’d never know it judging by the way Fox Sports networks choose to use the “girls” (they’re grown women, for the record).

Instead of sitting in the box providing commentary for the game or even interviewing players after a win, these girls are relegated to tight team T-shirts, short shorts and acting as mid-inning entertainment.

I’m coming down hard on one particular network, and I wish they were the only professional sports broadcasters we could finger in the under- and misrepresentation of females.

It seems half the population isn’t wanted on screen or in the audience of professional sports.

I see some of you wagging your finger, reminding me of the pioneering female sportscasters like Jane Chastain or Robin Roberts. I applaud their achievements, but they’re still very much in the minority.

Do a Google search of “female sports announcers,” and the first three articles for you to peruse include “50 Hottest Female Sports Announcers,” “15 Hottest Female Sports Announcers” and “Top 10 Most Sexy (and Smartest!) Female Sportscasters.” I’ll ignore this last headline writer’s inability to properly conjugate “sexy,” but I can’t look past that (presumably) he seems genuinely surprised these women are – what? – also SMART? Dare we call them the most smart?

The Top 50 list from BleacherReport.com gives readers little idea of the women’s sports knowledge in their descriptions. For example, Heidi Watney of SportsNet is a “bewitching blonde.” That’s all you need to know.

The Fox Sports North girls are asked hard-hitting questions like “What’s your ideal Valentine’s gift?” for their online profiles. I challenge the network to ask the same of Burt Blyleven and Dick Bremer.

Hopefully the title of Fox Sports North Girl is a great stepping stone into the world of sports journalism for these women, but I wish it didn’t have to be. Male broadcasters don’t need to start as Fox Sports Studs.

We’re 40 years in to Title IX, I say it’s time to fully let women into the world of sports in a way that’s both respectful and reflective of our proportion of the population.

Sports networks might be surprised to see their ratings go up without sexist gimmicks.

Heidi Shaffer is the features editor for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. 

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