Will Women Always be Secondary in NFL Social Media?
Though they say defense wins championships, it seems like women will need to go on offense if they want to advance their social media presence this NFL season. This isn’t to say that women aren’t getting some NFL spotlight already this year: Shannon Eastin made (controversial) history last week when she became the first female to officiate an NFL game, and viewers responded with about 2,700 tweets to commemorate the event.
But as Eastin’s whistle makes its way to Canton, other female NFL fans will be left wondering to have their voice heard in the sport, let alone if they can someday join the ranks in the Hall of Fame.
While I am not typically one to lament a lack of womens’ presence in professional sports, this year’s marking of the fortieth anniversary of Title IX has me thinking about the barriers women still have yet to overcome not only as athletes, but as sports fans and analysts, too. For example, The Huffington Post’s Larry Atkins called the lacking of female NFL commentators “one of the few remaining glass ceilings to be cracked in journalism, sports and society.” Atkins went on to state:
“Unfortunately, women sportscasters must meet a higher standard than men. Some people assume ‘Oh, she’s just a pretty blond. She doesn’t know what she’s talking about.’ They often get stereotyped as dumb eye candy and sometimes aren’t taken seriously as sports experts… However, many women are sports fans and follow sports religiously, unlike the old days when stadiums were filled with men with hats who smoked cigars.”
This isn’t an unfamiliar sentiment to many of us female NFL fans, who often find our football insights taken less seriously amongst (usually older) colleagues and fellow sports bar attendees – even when our analysis can extend far greater than discussing attractive players and uniform color combinations.
In my opinion, social media can become the primary arena for women to dispel these stereotypes about their football expertise and advance to higher positions in NFL commentary. Though there are few widely-followed women in the NFL social media scene today, I already know one young woman, Lorena Reyna, who writes an NFL blog called Tumble Dry Lo with the hopes of someday becoming a full-time sports journalist, and my own younger sister has encouraged me to follow more of our beloved Steelers on Twitter. Their commentary represents just a few of the many women out there who are not only true NFL fans, but also have valuable insights and thoughtful contributions to make to the game.
If women continue to show that they are active and knowledgeable within these online sports circles, we can break this glass ceiling once and for all, and earn some overdue street cred along the way.
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On a final note, I recently learned that a surprising 1,249 girls played high school football in the 2009-10 school year. Maybe by the time these young women graduate from college, there will be a female voice in the NFL fan base that will climb the ranks and speak to them, as well as the national football audience as a whole. Until then, I will keep tweeting about the Steelers and the rest of the NFL with my sister, aunts, and other women out there who love this sport just as much as I do – and will encourage others continue to do the same.