(Originally published at Kukla’s Korner, May 24, 2012)
I don’t like the word bitch. I don’t mind it as a verb meaning angry complaining, but the noun ain’t what it used to be. Once it meant a difficult, unyielding, demanding female, not unlike an angry protective mother dog should be. Some women liked that image, it had some power. More recently the word has been retasked as shorthand for an angry, impotent person who has no more standing than a toothless dog. It’s a lot like WhileTheMenWatch, a not so original, spayed version of women talking about things women don’t really want to talk about, like sports.
Back in March, I went to LA to see a Sharks game with two cousins and a woman I hadn’t met. She was an avid hockey fan, unlike my cousins. My cousins are men, they like sports, one even likes hockey but doesn’t follow the NHL. I know they are legit sports fans because I had to sit through football games with them. But they are not active NHL fans. Maybe they are at this particular moment but they were not back in March.
Oh, congrats ex-Flyers in LA. That’s as far as I can go.
Anyway, we had dinner before we went to watch the Sharks lose. It took about 40 seconds after introductions for me and the other hockey fan to start in on an extended, possibly rapid-fire conversation about the NHL. We covered the basics: how do California girls find hockey? Me: I saw the Czechs beating Russia on tv, I didn’t care at what. That held me long enough to fall in love with the game. Her: a friend took her to a game and before she even got to her seat she saw someone crushed against the boards. That crush became true love. We identified our teams and why we liked the non-local teams we do (her thing for Toronto really took some explaining, I mean “why would you do that to yourself?” I did ask her.)
While we were sharing what our GMs had done wrong this season and how we could see why they had done it and how the organizations got away with this or that bad decision and what we wished they would do… I noticed my cousins not talking. I recognized that this was kind of rude but hey, I was making the new person feel welcome, right? After a little more silence from the guys’ end of the table I heard: “so this is what it’s like to be the bitch.”
We don’t see each other very often, so I don’t feel comfortable elbowing my cousin in the ear. I ignored the word, but did try to attend to his feeling left out. Unfortunately, he had said the word so I didn’t try very hard and we two NHL fans were rattling on again in moments. My cousin’s not a jerk. It was just a slip of the tongue while noting a very common disconnect in gender relations on the subject of sports.
All this came back to me when I saw the buzz about While The Men Watch:
Borne out of frustration with their sports-addicted men, Co-Hosts Lena Sutherland and Jules Mancuso created WhileTheMenWatch doing their own version of sports commentary that women actually want to hear. -WhileTheMenWatch.com
Seeing as the hosts both have broadcasting experience and know oh so much about what men like, I don’t believe it’s an accident that their website title sounds like a girl on girl porn vid, which is about where it would be classified in the gender discussion.
While Lena and Jules are worrying about keeping cold beer available and whether their men will need sexual healing after the game, I have to wonder if their men don’t believe the wimmin folk don’t care about the game, don’t need to have it explained, don’t really want to do anything but attend to the comfort of the men folk. Oh, the women may go bitch on the phone but they don’t care about the game. That’s what it’s like to be “the bitch”: confused, uninformed, bored, not able to ask questions and apparently unable get up and go do something else.
No, you start up a conversation with your like-minded non sports fan friend about the peripheral stuff around the play that doesn’t really require you to watch what’s going on or understand why it happens. The really fun thing women want to do is talk about not understanding what men are up to, or better still, mocking it. Since your men won’t be offended by that, you make a proper splash by claiming that you represent all of women kind, thereby offending women in droves.
I have been on both sides of this interest problem, even with the same men. While I watched the football games against my will, I didn’t have any desire to critique hair, clothes or rules. Aside from mentioning that the game was way too slow for my tastes, I did try to understand what was going on and asked questions accordingly. My dumb questions were things like “wait, are all those lines and numbers painted on the field or computer generated?” When I tired of it, I read Twitter.
So while reading about Jules and Lena, my first thought was “well, these women don’t get it, they have no understanding of what it’s like to really be a sports fan.” I was wrong:
… Jamie Sale. I can remember crying when she and her now husband Pelletier were finally granted the gold medal after some shady judging shenanigans went on. We cheered when they went on Letterman showing all the world Canada’s most, well-deserved gold. And now she was sitting next to me asking to borrow a pen. -WhileTheMenWatch
Oh, so she does get what it is to be emotionally engaged in someone else’s athletic performance and fate. Oh wow, I wondered, what did she ask her? What gems of insight did she get from this remarkable woman? Here they are:
My new favourite champions turned out to be such good sports, I had a chance to ask them a few questions about the lighter side of hockey:
Q: Ken, do you think Jamie could beat you in a hockey game in a race for the puck?
Daneyko: Yes, most definitely she could beat me. I concede that one right away.
Sale: As you can see, he’s really intimidated by my size so he’d have to say “yes.”
Q: Ken, it’s game day, game 7, final round, for an NHL player, do you advise sex on game day?
Daneyko: (laughing hysterically) I don’t believe in superstitions, to each his own. Absolutely! I think it gives you energy. I don’t buy that you lose your legs, that’s a fallacy.
Sale: It’s invigorating!
Oh. So while she was crying about the gold medal being awarded, this is really what she wanted to ask? This is what “women” really want to know about: can a girl beat a boy in a race and should men have sex on important game days. According to WTMW, “women” want to turn everyone, the coaches, the players and the commentators into children, makeover targets or playthings. Cuz that’s what women actually want to hear.
Maybe Jules and Lena think they are subversively turning the tables by objectifying men and what they wear and picking boyfriends for the game and so forth, the way men might do in a strip club or while watching cheerleaders and ice girls. Newsflash: that isn’t subversive or original. Chippendales exists for real.
That CBC would give these women such a platform on which to preach their reactionary anti-fem message angers me all the more because there are plenty of women writing good, truly unconventional things about being hockey fans. If they wanted an alternative perspective, there are many to choose from. Some of it is too raunchy for a PG-rating, a lot of it fails the litmus test of “are these women acting like proper girls?” There are lots of women expressing “alternative” views of the sport as it’s played. Some are playful with hockey culture, but in a way that shows a profound knowledge of the game, its history and its teams. Yes, I’m a Puckhuffers fan, even if they are dreadfully misguided in their team allegiance.
I don’t expect truly subversive stuff to make it into network broadcasts but there’s no need to give more time to the fluffers. Let them have their blog and their webcast. I never would have found it since I don’t google “women who don’t like sports talking about how women ought to watch sports and watch men watching sports even though women don’t care about sports.” I believe we all have the right to follow any definition of gender we choose. But when someone takes a definition I don’t like and tries to jam it down my throat, I will bite. And vomit.
It doesn’t just touch women sports fans. It also insults people who don’t give a hoot about sports. Maybe I come from a society of willful women who do what they want and carry their own purses but I don’t hear any of my married non-sports fan friends saying they have to attend to their husbands while they watch tv. Their husbands are perfectly capable of watching tv alone or with their buddies without being waited on. They don’t need anyone to carry their slippers or bring them their bottles. These men can even change diapers and feed the baby. It’s astounding what they can do if they put their minds to it.
The handmaiden routine promoted by WhileTheMenWatch is an antiquated and unhelpful view of women and relationships. I get that they are using it to appeal to women who don’t want to watch sports. I could accept it if it was marketed as “girl talk for women who believe they have to sit with their men while they watch tv.” On WE. To market it as “sports commentary” on CBC is laughable, if it doesn’t make you cry.
Maybe it’s different on the East Coast. Maybe this is just my West Coast bias coming through, but I am very very glad to be in the US right now. Please, NBC, ignore those girls behind the CBC curtain. Yeah, right.