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In an effort to move beyond relying solely on institutional critiques in explaining women’s marginalized status in the sports media workplace and to expand our understanding of gendered meaning-making in such organizations, we employ feminist scholar Romy Fröhlich’s notion of the “friendliness trap” in the analysis of focus groups with women who work in college sports public relations, commonly called sports information. The friendliness trap is a term used to describe the faulty belief that women, by virtue of their feminine qualities, possess an advantage in communication-related fields. Our findings suggest, however, that women in sports information may be frustrated by the failure of “the female advantage” to provide them with opportunities for promotion. The friendliness trap obscures workplace realities, including the structural barriers to women’s advancement, and may divert the energy of women in ways that have no career benefit. Once the trap is exposed, however, women may be more able to challenge the meanings associated with it.
Hardin is with the Dept. of Journalism, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA. Whiteside is with the Dept. of Journalism and Electronic Media, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN.