The term “female sportscaster” elicits a broad range of feelings among the sports media consumer base. Many of the women who fall into the category of “female sportscaster” appear to be greatly admired while many others evoke considerable scorn, making the electronic sports media industry a seemingly dangerous and often vitriolic environment for women. The gendered mistreatment of women sportscasters is not unfamiliar to sports media scholars. Indeed, phenomena such as sex biases, double standards, and harassment have been documented, primarily through positivistic or quantitative research. What has not been investigated, however, is how these phenomena persist and evolve despite the extant research.
This dissertation employs Michel Foucault’s power/knowledge paradigm to take a discursive analytic approach to understand how the “female sportscaster” subjectivity, or imagined idea, is constructed through statements, images, and practices. That is, this dissertation investigates the way society “talks about” the “female sportscaster” and how those discussions affect the experiences of women sportscasters. Using one-on-one interviews with 10 women sportscasters, focus groups with sports media consumers, netnography, and textual analysis under the umbrella of a feminist methodological approach, this dissertation finds that the American female subjectivity is constructed through postfeminist and neoliberal discourses. These discourses “empower” women sportscasters to be responsible for their own success but, in doing so, normalize the obstacles women in sportscasting endure.
As a result of this normalization, the electronic sports media industry is seemingly justified in taking little to no meaningful action toward improving conditions for women sportscasters. Specific manifestations of these discourses are traced across phenomena such as double standards, bias in hiring and development, harassment, and the expectation of affective labor. Suggestions are made for improving conditions for women sportscasters.