Wednesday, November 02, 2011

I see gendered people

ESPNW has an interview with Mary Wittenberg who is the current president of the New York Road Runners. And by virtue of her position as president and CEO, she is in charge of the NYC Marathon--which happens this weekend. She is the first female president of the organization--this seems to be part of the reason ESPNW chose to interview her. Here is one of the questions:
espnW: When you're negotiating appearance fees for male athletes with male agents, does it ever strike you as significant that you're a woman running a major men's and women's sporting event?

Here is the first line of her response:
No. I don't think a lot about gender at all when thinking about negotiating appearance fees or putting together the strategy for our pro field.

Oh god, I thought to myself when I read this. Another person who doesn't see gender. Everything is gender neutral. But here is how she finished the question:
What I do think about is always ensuring that we have a really strong women's field. We really highlight the women in New York. Our sport globally does pretty well with keeping men and women even, but that hasn't always been the case, so in New York, where I think about it most is in the strategy around the field -- ensuring a super-strong field and equal prize money. One year we even paid the women more, just to make the point of how important the women are. As you may or may not know, women start the race a half hour before the men, and the entire spotlight is on them.

So she does think about gender--a lot actually. She very purposefully strategizes about gender it seems.
I don't understand these knee-jerk reactions to questions about gender. As if it is so bad to think about the impact of gender on sports. Like it might make people think you are a feminist!
Thankfully Mary Wittenberg does think about gender and about the specific position her race occupies in the global, gendered sportocracy.

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