A minor furor is erupting over a new feature on Fanhouse.com that seems to the final step towards combining sports with sex.
The Fanhouse has obtained the services of FantasySportsGirl.com to provide “the hottest fantasy sports experts around.” The fairly scantily clad Fantasy Sports Girls’ stated purpose is to provide “fantasy advice as you prepare for drafts over the next few weeks.” Additionally, though less publicized, the site has been using advertisements touting Fanhouse Fantasy Football as being “easy, stripped down and flexible.” Classy.
Somewhat surprisingly, the new feature is not going over particularly well in the blogosphere.
In a piece titled “The Fanhouse We Knew And Loved, Is Officially Gone“, Awful Announcing says that while “no site on the Internet is without sin when it comes to objectifying women” the feature is “just wrong on so many levels.” Fanhouse writer Jez Golbez says on his Hockey Rants blog that he “felt rather sick at the obvious and cheezy pandering I was subjected to.” We Are the Postmen calls it “tasteless, it’s banal, it’s embarrassing.” Jamie Mottram, who helped launch the Fanhouse, writes on his Mr. Irrelveant blog, “Not only is it unbelievably bad content, but it’s in unbelievably poor taste and reeks of executive ineptitude and shortsightedness.” D-Wil at Sports on My Mind says “it seems that even the women of FanHouse have been undercutted, their value demeaned, and the true perception of their worth exposed.” One anonymous Fanhouse writer told The Sporting Blog‘s Chris Mottram, “Most of us at FanHouse are furious over Fantasy Sports Girls are and trying to figure out how to react. … This just fell out of the sky with no advance warning, not to us and apparently not even to the people we bloggers are supposed to report to.”
Part of the displeasure over the Fantasy Sports Girl addition centers on the fact that the Fanhouse is fairly progressive in terms of female representation. Additionally, the site is a WNBA sponsor, and even sponsored WNBA Dads and Daughters nights earlier this season. Awful Announcing: “Fanhouse has employed a ton of very talented females involved in editing and content since its inception and this has to be a slap in their collective face.” Signal to Noise: “The sad part is that the Fanhouse had one of the larger stables of writers who happened to be good and were also women … apparently Alana Nguyen (better known as Miss Gossip) has left the site not even a month after getting the top job — and being the first female head of one of the bigger box sports blogs. Wonder if this feature had anything to do with the departure, don’t you?“
Overall, the critical reaction is justified by itself. However, one can consider it somewhat naive and/or hypocritical when taking into account the amount of sexism that exists in the blogosphere.
Is Fantasy Sports Girl really any different from the needless pictures of women who have nothing to do with sports on sites such as The Big Lead or With Leather, or the “Girls Photo Gallery” section of SportsByBrooks? Is it really different than countless posts about Erin Andrews — who certainly is not getting attention because of her prowess as a sideline reporter — or a “Would You Do” tournament of attractive female sports reporters?
And if Fantasy Sports Girl is inappropriate, why is it okay to reduce the WNBA brawl or the recent Danica Patrick/Milka Duno scuffle to catfights? In fact, why is it okay to make fun of women’s sports at all, simply for the fact that they’re women? Why is it okay for a headline on The Big Lead to proclaim that tennis player “[Elena] Dementieva May Save Wimbledon Coverage“, presumably because she’s the last traditionally attractive player in the field?
We Are the Postmen says there’s a difference between the typical objectification of women seen on blogs and Fantasy Sports Girl. “Try [With Leather and Fanhouse writer Matt] Ufford’s Attractive Olympian bit. He plays around with it and self-mocks, knowing it’s for the AOL Welcome Screen and its ease of page views. And at least there’s some intelligence to it. This Fantasy Sports Girl bit is just bad. Really, really bad.”
The Attractive Olympian feature on the Fanhouse is said to “[handicap] which athletes may rake in endorsement deals after the Olympics,” but is more of an evaluation of various female Olympians’ looks. The feature has turned into a tournament where people vote on the “Hottest Olympian“, even including its own “Sexy Sixteen”. Whether one wants to judge the intelligence or self-deprecation of the feature, there does not seem to be much separation between that and the Fantasy Sports Girl videos.
The question becomes, why start respecting women now?
If there is going to be such a groundswell against the Fanhouse Fantasy Sports Girls, shouldn’t there be one against tournaments judging what athletes or reporters are the most attractive? Or against posting pictures of women in bikinis next to articles that have nothing to do with them? Shouldn’t there be an uproar when female tennis players are judged only on their looks? Or when someone like Pam Ward — who, whether you like her work or not, has achieved far more in her career than Erin Andrews — gets referred to as a man or a lesbian and is generally disrespected?
All the Fanhouse is doing is presenting this sexism in its barest form. There’s no sarcasm to lessen the sting of it. Perhaps that is what irritates so many. The accepted forms of sexism, the objectification of athletes and reporters, the denigration of female athletes, the bikini-clad models next to posts they have nothing to do with, are far more dangerous simply because they pretend to be something they’re not. At least Fantasy Sports Girl is pure, unvarnished sexism.