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April 25, 2009

Cosmo Quick Hit: Sports Are Icky

I watched the NFL draft today. I watched it because I wanted to, not because I was with some guy who was into it. I'm also a woman. According to Cosmopolitan, this apparently makes me some sort of mutant. Here are two items from their May 2009 issue to illustrate what I mean.

The "Cosmo For Your Guy" section is the page that you're supposed to give to your boyfriend to read (no comment on that), so it has relationship tips for guys. This month it's "Small Moves That Score Big", and here's one of them:
Get Girlie With Her: Believe it or not, your girlfriend probably isn't sitting by your side watching SportsCenter because she's dying to see the highlights of the Bobcats/Thunder game. She does stuff like that because she wants to spend time with you...and she'd love it if you returned the favor. That means doing things like going shopping without pouting the whole time or dozing off in one of those massage chairs. "Making small sacrifices shows her that you're a team player and her happiness is a priority," says Carol Bruess, PhD, coauthor of What Happy Couples Do.
See, because women don't like sports. Not a single one of us. We only like to do Approved Ladystuff, like shopping! So if a woman is watching SportsCenter with her boyfriend, it's never because she wants to see who won the Yankees/Red Sox game or because they're both fans of the same hockey team. It's because she just loves spending time with him, even if he's watching yucky boy stuff on TV.

And in the "Love & Lust" section, there's a list of "Non-Mushy Moves He'll Dig":
Score Him Tickets: Surprising him with a chance to see his favorite team will make him as happy as you would be if he wrote you a love letter. Tell him you'll be going with him-just kidding! Let him give the other ticket to a friend and he'll think you're the coolest girl ever, suggests [Kimberley Dawn] Neumann. [Apparently she's the coauthor of a book called The Real Reasons Men Commit.]
You got us good on that one, Cosmo! Imagine pretending that a woman might ever want to go to a sporting event with her boyfriend. (The idea that she might want to go without him would be too radical for them to even comprehend, I imagine.) It's crazy to even suggest that her favorite team might be the same as his, or that some girlfriends would also enjoy getting tickets to a sporting event as a gift. I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the idea of treating your boyfriend to a guy's night at a basketball game or whatever, I'm just annoyed by the fact that Cosmo apparently thinks that the concept of a woman enjoying sports is nothing but a hilarious joke.

Seriously Cosmo, can we please put to death this old and tired and idiotic gender stereotype about sports? Some men like sports. Some women like sports. Some women don't like sports. Some men don't like sports. I'm a sports fan. Lilith isn't a sports fan. My dad likes sports, my brother doesn't. The ESC has female friends who love sports and male friends who hate them, and vice versa. It's not a gender thing, and women who enjoy sports aren't unicorns. So can you give the crappy sports advice a rest, please? Stick to giving crappy advice about...pretty much everything else.


Anonymous said...

Wait, so, since my boyfriend gave me Red Sox tickets for my birthday, that clearly means I should dump him, right? Because he doesn't care about my girly needs and girly interests?

...Can I still keep the tickets?

Anonymous said...

Do I have to define the word "probably" for you?

Jess said...

I'm a panelist on a sports talk show at my campus radio station. My crush is on the same show. We all like to talk about hockey, basketball, football, etc. Wonder what Cosmo would have to say about that? That I should sit next to him and giggle after everything he says while feeding him chocolate-dipped strawberries?

Bianca Reagan said...

I agree. I don't like men's sports, but some women do.

Allie said...

Well, nuts, I guess that means I need to stop dragging my boyfriend to hockey games and develop an interest in shopping. Our relationship is clearly doomed -- I mean, he even cooks!



Brahmina, we don't think you necessarily have to dump him, but you should probably make sure he understands that he needs to take you out for a shopping day really soon.

Anonymous - sure, okay, give them credit for saying "probably", although we think in this case it was just sarcasm or a figure of speech on Cosmo's part. But we don't think that one "probably" negates the point that they're making, which is that boyfriends should return the favor of their girlfriends doing a Boy Thing with them (SportsCenter), by going with their girlfriends to do a Girl Thing (shopping) without complaining. It also doesn't negate the 'just kidding! women don't go to sports stuff' attitude in the other quote.

