February 29, 2016
We Will Not Stop Writing About Female Athletes’ Looks
Okay, so the title of this blog is a little bit long.
Actually, it’s the longest title I’ve used since I put up this blog about three years ago. It was an answer to a story written by Ceej Tantengco at @sports.abs-cbn.com. Before you go on finishing my story, please read Ceej’s story first and try to digest it as much as you can.
And here’s the link:
Let’s get to the Gretchen Ho part.
Ho frowns upon words like “sexy,” “hot,” “shorts,” “bae,” “bikini,” “pretty,” and “cute” and smiles at “athleticsim,” “hardwork,” “strength,” “leadership,” “character,” “swag,” “sacrifice,” and “heart” as seen you can see in one of the photos of the piece.
She also frowns at words hyping her as someone with “Chinita looks” and “morena glow” and “stunner.” She resented it, in fact. She wants to be judged not by her looks but by how she plays.
The writer then proceeded to showing data culled from random selection of feature articles published by leading sports websites in the country where she quantified the number of times the media used descriptions of female athletes that talked about their looks (32%) and compared it on the times used on description of male athletes (6%). She went on quantifying on the number of times media talked about men’s skills (84%) than women’s non-beauty attritbutes (54%).
And then here comes the dirtier part. Ho then went on blaming the media for not doing justice on what female athletes like Ho do.
And then I saw the word “sexism.”
The writer went on to illustrate that it’s a big disservice to the fans.
And then I saw the word “hits.” Hits mean the number of times a story was viewed. It’s like everytime you click a link and open the story, it’s counted as one hit. Another one comes in and reads it again, it’s two hits. And so on and so forth.
And then came the advice that sports publications should be held to a higher standard because we media people are expected to have a deeper appreciation of the real essence of the story.
And that disservice to fans again.
To summarize everything, media was cruficied and blamed. It’s as simple as that.
Now my part.
I’m a sportswriter. Wrote for the Manila Times for three years. Went on to write for The Philippine Star for the next 17 years including the present. Somewhere along the way, got the chance to write blogs for NBA.com Philippines and Philstar.com and decided to put up my own blog like this one you’re reading.
In all, I wrote probably millions of stories and several times utilized most of the words you see in the dictionary a million more times.
I will not hide the fact that I used words Ho frowned upon.
But I will tell you I’ve religiously used words that I’m sure will make Ho shake with laughter.
Try to read other sportswriters more senior than yours truly from other newspapers and you will get the same answer I will give you.
There’s nothing wrong with it.
Take a closer look.
If we used those words, we try the best we can to use it in good taste without offending the athletes concerned.
It is not sexism. It is not disservice to the fans. It is not media’s fault.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not Ho’s fault too if she was born pretty matched with Navy seals-like game. Rewind to the past and you will see us writing Ho’s athletic attributes more than her looks. Just try reading us again. Please.
We’re newspapers. We tell stories, good and bad, beautiful and ugly, inspirational and controversial. But not vulgar. Or bastos. We have our limitations too.
But we forget sometimes that media is business. We exist because of you, our readers. If we don’t sell, I will not be here right now writing this. I’m probably working somewhere more lucrative if you readers did not patronize us. So we’re here because of you. Whatever you want, we deliver. You, readers, are our bosses.
I’ll give you an example by showing this most recent story I wrote.
If you’ll notice, there are 0 Tweets, 0 Facebook shares, 0 googleplus and 0 email. Views? My editor, the assistant editor, the layout artist and the proofreader and myself are probably the only people who got to read it.
Now look at this video:
It has over 100,000 views because of the reasons we all know.
Colleague Jasmine Payo, who has been writing sports for the Philippine Daily Inquirer for almost a decade, sums it best.
“The media industry, of course, will try to tap into all those fan segments.”
She then states that media cater for different kinds of sports fans–one for casual readers who want sports entertainment and the other one those purists who focus on athletic excellence (Ahem!). Sadly, the sports entertainment readers outnumber the purists.
So media have to somehow write a story about the other non-athletic attributes of women athletes.
And there is nothing wrong with that really.
Try Sports Illustrated.
It is a reputable sports media entity. One of the best in the business.
Look at this:
I’m not saying we patronize it. No, that’s not my intention. In fact, I’m not a fan of this. But my point is, it sells. It draws tons of hits. And dollars. But it comprises just a percentage of what SI really do–which is to publish or post stories about everything sports.
Not just women athletes in bikinis.
Let’s discuss the local volleyball leagues.
And since the story mentioned of Beach Volleyball Republic Ho and her friends formed, let’s talk about it. I love the idea of BVR, which is to promote the sport and discover talents along the way. In fact, I’m fan of their vision more than their looks. I mean look them. They’re pretty (pardon the word). But I admire them more because of their vision and play. If media will publish them playing in their bikinis, will it reduce media to being sexists? Simply, BVR is a story in itself. It just so happened that it’s beach volleyball. Players plus swimsuits plus sands.
Now let’s talk about the Shakey’s V-League and the Philippine Superliga and the NCAA and UAAP volleyball competitions. All aforementioned leagues market their players. Whether it’s Alyssa Valdez or Mika Reyes or Cha Cruz or Michelle Gumabao or heck, even Gretchen Ho, all leagues tend to put their best athletes forward.
Let’s try Valdez. She’s inarguably the most popular volleyball player in the country today. Bar none. She started as an unknown. But thanks to her skills, athleticism and, yes, charm, she captivated and won fans by millions. Yes, Alyssa is beautiful and we can even throw the word sexy. But she zoomed to stardom using her skills first before everyone noticed she’s also as pretty (Ooops) just like as Ho and Rachel Daquis. And we in the media chronicled every step she took.
And now you tell us this.
Sorry but no sorry.
But we will continue to write what we want to write and use the words we want to use the same way Ceej wrote her story. We will go on with our lives writing sports stories. Whether it’s about Ho or Valdez or just a simple pair of cyclists from Mindanao living a dream.
Because our boss is you.
We write what you want. You want basketball? We give you basketball. You want Alyssa Valdez? We give you Alyssa Valdez. You want Gretchen Ho, we will gladly give you Gretchen Ho. It’s the same reason why you read about a lot of basketball and volleyball in the papers. Because readers want it. Period.
You decide what you want to read or see.
Read the newspapers instead. They have pretty good stories. Oops, pretty.
Follow me on Twitter: @JoeySVillar