Women’s College Basketball & ESPN

ESPN Womens Basketball Mens Basketball Sexism Gender

If you hover over the “All Sports” link on ESPN and click the “College Basketball” link, you are taken to ESPN’s coverage of Men’s College Basketball.

The link to “Women’s Basketball” takes you to ESPN’s coverage of Women’s College Basketball.

ESPN is placing one gender (Men) over another (Women) by placing Men’s Basketball as the normative or neutral “College Basketball”. It’s a not so subtle difference…

Google engages in this gender-preferential activity too…a search for “Texas basketball“* lists the most recent score for the men’s Texas Longhorns basketball team. You have to search for “Women’s Texas basketball” to get information on the women’s team.

Title IX may have increased funding and the number of teams in women’s collegiate athletics. However, the above examples illustrate that men’s collegiate sports are still quite overtly at the “center” of mainstream media. “Women’s basketball” is seen as outside the norm and “basketball” as the domain of men.

It’s also important to note that gender, a fluid social construct, as Dave Zirin and Sherry Wolf write, needs to be discussed at great length in the context of all sports.

*Please note that this is in no way limited to searches for Texas..unfortunately, this seems widespread for Google search queries.

  • Michelle

    UGGGHHHH! That’s it, I’m canceling my ESPN subscription! (Wait … that doesn’t sound like me … okay, I’m not getting ESPN!)

  • Excellent observation, but, of course, disappointing to see. Hopefully pointing it out here raises some awareness!

  • Men’s college basketball attracts large viewership numbers and interest. Women’s college basketball is not on the same level of interest. It’s that simple. But why consider such practical factors when you can drum up the spectre of an -ism. Frankly, I find it annoying when they do not clearly differentiate women’s college basketball from men’s: “WOW! Directional State U. beat Big Time Basketball Factory U.???? Oh wait…that is women’s.” Sorry. That’s not sexist. The level of interest, and hence, exposure dictates what is the default in our society, not political correctness. I barely care about men’s college basketball, and I simply have no interest in the women’s game. I know I am not alone.

  • Derek – can I ask *why* you think there’s more interest in men’s basketball compared to women’s basketball?

  • Eric,

    Consider this from a purely web design perspective. Take any chance for bias out of the picture. Instead, consider ESPN is just featuring Product A, and Product B. Perhaps these are in the same category, maybe not. But the fact of the matter is that (we can assume) they have evaluated the analytics and see that Product A gets ten times the traffic of Product B. In this situation, why wouldn’t you give Product A higher placement?

    Now, one could argue that by virtue of being less known, Product B should get additional billing, but that all comes down to the business model. If the number one source for Product B happens to be ESPN already, regardless of the comparative traffic level, they have no need to give it higher billing since they already own the niche market vs. competitors. There are even more variables like advertising revenue and potential, and things like that which come in to play.

    I don’t care about sexism. As a web developer, I care that I can show if two pieces of content are or are not considered equal, and then care about how to treat those content items based on limited available space in design. What they are is irrelevant to me, and maybe in this case it is to them too.

    Sticking with ESPN and sports, go find me the Arena Football League link in their jumbo dropdown. Bassmaster is there, but Arena Football isn’t. Why? Because someone had to make a call as to how to most effectively use the space.

    My point basically is there are legitimate, measurable reasons for making the decisions they (and others) have made. Could they add a clarification to the menu specifically calling out the men’s vs. women’s sports? Sure, but if it has no impact on traffic or conversions, then why?

  • Bryan J.

    It’s not sexist at all; men’s basketball is more entertaining. A irrefutable fact is that, in the game of basketball, men can run faster, jump higher, etc etc.

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  • Lee

    Very unfair of ESPN, even if women’s is not as popular they should not be treated like they don’t exist