By Hailey Salvian
Women working in sports are now facing the “Kardashianization of media,” according to a panelist at an event hosted at Ryerson University on Tuesday.
Jane O’Hara, a former sports editor at the Ottawa Sun, referenced the reality show to describe the increasing pressures from society for women to sexualize the profession. .
O’Hara was one of the three panelists at “From the Starting Blocks to The Finish Line,” an event held by Women In Sports Toronto to provide a forum to talk about the issues involving the industry.
Sheri Forde, a long-time TSN anchor, also addressed the issues involving how women dress and present themselves in the media. She agreed with O’Hara.
“Don’t dress so you can be ogled by men,” she said. “Go to interviews prepared with questions and a professional attitude so you don’t have to use your sexuality to get answers.”
Despite people like Forde who champion professionalism, the pendulum is swinging into dangerous territory.
Norma Wick, a professor at the College of Sports Media and the evening’s mediator, said she has seen women’s outfits change from pantsuits to cocktail dresses in a matter of years.
Women in politics face similar issues. In her book Notes From The Cracked Ceiling, Anne Kornblut addressed the judgment of female politicians based on their physical appearance during their campaigns. She said hecklers often ridiculed Hillary Clinton, calling her a tank or a lousy mother, while Internet searches for “Sarah Palin bikini” and “Sarah Palin naked” soared.
Megan Robinson, a former RTA graduate and reporter for the Fan590, also spoke about the challenges she has faced as a female reporter, citing times where she was told to lose weight, dye her hair or put on false eyelashes to cover a sporting event.
According to Forde, events like the WINS panel are important because they let young journalists know what is ahead of them.
“Whether we like it or not, it’s a visual industry,” said Forde. “I’ve seen so many young girls walk into men’s locker rooms for an interview who have no idea how bad it can be.”
Issues involving locker room access came to the forefront when Don Cherry infamously said on Coaches Corner it was no place for a woman.
“All I want is equal access. Believe me I don’t want to go in there, but if I need to so I can do my job, I will,” said Forde.
Robinson echoed this sentiment, saying she and her fellow reporters are “all business” and don’t go into locker rooms looking to “pick up.”
Despite the issues women may face, Forde says young serious females in the industry have more of a support network to reach out to than ever before. With the expansion of the Internet and various social media platforms, it is easier to compete in any field.
“Any woman can be on an equal playing field with men in terms of knowledge if they choose to be.”