Monica Roberts said...

Some of my bookmarks include ESPN, the WNBA, and NFL.com

Sports Illustrated sits right next to my copy of ESSENCE magazine.

Girls don't like sports? Please.

badinfluencegirl said...

i buy toronto maple leafs tickets

and bring my MOTHER. (my dad stays home with the cats, seriously)


Lee said...

The biggest sports fan I EVER met is my mother, 70 years old. She grew up a Brooklyn Dodgers fan and now she's obsessed with the Mets. She watches every show on TV about baseball, and she listens to quite a few radio shows, too.

My father watches with her sometimes, but his heart isn't in it. When it comes to "compromising" about watching sports, my father is the one who's doing it.

Cosmo needs to wake up and get with the times. Rehashing these tired stereotypes about "girl things" and "boy things" is not only sexist, but it's just plain boring.

scamps said...

I like going to sports events with my husband. He likes to shop with me.

I smell a divorce.

Beth D said...

And here I was thinking that going to my college's spring football game yesterday was a pretty awesome date!

Anonymous said...

Overreaction is the only thing that comes to mind following reading this passage and many of these comments. Who uses there time to unnecessary attack a single passage in an entire magazine that many men and women read? No place is perfect nor always gives the best advice, but in this case, that I feel any thinking women can gain from reading this is the point is, that women, in nature, often sacrifice more for there lover than men occasionally do for theirs. This is not to say this is the same for everyone in every relationship but for many that is how it turns. Due to this, Cosmo is suggesting that the man should return the favor to their woman for a more equal relationship. It is not an attack on women enjoying sports, of course some do while some men do not. It was purely an example, one that because yes it considered to be a gender stereotype it can come across easily to all who read it. No where do they attack a women enjoying sports.

I do not condone their choice of tactic but one needs to realize it is simply a method of making a connection in readers minds.

Anonymous said...

Why on earth would you assume that Cosmo used the word 'probably' to be sarcastic? There's absolutely no reason to make that assumption. They just mean that most but not all of THEIR READERSHIP don't enjoy watching sport. This isn't just some sexist assumption on their part - they're writing for a target demographic that they've been researching and writing for for years. Within that demographic, the majority wouldn't watch sport except as a means of connecting with their guy. They're writing for women whose interest lies much more in improving their relationships than in watching sport; that's why Cosmo has so many relationship articles and so few sport articles. So the advice they give to the boyfriends of their readers is actually completely accurate, because they included the proviso 'probably'.

I infer from your headline (Sports Are Icky) that you think there's something dumb, shallow and anti-feminist about women like me, who loathe sports, but who adore shopping. Cosmo had simply acknowledged the fact that most of their readership prefer shopping to sports, without deriding them for it as you have done with your 'sports are icky' banner. You've attributed bimbo-ey overtones to the Cosmo article that weren't there before, on the grounds that Cosmo's readership prefer shopping to sports.

If you think you're being treated as a freak just because Cosmo has acknowledged that you're a bit different to the bulk of its readership in one aspect of your personality and interests, then you have a persecution complex. I don't feel that Cosmo represents me or my interests so guess what? I just don't bother reading it. I don't read it then kick up a fuss about the ways in which it excludes me. I think Cosmo - like most women's magazines - doesn't do women any favours at all, but we live in a world where most women face real problems of real, dreadful and too often lethal discrimination, and you're using your website to bitch and moan about some stupid article in a frivolous magazine that no-one has to buy or read. It's stuff like this that gives feminism a bad name and prompts people to use words like 'hysterical' and 'PMT' when describing feminists and feminism.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: As it's already been said in this blog, I am not a sports fan.

Anonymous1: The "sports are for boys, shopping is for girls" stereotype is one that needs to die already, because it's blatantly incorrect. No one is suggesting that it was an attack on female sports fans, but rather a generalization (that they do not exist). I'm pretty sure that everyone gets the point of what Cosmo wrote (I mean, c'mon Cosmo isn't exactly Beowulf) but the tactic is stupid and wrong and that's what she was addressing.

