Blogs, Balls, Babes and Morality

My Blogs With Balls Experience: A Summary

If you follow this blog you  might of known I went to Chicago last weekend to attend the Blog With Balls 3.0 (BWB) Conference, and was invited to be part of the “You’ve Gotta Fight For Your Right…to Blog?: A Legal and Ethical Primer to Sports Media in 2010” panel. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I certainly was feeling like the odd girl out (literally One Sport Voice), as I explained it to the audience:  I represented a ‘Trifecta of Tokenism’ as 1) one of the few females in attendance (~15 of 150 attendees were female), 2) an academic who studies and critiques sport media, and 3) someone who writes and advocates for women’s sport. I’d add one more…I don’t blog to make money, my blog is an offshoot of my teaching, research and outreach. After this weekend where I learned that some blogs get +3 million unique visitors a month, I’m fairly certain I’ll never make money from my One Sport Voice blog.

As my fellow panelists and I were attempting to discuss various legal and ethical issues in an engaging way, the best part of the panel is that we did not agree on anything. You can see a video of most of the panel here courtesy of Justin.tv I think there are not enough instances where people can disagree publicly and have an engaged discussion-I’ve written about this in a previous blog. Our panel I think accomplished this task. I enjoyed meeting my fellow panelists and some have posted their thoughts of their experiences at BWB 3.0 including Alana G of Yardbarker and Josh Zerkle of PUNTE. I learned a great deal from them and others in attendance.

Whether you thought the panel was great or stunk (follow the Twitter hash tag #bwb3 to tweets about conference and our panel), there were some big  picture BWB take-aways for me.

1. Most people (including mainstream sport bloggers) do not care about women’s sport, female athletes, gender issues or the sexualization of women in general. I did not hear ONE mention or discussion of female athletes or women’s sport in the entire conference. When females were mentioned it was as a) sexual objects of professional male athletes or, b) “mommy bloggers”. It seemed the assumption at BWB was that if women blog, they blog about mom stuff but if you are a male blogger you blog about sports. I did not hear anyone refer to themselves or other male bloggers in attendance as “daddy bloggers”. This may seem trivial, but the language used to describe “mommy” bloggers marginalizes them and makes it seems as if what they write about isn’t valued or important. I could get into a long blog about how the opinions and domestic work of mothers is under valued in society but I won’t. It also erases the fact women do blog about men’s sport (in fact most of the women at BWB wrote exclusively about men’s sport) and that men do blog about women’s sport (although I didn’t meet any of them at BWB).

To witness the many women and men who blog about women’s sports go to the Women Talk Sports Network.

Call to action: Those who blog about women’s sport and those women who call themselves sport bloggers, get yourself to the next Blogs With Balls conference.

2. I mentioned before my fellow panelists did not agree on much, which was both good and bad. As I listened to the opinions and thoughts of my fellow panelists discuss what kind of (ethical) decision making they engage in while deciding to post/not post or break a story, one theme was “everyone makes his/her own choices and decisions” which reflects moral relativism.  Those who adopt a moral relativistic perspective think there are fundamental and irreconcilable disagreements about right and wrong and may believe that respect for others means that we must tolerate value differences. This is obviously problematic and leads to many of the ethical issues which arise in the blogosphere.

Should there be a universal code of ethical decision making regarding what is posted on a blog? I would argue “yes”. Can sport bloggers reach an agreement about right/wrong and guiding principles which guarantee human rights and dignity… sadly, I think not.  I, and other scholars much more versed in moral education, believe there are universal moral principles such as care and fairness. So how do you get people to critically think about what they write about and consume?

Researchers have argued that critical thinkers are much more likely to engage in ethical decision making which have three criteria according to Ennis (2000):

  • care that their beliefs are true and that their decisions are justified; that is, they care to get it right to the extent that it is possible;
  • care to present a position honestly and clearly, theirs as well as others’; and
  • care about the dignity and worth of every person.

Some bloggers may prioritize personal and financial gain and exposure over doing the right thing for the right reason, or doing what is best for all parties considered as a member of a collective society.  Call me naive and Pollyanna but I think striving to make moral and ethical decisions is a worthy endeavor, and one that the blogosphere in general could benefit from undertaking. I think this will increasingly become relevant as digital media becomes the primary source of news and information, and issues of blog censorship arise.

Photo from here.

10 Replies to “Blogs, Balls, Babes and Morality”

  1. I think you may have mis-interpreted the “Mommy Blogger” talk. I believe it was in relation to advertising, with P&G mentioning that. These is an entire of genre of women who blog about being mommies, and I believe they call themselves Mommy Bloggers. If a man was blogging about being a Daddy, then I guess Daddy Blogger would make sense. However just a man blogging about Sports doesn’t make him a Daddy Blogger, and a woman blogging about Sports wouldn’t be considered a Mommy Blogger either.

    I appreciate the rest of what you typed here, but most of it made my head hurt. I would attempt to discuss it further, however I fear that I am greatly out-gunned for such a battle.

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  2. Thanks for this. Now I wish I’d gone (I live in Chicago). I caught some of the conference with the iffy online feed, and read the tweets. I would have talked to you about these issues–so you can count me as someone interested in a conference on women and sports (you had an idea for 2011?).

    I don’t cover women’s sports much in my blogging (yet), but I do try to discuss gender occasionally (such as the “Chrissy Pronger” poster today). Looking forward to reading more of your work!

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  3. As one of the “token women in NBA blogging” I now wish I’d gone. I’ve always meant to, but every year it’s a bad weekend for me. The first year I was pretty squicked out that the official party had “hot chicks serving free shots” or some nonsense that I saw when it came through my email.

    I feel like I have great (twitter) interactions with most of the guys who run NBA blogs, many of whom have even cross-posted some of my more controversial posts, and I’d like to meet them in person. But I’m not interested in having to always have my That Girl Who Rants a Lot hat on, at the same time, or not feeling like an event is “for me” because the advertising features hot chicks. (Again, this was in 2008 not this year.)

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    1. Sarah,
      I know exactly what you mean about perceiving the event as not welcoming to women. Just the title alone is off-putting and not inclusive. There was some of the “hot chicks serving drinks” the first night. As a fellow “girls who rants a lot”…we need to come together to create space and power in the blogsphere and educate that women DO love sports and CAN blog intelligently and DO have something to say and contribute. But to do that, we have to BE there…or create our own conference. I had suggested to someone we could have a separate “Blogs With Bras”…but that seemed kinda funny for a second, and then just reproducing the same thing BWB does. So please keep in touch and stay tuned…I’m considering organizing the women sports bloggers somehow. -nml

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  4. Interesting point about the bloggers – it probably reflects the state of sports journalism in general where male athletes and their sports take most of the focus. I write mostly about female athletes and have been told by fellow scribes that it’s too narrow a focus but when I ask them why they ‘only’ write about boys, it’s seen as a joke question! On the positive side, there was a time when women’s sports were seen as a joke in themselves so it’s good to realise how far we have come already. (found your blog from Women Talk Sport, look forward to reading more!)

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  5. I am a female sports blogger who would never go to such an event, just because of the “Blogs With Balls” name. It sounds like geeky guys trying to be edgy. Truly confident men wouldn’t take the chance of alienating women bloggers with such an offensive name.

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