Viewing numbers for women's professional basketball for 2021 are up 74 percent from the 2020 season. But as visibility increases, so does attention on the broadcasters and the announcers. And that spotlight has revealed a problem: the consistent inability—or unwillingness—of broadcasters and announcers to pronounce players’ names correctly.
Often considered a “pink-collar industry,” social media’s female-dominated workforce has naturally extended to the traditionally male-dominated sports industry, too. Women are not only excelling in these roles, but as the online voices of sports teams, they’re finding themselves insulated from the kind of harassment and abuse that plagues many of the more visible women in the sports industry (and outside of it).
“It’s hard enough being a female and walking out on that ball field and giving everybody the impression you belong there,” Ila Valcarcel, a baseball umpire, told me. “They don’t know you, so your impression is what they get to see and if what they see is equipment and clothing that don’t fit, you already have one strike against you.”
Players had to attend charm school and wear lipstick on the field. Their uniforms had skirts instead of pants — not great for sliding, but deemed appropriately feminine by league owner Philip K. Wrigley. Though it was never explicitly stated, historians and players alike say the rules were in place, in part, to prevent the women from being perceived as lesbians. Many of the women actually were gay. By not including a gay character’s story in “A League of Their Own,” the film does to the history of the league what the owners tried to do its existence — erase lesbians from the narrative.
According to the press release the company provided to Racked, “SPoRT makeup began with a simple desire to honor the Rockford Peaches 75th Anniversary with a Signature lipstick, called ‘Peach Diva.’” However, “once … archival photos were discovered that emphasized the role that makeup played in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League, it was decided to add a broader range of makeup products to reflect the League’s insistence that players had to ‘look like women and play like men.’”
There’s still a stereotype about umpires being older men. “While the image of umpiring is changing, a lot of people still think of it, first and foremost, as a man’s job,” Charlesworth-Seiler says. Barber echoes this sentiment. “When’s the last time you heard of somebody walking up to a woman and saying, ‘Hey, I think you would make a good umpire?’” she asks. “Even now, rocket scientists and neurosurgeons are professions that are presented to women as attainable. But umpiring? Very, very seldom.”
As a growing body of research suggests that youth tackle football is harmful to children’s brains, not everyone is cheering. “Why bring girls into it? We should be taking the boys out of it,” said Dr. Robert Stern, director of clinical research for Boston University’s C.T.E. Center, which studies chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease caused by repeated blows to the head. “It doesn’t make sense to expose our children to repetitive head impacts during periods of incredible maturation of the most important organ in our body, the brain.”