A couple weeks ago, the other Ladies and I were groaning over a report suggesting some unorthodox but troubling ways to “fix” women’s basketball. Playing the Women’s Final Four in China was a suggestion, as was banning tattoos – you know, because women’s sports should have to appeal to people who can only accept women who meet a narrow definition of acceptable female behavior instead of trying to expand it.
While the report might have been wrongheaded, the impetus behind it wasn’t. Ratings and attendance for women’s basketball are down. Grantland ran a fantastic profile of Candace Parker this week illustrating how difficult it is for WNBA stars to maintain any kind of family life. More girls than ever are playing basketball (or any sport) and yet it seems harder for women’s sports to get attention than ever before.
Think Progress’ sports blogger Travis Waldron attended a WNBA game recently, and noted that it’s not the excitement of the games that’s the problem. But his observation that people who don’t like women’s sports are trying to force them to match the men’s game is something I (and others) have been saying for years. So how do we get people to stop thinking of women’s sports as lesser and start thinking of them as different? The popularity of women’s basketball in Europe and China suggests it’s possible.
Honestly, I have no idea. But I’m fairly confident the answer is somewhere past banning tattoos.