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Stateside: Sportistas seek entry into a male-dominated realm

Women’s place in sports is an important one, claim Andy Markovits and Emily Albertson, co-authors of “Sportista: Female Fandom in the United States.

Markovits, a Sociology professor at the University of Michigan, and Albertson, a U of M law student, coined the term “Sportista.”

According to Markovits, a “Sportista is a female who loves sports and is knowledgeable about them.”

As a child, many of Albertson’s friends were male and closely followed sports. From an early age she was steeped in athletics; the book partially functions as a documentation of her experience as a female in the male-centric realm of sports fandom.

“The book for me was a great opportunity to tell my story and research what other people think,” said Albertson.

Women’s entry into competitive sports began nearly 50 years ago.

“Obviously the late 60’s changed the politics of females in sports. Women’s entry into the public sphere has transformed societies, including sports. Women are now participants in sports. For the first time our Olympic team was mostly women,” said Markovits.

Markovits said for Sportistas, the game is very important, and once women are knowledgeable about the sport, men can become skeptical and even threatened.

“Women are still different in their sports consumption than men,” said Markovits.

What are the main differences in men and women’s sports consumption?

According to Albertson and Markovits, women are not watching the draft shows, the pre-game programs and the post-game highlights.

“Women watch less pre-game shows and post-show analysis.  So compared to her male peers, the Sportista does not have the same credibility, even though she may have the same knowledge.”

Both authors say that women experience a feeling of exclusion from the sports conversations, regardless of the extent of their knowledge. It is a prejudice with vague, archaic roots, but is still present today.

When asked why there are still so few “Sportistas” today,

“There is no reason why women should not be able to catch up in this area, acquiring this expertise. It is not a gap in knowledge, the real gap is in acceptance, of being let into the club,” said Albertson.

-Cameron Stewart

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