Anonymous2: "WWhy on earth would you assume that Cosmo used the word 'probably' to be sarcastic?"

Um, because it's Cosmo. And they love to make generalizations about THEIR READERSHIP and women in general that aren't necessarily true. (You know, kinda like what you're doing now).

The headline of this blog was obviously meant to be sarcastic... since I'm pretty sure that Jezebel doesn't consider me to be dumb, shallow and anti-feminist. We just think that Cosmo is. And that Cosmo thinks it's easier to pretend that their entire readership is.

And maybe if they realized that they're constantly reinforcing stereotypes and unrealistic ideals, then their readership would expand.


Anonymous, I'm not inclined to spend a ton of time responding to you after you pulled out the tired old 'why are you bitching about this when women have real problems?' and 'this gives feminism a bad name!' arguments, so just a few quick things.

1. Sure, Cosmo writes for their target audience. That doesn't mean they're above criticism. We write for our target audience too, and since this is our blog, that means we can "bitch and moan" about whatever we want.

2. The intent here is to poke fun at Cosmo for still clinging to silly dated stereotypes, not to claim some personal offense or outrage, so the "persecution complex" diagnosis is unnecessary, but thanks.

3. Regarding this statement: "I infer from your headline (Sports Are Icky) that you think there's something dumb, shallow and anti-feminist about women like me, who loathe sports, but who adore shopping." ...um, no. I think that our conclusion - some women like sports and some don't and the same goes for men and any stereotypes that suggest otherwise are just silly - is perfectly clear.

4. Here's some further reading for you on the question of why we're writing about this when there are bigger problems in the world: Why Are You Concentrating On X When Y Is So Much More Important.

kb said...

Is it sad that I read this and thought-hey, a mainstream magazine is actually suggesting that guys return the favor of their girlfriends taking an interest in their other life? because I never see that-and I hate it. I'm supposed to spend time doing what he likes, because that makes me "an awesome girlfriend"(that might not be cosmo, but I have seen it written out like that). but he isn't? wtf? otherwise, dead on. there are women sports fans. really

Jezebel said...

kb - I've definitely seen that sort of advice directed at women plenty of times before, so that's a good point. It's sad to think that there are some men out there who actually need to be told 'hey, sometimes you should do things that your girlfriend likes to do, even if you're not that into it, and without complaining or acting bored, because that will make her happy'.

noa said...

i can has liverpool?

Anonymous said...

Vaguely related to the other comments and the article...

I kind of like sports. They can be fun to watch, especially when you actually go out. But I really hate NFL, NHL, etc, and the Olympics, not because they're sports and that's "boy" stuff, but because they're giant money-making scams where giant steroid-monkeys get paid millions of $$ to sucker-punch eachother while the crowd cheers them on. (or, sorry, in the case of the Olympics, where a bunch of corporations get to boost their profit margins by putting sports stuff into their ad campaigns) It has nothing to do with an aversion to physical activites, it's about economics, and I refuse to let my hard-earned money support that crap.

Anonymous said...

I'm not big into most sports, but I'm pretty into hockey. (Yes, before you ask, I'm Canadian.) My boyfriend is way less into it than me, though; I couldn't count the number of times that we've had friends over and all the guys head into the basement to play video games while all the chicks stay upstairs and watch the game. The guys will wander in occasionally to see the score, and they'll be happy if our home team is winning, but they still go back downstairs to play some Xbox. My girlfriends like hockey, what can I say? Go Sens go!

Alice said...

I think there is some wisdom in both sides on this issue. On the one hand, it is offensive for Cosmo to suggest that women are incapable of liking sports and that we LOVE shopping.

