Tuesday, January 04, 2011

The horse debates rears its...

I was just going to let it go...
But once again we have a top ten list and it includes a horse. A top ten list of the best moments in women's sports from 2010, specifically. Number 4 is the amazing career of Zenyatta, who retired this year with a record of 19-1 (after losing her last race).
The list was compiled by new kid on the block ESPNW. I am not taking this as a good sign. Have to say, thus far, not too impressed by ESPNW.
Turns out, I was not the only one to notice the presence of a horse. Jennifer Doyle at The Guardian had some issues with the Zenyatta story making the list as well. And it's not because we don't think horses are athletes or don't deserve to have their accomplishments recognized. As Doyle states:
"While one should embrace species diversity and celebrate the unique character of our equine friends, it is jarring to see an animal appear in a top ten list of women's sports stories – with so little "real estate" allotted to the woman athletes, it's frustrating to see that space taken up by horse, magnificent as she may be."
But more interestingly, Doyle does an excellent job noting how this highlights the trouble major sports outlets (and probably most people generally) have with talking about female athletes:

Like many women in sports, Zenyatta was working in a male-dominated field. As is the case for many women athletes, the fact that she won 19 races in a row was nearly as big a story as the fact that she is female – her gender is presumed to be a handicap. Fans wonder if she is the best horse or the best mare.

I can see how the editors at espnW got confused. University of Connecticut's unprecedented 90-game winning streak has been framed in the same way. Are they the best basketball team? Or the best women's basketball team? And Zenyatta is not the only horse to be mistaken for a woman: in 2000, Sports Illustrated for Women listed the filly Ruffian as one of the 20th century's "greatest sportswomen". (She was listed No 53, just above basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw.)

It's nothing against horses, but what does ESPNW have against women?

No comments: