Fox Sports reporter Jack Kuhlenschmidt wrote an article on Saturday about UFC Women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey's reaction to a fan asking how often she has sex prior to her fights. A video of the exchange shows a justifiably-offended Rousey refusing to answer after speaking out against the fan's inappropriate question.
Kuhlenschmidt observes that Rousey has posed for ESPN the Magazine's The Body Issue and Maxim's Hot 100 and has previously answered questions of this nature. He then ponders if she refused to answer this time because perhaps "This dude looked especially creepy?" Newsflash: Non-creepers people can be offensive too.
Kuhlenschmidt's article takes a nasty turn when he offers a "good guide to fans in the future who want to know how they can get away with asking these sorts of questions." His "guide" is a short segment of an interview with Conan O'Brien, who asks Rousey about whether female boxers follow suit with male boxers who don't have sex before a fight, a long-held tradition that many athletes obey.
I would suggest that someone please nominate Jack Kuhlenschmidt for a Pulitzer Prize but honestly, how can you measure such journalistic integrity?!
His article is a misogynistic critique of Rousey's behavior rather than a report, as it suggests that:
Because Rousey posed for magazine spreads, means she deserves to be asked questions about her sex life.
— Rousey has a "brand that benefits from her being a very good-looking as well as very successful MMA fighter" and thus she has an obligation to entertain such asinine (and irrelevant) questions if she wants to succeed.
— She would have answered the question had the fan been a good-looking male whose physical appearance would incite desire.
Such narrow logic paints an unsettling picture of how much leniency commentators and sports reporters have when they talk about female athletes and the degree to which such dialogue is accepted and encouraged.
Wendy Tanner's study of ESPN's SportsCenter found that "female athletes are often subjected to sexualizing and objectifying discourse while male athletes are lauded for their strength and power." The 2012 Summer Olympics were no exception either. Sarah J. Jackson's article for the Huffington Post reminds us of an interesting editorial written by London Mayor Boris Johnson where he concluded that women's Olympic volleyball was so popular when his city hosted the games because its players were "semi-naked women." He goes on to describe them as "glistening wet like otters." Come on, fellas! Nothing is sexier than a soaking wet otter, amiright?
It's certainly not surprising that female athletes experience unbalanced scrutiny given the historical context of their involvement in sports. After all, it hasn't been that long since Title IX was enacted, a portion of the Education Amendment of 1972 that bans discrimination in programs receiving federal financial assistance on the basis of sex. Many of these educational programs involved sports teams, and Title IX "required American society to recognize a woman's right to participate in sports on a plane equal to that of men." Since its passage, more women have been involved in sports, but sexist attitudes haven't seen similar progression. As Cee Angi stated earlier in year in SB Nation, "in sports culture, sexism is still fair game."
What is surprising is how far commentators like Kuhlenschmidt will go to precipitate this culture by suggesting that fans can, and should, learn to "get away with" violating female athletes by asking intimate questions.
The idea that Rousey needs to be intimately accessible or accountable to her fans is pretty ridiculous. She is an icon for her incredible talent and is the first American woman to win an Olympic medal in Judo. To assume she has nothing better to do, or should have nothing better to do than to answer questions about her sex life is just plain stupid.
Back off, Kuhlenschmidt. You've got this one all wrong.