On the other hand, I don't see the perspective in this blog post as being as feminist as it could be. Because, in reality, many very sensible, highly intelligent, feminist women, as you probably know, find the entire culture of sports to be, as it is, PATRIARCHAL: the competition, the he-man-ness, the violence and aggression, and did I say the competition? But worst of all, which you as feminists should realize, is that almost ALL of professional sports, and almost all of collegiate sports that make it onto TV or that are given royal treatment and maximum attention to the fans, is MEN'S SPORTS.

Much of traditional women's culture is in fact built on feminist insights and recognition of inequalities between the sexes.

As a feminist, there is no way in H*** I would EVER spend a second of my time watching men's sports. The last thing any woman needs who cares about equality is more images in front of her of men being physically active rather than women, and watching men do anything, rather than women. It is simply reinforcing the misogynist message that games, sports, physical activity, and agency are men's realm, and not women's.

Some women (the most misogynistically coerced and oppressed ones) dislike watching women's sports because they have been bullied by men and other patriarchally bullied women all their lives into putting themselves and other women down and therefore don't value women's physicality, athleticism, agency, and challenging of sexist stereotypes....

Alice said...

...Other women, who tend to be more feminist (even if they have been patriarchally bullied into being afraid to use the term "feminist"), do enjoy watching women's sports, because we find it empowering. As we watch, it gives us the feeling that WE can be athletically or physically accomplished, and that women can be successful at things that men have claimed only they could do. (After all, men have succeeded in keeping most women and girls out of sports almost entirely until quite recently, the past 30-100 years, except of course, when working as their slaves keeping house and growing food--both white women and women of color.)

So sitting down and watching TV football or hockey or whatever male sports just reinforces the images and stereotypes we've all been overwhelmingly hit over the head with all of our lives: that physicality, sports, athleticism and agency are MEN'S domain, not women's.

I like to watch sports, but only if it is women or girls playing. I refuse to watch another second of men's sports. It is not healthy for my full development, as a fully developed, empowered human being, to keep bombarding myself with images that reinforce the male=active/athletically accomplished stereotypes. I have already been exposed to that image millions of times by simply living in patriarchal American culture with TVs and schools that are ultra-biased towards males in sports.

In order to counterbalance all that brainwashing and patriarchal bullying, I would have to watch no more male sports for the rest of my life, and watch girls' and women's sports every chance I could get, and that probably still wouldn't give me an equal lifetime of education/information-stream that was not biased toward males and against females just regarding sports play.

I also agree with those here who point out the very much needed lesson which women (those who are still so oppressed they are unable to have primary romantic relationships lifelong with women) need reinforced, which is that it is perfectly OK and in fact, a step in a healthy direction, to expect males to spend time engaged in *their* interests (whatever the women's interests may be), not just the male's. Or to dump those males as the losers they are.

Frankly, all of this begs the question, how come men are so biased against watching women's sports? (And not women-in-skimpy-outfits-sports; nor "women fighting" sports that reinforce woman-hating and patriarchal "sports" stupidity, such as women's boxing.)

It's about time that, if any women are oppressed and self-hating enough to even consider being involved romantically with a man, they start expecting men to put out and prove themselves worthy of the woman not only wasting her time, but literally risking her life by being in his presence: by his inviting her to a women's sporting event, professional or collegiate, in which he is not only promoting her empowerment by watching women's sports, but he is empowering the women playing by buying a ticket to their game.

We women are forced to have no power, no rights, nor self-esteem, every second from the day we are born til the day we die. We each need to support and encourage each other to know and believe and start acting upon the knowledge that we have the right to have men prove, every second they are in our presence, or out in the world away from us, that they are worthy of our trust and our risking our safety to allow them to ever be in our presence on occasion, when we say so, and that they are doing their damndest to give up their male privilege and prioritize women's equality and empowerment: on our terms.

Thanks for posting this blog, and for your feminist good intentions. I hear you, and raise you a few on this! Keep going :)

Alice said...

I think many women think it's somehow feminist to watch men's sports, that they are somehow "breaking the mold" or stereotypes for women by doing so.

But it's only breaking the mold if we are watching and supporting women's and girls' sports, or better yet, playing them ourselves, or even better still, coming up with our own concepts of games, athleticism, physicality, and physical agency.