January 16, 2013 by Sean Childers in Livewire with 12 comments
We’ve probably been guilty of underreporting the impact of the professional leagues and NexGen proposal on women’s ultimate. It’s a tough story to report, in part because it’s a slow developing one that implicates so many issues.
However, I read last night’s USAU board statement as a potential game changer for gender expectations: USAU is going to sell on complete gender equality.
The section title of “Gender Equity and Increased Visibility” foreshadows this, since conventional wisdom is that these are two diametrically opposed goals. The spectator market demands male play, or, at the very least, outside investors appear interested in bankrolling male teams. As a quick example, the Club Open Final has about four times as many YouTube views as the Club Womens Final.
The section itself is very conditional and a bit legalese. Eventually, it gets to the kicker: If broadcasters want to focus on exposing just one division, USAU will essentially acquiesce. But let’s not joke about which this “one division” will be – it’s going to be the men.
I think there are a few big picture points here. USAU isn’t going to devolve into a gender-blind organization on the whole: the statement is very careful to stress the importance of encouraging female growth at all levels, and good for them to do so. But the other big story is that USAU could have chosen to sit on the sidelines while outsiders and professional leagues did all the organizing, developing, showcasing, and broadcasting of the sport. That would have allowed it to more easily preserve its goals while other groups wrestled with the modern reality of male-dominated professional sports markets. Instead, USAU appears to be taking a middle ground that puts the goals of a major broadcasting partner and increased visibility above that of maintaining strict gender equality. Perhaps not surprising, but arguably historic and certainly now official.