It’s been a banner year for male athletes making waves in women’s sports. Corporate media have shamelessly hailed these men edging out women as a great achievement in human rights, in contradiction to public opinion wherever it’s been fairly measured.
Most recently, a man named Alana McLaughlin, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, beat female fighter Celine Provost in the ring at an MMA competition, leading critics like co-founder of Save Women’s Sports Australasia Kath Deves to lament that women’s sports shouldn’t be “a dumping ground for men who can’t hack it in male competition.”
UFC fighter Sean Strickland bluntly called McLaughlin a “man” and a “coward.” He was followed by fellow UFC fighter Sean O’Malley, who said he could tell McLaughlin was “a dude,” and didn’t think it was okay for someone with that many years of testosterone in his system to be fighting against women.
Champion MMA fighter Jake Shields pointed out in a recent interview that Provost is a competent martial artist with around a decade of experience, while McLaughlin had only trained for about six months and had terrible form. McLaughlin beat Provost anyway, and social media was splashed with pictures of him “choking out” his opponent from behind, her blood splattered in front of her.
Having such a spectacle touted as progress — and as a great leap forward in women’s rights, no less — might be enough to turn almost anyone towards a prickly revanchism.
Shields noted it was strange that MMA media was either silent on the subject or supported McLaughlin, even though many fans and athletes were critical of McLaughlin’s win. Yet what’s odd about the situation isn’t the opinions of MMA fans, but of MMA journalists. Our national poll this June tracked with national polling done in 2020, finding significant majorities of the American public oppose letting men compete in women’s sports.
Most Voters Want to Protect Women
We went back this July and polled minority voters in three states — Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia — on policies like allowing men into women’s prisons, spas, shelters, and sports teams. In each of those categories, more than half of respondents disapproved, with around 67 percent opposing male athletes in female-only sports.
A MetroNews West Virginia poll published this month got very similar results, finding that 65 percent of registered voters said sports eligibility should be based on sex.
This perspective isn’t reflected in the corporate press and its glowing treatment of transgender athletes, however. Transgender activists who want to end women’s sports intimidate the media into only telling one side of the story, and the media cabal doesn’t need convincing. Despite the fact that they’re the ones lobbying for on-demand sterilization of children, some activists in the media even malign as eugenicists people who want to keep men out of women’s sports.
Given recent national and state polls that have shown strong opposition among voters to policies like cramping women out of their own sports, does corporate media really think a majority of the American public are hatefully advocating eugenics? And is there any other issue on which the media is so consistently afraid to air a viewpoint that’s probably shared by about two-thirds of their potential audience?
The media reaction was about the same after the Wi Spa incident this summer, where most of the U.S. media denied or ignored the story of a man exposing himself to women and girls at a Los Angeles day spa.
You might think a story about a potentially serious criminal offense would receive more objective, thoughtful coverage than a story about sports. Yet at least one media outlet suggested the story was a hoax, while others parroted the narrative that the complaints were “transphobic harassment,” right up until police filed charges against a serial sex offender for the incident.
Lopsided Media Coverage Around the Globe
The media gaslighting isn’t just happening here in the United States.
An April poll of Scottish attitudes showed a majority disapproved of allowing men in women’s sports. The first-ever independent poll of its kind in Ireland this summer revealed that only 17 percent agree with the country’s policy allowing people to legally change their status “as soon as they self-identify as or believe that they are a member of the opposite sex.” A new 2021 poll of Canadians on just the sports question found that respondents believed letting men compete in women’s sports was unfair, by a margin of about four to one.
Yet media outlets in all three places have shown extreme reluctance to reflect anything like ordinary public opinion on these topics, instead seeming to fear the anger of a small minority of very loud detractors.
Maybe journalists appear afraid that a Twitter mob will get them fired, or that some of their far-left colleagues will organize against them at the office. But how many polls do journalists and their editors have to see before they stop letting internet comments and fashionably unpopular activists run their newsrooms?
We’re not holding our breath for an answer, but we think it’s been well proved that they’d have an audience for coverage that recognizes material reality.
Natasha Chart is a feminist writer and president of Chart Consulting LLC. Wendy Wixom is the president of United Families International.