Consider a recent post over at Sociological Images, where Gwen Sharp noted ESPN's coverage of the men's and women's NCAA basketball tournaments. Capturing a screen shot of ESPN's NCAA basketball site, she observes:
"As we often see in sports, the men’s version is taken as the default. The apparently neutral 'NCAA BB Home' link goes to the men’s tournament, specifically. To get information on the women’s tournament, you have to choose the 'Women’s BB link' lower on the page."
She also noted that the men's tournament bracket had way more cool features compared to the women's bracket and that this coverage of women's basketball compared to men's might be contributing to some people's lack of interest in women's basketball.
Okay, pretty harmless, fact-based things to note, right?
No one was suggesting, gawd forbid, that male and female athletes are of the exact same caliber or anything, or that ESPN must provide the same amount of coverage for both men's and women's basketball, or that people HAD to watch the sucky wimminz sportz if they weren't interested in doing so.
No, the observation was that the men's tournament was treated as the default, generic "NCAA tournament" and that only the women's tournament was marked by gender, implying that it was a "side event."
Why some men can't concede that men are treated as the default in a world in which men are not, actually, the default human beings in the world I don't know.
(Yes, I do. Entitlement. Privilege. Sexism. Illusory Superiority. Assholery. Obtuseness.)
But, observe some of the responses to the post.
"While this may be true, I think it is important to note that many devoted college basketball fans are men. The level of competition in men's college basketball is significantly higher and more profitable, too. The nuances of the men's game is much more refined as a sport."
Now "this may not be PC to say but" I'm going to go out on a limb and presume that "Guest" is a man. Many men, you see, really like to point out how awesome male athletes are compared to female athletes. Even when it's not germane to the conversation.
For instance, geoffreyarnold, who knows he's gonna get clobbered for saying it, adds:
"This pretends that Men's and Women's basketball are equal. That is a fiction. I know it's not politically correct to point it out, but the pacing and physicality displayed in the game is different between (m) and (w) basketball. That's why it might cost $1,000 to get good seats at a Men's Final Four Game, and the Women's Final Four tickets can be obtained for FREE[**].
Don't kill the messenger."
Suddenly, "kill[ing] the messenger" is on the table here? As though male commenters are generally threatened with physical violence for stating their Totally Courageous Non-PC Trooths On Internet in front of feminists?
These men are not actually scared (see, e.g., these same men obsessively noting that men are tougher, stronger, and all-around more physically AWESOME than women). They just add these "I'm gonna get killed for saying this, but" statements as a way to pre-emptively ward off criticism- criticism that they can then dismiss as a hysterical over-reaction.
It's slimy, it's irrational, and it's an offense to people who actually do live in fear of violence because of their political views. So, that crap deserves to be called out. (Which I did in the comments, natch).
But more to the point, when women note that men are often treated as the default human being, of what relevance is it, really, when a man states that men are better at the activity in which they're assumed to be the default? The fact of the matter is, even if every single man on earth was a better athlete than every single woman on earth, men still wouldn't be the default, generic, non-gendered athlete?
It's bizarro logic, sure, but the thinking seems to be that female athletes can be rendered invisible or relegated to othered, gendered, side-show status because they're not, on average, "as good as" male athletes.
Welp, newsflash: The Men Are Better statement isn't a magical trump card that automatically defeats all feminist sports-related arguments. Many people don't seem to understand this.
So, in the comment thread, I noted:
"That 'the level of competition in men's college basketball is significantly higher and more profitable' is not a justification or reason for treating men's basketball as the default and women's basketball as an 'othered' sideshow."
Thankfully, a Man Who Knows Things showed up to put me in my place. Anthony responded (to an argument of his own invention):
"What exactly would qualify that, or are we living in a 'everyone is equal' childlike mentality."
Somewhere along the way, Anthony interpreted an argument that "men are not the default human being" as an argument that "everyone is equal."
(And, while I do think everyone is equal, it seems as though Anthony here was actually trying to say that I was saying that "everyone is exactly the same at sports, regardless of gender." Lemme tell ya, folks, it takes a lot of translating and patience to communicate with condescending assholes who don't explain themselves well.)
Interesting comment though, isn't it?
Like I said. Dudes love noting that men, on average, are "more equal" than women at sports, as though that constitutes a legitimate reason for treating men's sports as though it's some sort of neutral default whose participants do not have a gender.
Or, they do what Max does:
"I find it hard to slight a business for covering the topics that people are interested in. Should affirmative action be applied to TV shows, movies, music, plays?"
Suddenly, dude's talking about affirmative action, as though that were ever on the table in this particular convo.
In general, the discussion, as so many discussions among non-feminist men do, highlighted a pretty entitled, privileged perspective that was, of course, peppered with illusory intellectual superiority. (These men have THINGS to teach the lady feminists, dontcha know?).
Under this view, men deserve to be centered as the neutral, default human being even if they're not actually the neutral, default human being, because men are just Better At Stuff. Any attempt to remove men from the center is viewed as an attempt to deprive them of their rightful, natural place in the world through UNFAIR means like affirmative action, which they view as forking over to a bunch of incompetents a man's place, money, and attention in the world.
Acknowledging the reality that, say, it is more accurate to call the men's NCAA Tournament the "Men's NCAA Tournament" as opposed to the un-gendered, generic "NCAA Tournament," puts men on the same level as women- people who are treated as other, beings whose gender has to be noted because women are an inferior deviation from the default.
Put more succinctly, the general sentiment seemed to be, but but but men are better, therefore the world should revolve around us!
[**The Anthony commenter got it into his head that the Women's Final Four had "Free Admission," accepting it as self-evidently true that no one would, like, actually buy tickets to watch women's NCAA basketball. He emphatically stated this misinformation in one of his comments, which other male commenters then repeated and used to justify their "people just don't pay to watch women's sports" arguments.
In reality, the women's Final Four tickets started at $275, were priced up into the quadruple digits, and were sold out.
Seriously, dudes, the Women's NCAA Final Four crowd is like if the Jonas Brothers were opening for the Indigo Girls. (Some of you will get that.)
In other words, whoooops re: yer Mansplain Fail!]