The Drop of Estrogen Among a Sea of Testosterone, Part 1

(Or, Being One of the Few Girls in the Press Box!)

Taken a few years ago at the 2010 CIS University Cup in Thunder Bay, Ontario. Photo by Mike Witty.

It's a fact, there aren't as many female sports reporters out there in the mainstream media, especially in the male-dominated world of sports journalism. Even when I was at an NHL press conference last week, in a room of about 25 to 30 reporters, only THREE of us were females.

Now, a lot of people out there are split as to the reason behind this. One is the notion that not as many females are interested in male-dominated sports as there are males, or if they are, it's because they are attracted to handsome men. In hockey, the term often used back home for female fans who gush over a player's looks (i.e. "Aww, aren't his eyes dreamy?", "He's got a cute butt!") is a puck bunny. A lot of times, the female fans tend to dress a bit more pretty, or do something a bit fancier with their hair, as societal norms have deemed it as "acceptable behavior" for girls and women to do that. Especially in some of the smaller towns, this is seen as "normal," but for someone who wants to work as a sports journalist, heaven forbid that person is a FEMALE... 

"My goodness, she just wants to get into the locker room and look at all the hot guys!"

To be honest, over my years working as a sports journalist, the first time I did go into a dressing room for any kind of post-game reporting was this past March, when I covered the Jets home game against the Bruins. Normally, no matter the gender of a sports team, I believe the locker room is the players' sacred space where they deserve privacy. But in this case, as I learned at the previous game I had attended, the only way to get post-game comments is by going in there. 

I think the fact that I am fairly short didn't help matters too well, such as when everyone was interviewing both Blake Wheeler and (especially) Brandon Tanev. Now recall, if you can, being a little kid trying to see or get near to something or someone awesome. You are literally being reached over the top of, or getting an elbow in the shoulder or else tucked under a tall guy's armpit. And yes, both of these awkward positions were ones I had to take multiple times that night.

Well, I think you get my drift. I was the shorty in the lot, a bit concerned that I might get stepped upon or squashed between these much taller men who towered above my 5'4" stature.

Which leads to another thing about how women are generally expected to dress at hockey games. As a journalist, I cannot get away with even wearing a casual t-shirt and jeans; the unwritten code is for everyone to dress in business or business casual, meaning a nice shirt or blouse, dress pants, and dress shoes. 

When working in juniors a few years ago, I got used to the fact that some athletes love to tease female journalists (or at least this one!). The only way I could find to get anyone to turn off the jokester mode around me was by wearing a suit, dress shirt, and a tie. It's a habit that I have kept over the years, as it gives me a bit more confidence when in press row. Maybe some might find that a bit silly, but it helps me, and as one gentleman back home in Prince Albert told me when I was first starting out, "Journalism is a confidence game; dress in a professional manner that makes YOU feel confident, and the rest will shine through!"

So I will stride into press row in my suit and tie (I have a colorful collection of ties now!), my fingernails painted blue, my hair done neatly, with either my camera or my laptop, my stats notebook, and my audio recorder in my media kit (which is generally housed in a knapsack of some variety, depending on what I need that night). I will watch the game, see what story is going on beyond that of the simple matter of the score, take notes, get the quotes I need after the game, and write up my story as quickly as I can.

The fact that I am a girl in media row should not be a big deal. What should be the big deal is what is happening on the ice/field/court, as my focus is always on the athletes. Still, I sometimes get shocked looks from people just because of my gender in this line of work. 

Maybe someday when I have a daughter, if she decides to follow her mother's path, the looks won't be there so much, and there'll be a more even split between the genders in the press room (like 50/50, perhaps?).

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