When you turn on a sports game and settle into your couch, you hear the same thing from the announcer’s booth: excitement, disappointment, and shouts of joy. It may not be from the same person every time, but it is most likely from a man.
Enter Leandra Vermeulen, an RTA school of media student who attempted to turn the Rams’ sporting world on its head.
Vermeulen organized The Takeover, an all-female live broadcast of the women’s hockey game against the Windsor Lancers on Jan. 29. It was an idea that was inspired after she worked at the Pan Am Games.
“(I) realized that there were so few women in the industry, especially in sports broadcasting,” she said.
Naturally, this seems like an exciting step forward for women in sports broadcasting. But while the good intention and talent is there, it may not have made as big of an impact as they’d hoped.
“It’s really cool to show that the girls can do just as much as the guys,” said Sarah Jenkins, a second-year sport media student and the night’s play-by-play announcer. And therein lies the problem. Women already know what other women are capable of. It is not them they have to prove themselves to. The night was dubbed “ladies night,” so who was there to listen? Other women.
(Video courtesy RTA school of media)
So foreign is the idea of women calling a sports event instead of wearing tight dresses like sideline decorations. Most of the time you don’t even notice that their voice is missing from the booth. It doesn’t matter whether the men are good at their jobs or not – you’re still subjected to their deep-voiced narration.
“The whole institution of sport in our culture is such a masculinized realm of activity,” said Pamela Sugiman, chair of Ryerson’s sociology department. “It would make a bigger splash, a bigger impact, if you were to have women host and run a men’s game, which draws a bigger audience in any case.”
So why not make the obvious leap?
It’s a statement echoed by Ophelie Zalcmanis-Lai, the editor-in-chief of McClung’s magazine, a feminist publication produced by Ryerson students.
“Overall, I think the person organizing this has good intentions and is trying to address a valid point,” said Zalcmanis-Lai. “It would be great to see this become regular, instead of advertising it as a ‘takeover’ that’s for the women’s hockey game anyway.”
So for one night and one game, women ran a broadcast for a women’s hockey game. And that’s it. Sadly, this feels like an act of affirmative action, quietly pacifying the need for change. But that can be rectified.
“Rather than it being just a one time event, because that in itself isn’t sufficient, there has to be real institutional change,” said Sugiman.
The upside? Savannah Prokopetz, the student who broadcasts colour commentary, is now calling all of the women’s hockey games.
So even though they’re taking baby steps, they are baby steps in the right direction.
This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Feb. 3, 2016.