Separate But Equal? (December 9, 2010)

I have to thank my friend Sara for alerting me to this development.

Can a website be both progressive and patronizing?

http://espn.go.com/espnw/

A sports news repository for women and by women seems, on the surface, like a fairly innocuous and inclusive idea. However, at second glance, I must pause and ask why ladies can’t just visit the traditional ESPN network and Internet site for their athletic updates?

If you peruse the content at the link above, both the layout and material appear to be a prettier, dumbed down version of the original. This irks me. And while I have zero doubts in the talents and skills of the female journalists who comprise ESPNW’s writing team, I must ask why the glass ceiling at ESPN 1.0 hasn’t been moved to make a place for them. So in one fell swoop, the traditionally He-Man, testosterone-fueled resource for competitive statistics manages to segregate both female sports fans and the women who devote their careers to writing about the contests.

The website states its mission as, “a destination for women who are passionate sports fans and athletes. We hope you find it surprising, informative and inspiring, because we created it just for you.” Again, this carries the assumption that the father site was simply way too complex and cerebral to hold the attention of the female reader. If you really want to surprise me, don’t succumb to the sexist assumption that I need a filter.

The “About Us” section concludes with the following invitation: “We welcome your thoughts.” My thought is this: ESPN and its primary corporate partner in constructing the site, Nike, are cynically trying to create a vision of female empowerment that doubles as a venue for peddling products. While not exactly shocking or new, I will not bite, nor should my fellow feminine sports fans.

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