Men and women’s magazines hope you don’t notice all the advertising by interspersing amongst the ads some articles of advice, facts about your body that wouldn’t surprise anyone over the age of 12, a fluffy celebrity interview, and either a thoughtful and well-researched piece of journalism (men’s magazines) or a story about a woman who narrowly avoided something tragic – either by their own escape or the tragedy happened to someone close to them (women’s magazines).
Sometimes, that predictable formula catches a spark in one of its elements and sets off its own branch of reactions. John Mayer refers to the prejudice of his junk and ends up in the 21st century version of Napoleon’s Elba. Rolling Stone prints a cover where Janet Jackson’s naked “features of October awareness” are being held by her husband’s hands — which simply foretold of a Super Bowl malfunction not related to the Superdome’s circuit breakers. Recently, one of those sparks was a Men’s Health article advising men on how to talk about sports with women.
The article had already been deleted by the time I heard about it on my friend Mo’s blog. Fortunately, it was captured in its entirety (101 words) because, internet. But rather than focus on the article, I’m basing my words here on the snippets featured in all the articles about that original spark article (or “sparkticle”) and the enraged tweets and internet comments of offended women – and men – who couldn’t fathom the audacity of a men’s magazine to publish an article with a reasonable approach to a shallow but common interest gap between men and women.
I am a woman. I love sports. I love sports not in the way women love sports or men love sports. I love sports in the way that someone who knows enough about sports to host SportsCenter loves sports. I love sports in the way people love bands you’ve never heard of, complicated online role-playing games, or Breaking Bad. I love all sports – baseball, football, golf, basketball, soccer… pretty much anything where one or more people are competing for something with no real purpose, like a trophy or a ring or a crystal football. Most men don’t talk sports with me not because I need storylines but because I know so much more than they do that it’s not even interesting.
I was not offended by the article. I was offended by the misplaced outrage displayed in the reactions to it. In a country where equal pay for women is dismissed as a non-issue, blood will boil over a fluff piece that actually had substance. The article wasn’t nearly as patronizing as the football guides in every women’s magazines September issue. It has nothing on the ridiculous pink athletic apparel, as though every team has an alternate fuchsia jersey. And placed beside the NFL’s pathetic behavior in response to an epidemic of domestic abuse, it’s actually insulting to women.
This article made the preposterous suggestion that women like stories, and if the woman in your life didn’t show much enthusiasm for your favorite newspaper section, here are some ways that you could enable sharing your interest, and enjoy it together, albeit in different ways.
What on God’s green earth is wrong with that sentiment? The only truth the author missed was that men love stories too, or there would be no such thing as pro wrestling.
Are there women who don’t like sports? Yes. There are also men who don’t like sports (I usually end up dating them). There are people who think sports are the biggest waste of time and money and energy and overpriced beer since, well… concerts, movies, Comic-con, Renaissance fairs, festivals related to season or holiday or savvy marketing… well, it turns out everybody wastes time and energy and money on things. These are called “interests” or “hobbies” or what I usually refer to as “dumb stuff.” The very nature of these beasts is that they are trivial, otherwise they would be work.
All the sports-opposed men I’ve dated had some other waste of time- Magic: The Gathering; video games; movies; being in a band (that doesn’t make money, and is therefore within the realm of trivial matters). I’ve always made an effort to learn about their interests. Even if I never play Dungeons & Dragons with him, I show him I care by caring about his “dumb stuff” and if he’s a keeper, he cares about my interests/dumb stuff (sports, fashion, and foreign policy). This article was much more feminist than the accusations of misogyny.
Hey, angry people: If you want to see some real sports inequality of the sexes, compare the price of a men’s officially licensed MLB t-shirt with a most similar women’s version, and not just the prices but the price based on the amount of material used. By the time I make my 77 cents on the dollar and pay about twice as much for goods, I don’t care how a man talks to me about sports. I’m looking at my bank account and seeing red. Oh wait, no, it’s pink.
There are many things in the world worthy of rage. Injustice and inequality, war and poverty, chaos and uncertainty, and yes, domestic violence. Giving people a way to connect, whether it’s male and female, gay and straight, black and white isn’t worth even 140 characters of people’s indignation. much less manifestos denouncing the rampant woman-hate flowing through the pages of Men’s Health.
Then again, maybe arbitrary anger is their “dumb stuff.”