Some writers envision a particular audience for their work. Certainly intended audience is something that comes up in college composition courses. You need to know who you are writing for. But does that mean you should make assumptions about who you are writing for?
Matthew Berry of ESPN has written "50 things you need to know," which features interesting fantasy football tidbits, with a few life tidbits thrown in. It is important to remember that this article is stylistically organized to be directed toward "you," the reader.
Two rules particularly caught my attention:
15. Never date a woman who was a psychology major in college. (Some of these tidbits don't have statistics to back them up; you're just gonna have to trust me.)
40. Never date a girl who has a bunch of guy friends and no girlfriends. She might not know why, but you do.
Berry has revealed his intended audience. Presumably, he is writing to straight men and gay women; two of his items that you need to know specifically exclude gay men or straight women.
The perspective of reader and writer is a heavily discussed issue in literary studies. What is often called a "universal" perspective is sometimes simply the perspective of a white male from the dominant power group--this is the primary perspective, and books thought to be exploring "universal values" or "human issues" are primarily books written by white males. And where does this leave other perspectives? Secondary, of course--minorities and women are sometimes thought to be writing about social predicaments or political statements, concepts in literature that many consider secondary to "universal," "human" themes. Certainly literary theory in the past 50 years or so has been breaking down this assumption, examining all literature in terms such as class, race, and gender. But the idea of "universal themes" separate from cultural construction still persists (I cannot exclude myself here: my literary preferences lean toward the "big ideas" books rather than the social examinations). In academia, students and teachers of literature are having meaningful discussions about what values, if any, are "universal," and what values are entirely a product of culture.
I've criticized Harold Bloom for criticizing those who don't read Shakespeare the same way he does, i.e., as a white male (here and here). But I don't think this is just an abstract discussion for literary critics; it's an issue that cuts into our real lives. In graduate school I did a (very brief and non-scientific) study of book covers on books written by Asian American authors. I found that frequently a word like"universal" appears in the description or a blurb on the backs of books written by Asian Americans. My theory was that editors were trying to appeal to a majority audience (white), and wanted to emphasize that even though the book was written by a minority, it contained "universal" themes that could still appeal to a white audience.
Now let's bring this back to sportswriting. Certainly, I do assume that most people reading an article at ESPN are straight males--this is the common perception of the average sports fan (forgive me if this assumption is incorrect--it just seems to be the prevalent representation). But there are women who follow sports, and there are gay men who follow sports. They might be reading Berry's article about fantasy football, interested in the facts presented.
But how are straight women or gay men to respond to Berry's advice about what types of women not to date? While reading the article, which is directed at "you" the reader, they are required to take the perspective of a straight man (or possibly a lesbian, though I doubt Berry is considering this in framing his article, so I'm leaving that possibility aside for now). The article is written toward "you," the reader, with bits of advice framed toward "you," the reader.
So women? Gay men? When "you" read advice about what types of women you should or shouldn't date, you are being required to read like a straight man. And even if you are unwilling to do so, the article requires you to recognize your outsider, minority status, to recognize that on some level this article is not written for you.
In sportswriting, very often the "universal" perspective, the assumed audience, is heterosexual male. And again, this is quite likely the majority reader of sports articles. But when sports articles are written specifically with a perspective directed toward the majority reader, the minority is excluded. In this case, the article is assumed to be for heterosexual males, and if you are not a heterosexual male, "you" are still going to get advice about what women you shouldn't date.
Hey, I don't mean to pick on Matthew Berry. I'm sure Berry's intent is not to exclude gay men or straight women from reading his article. The assumption that sports (and fantasy sports) are primarily for men is reinforced everywhere, and I don't think there was a conscious level where Berry considered this. I happen to be using his article as an example because it shows the problem so clearly (with the explicit direction toward "you" and the gender explicit pieces of advice); if I wanted to find other examples in other sportswriters, I'm sure I could.
The sad thing is, it is not just sportwriting that assumes a majority perspective and requires minorities to subsume their own identities within the majority perspective. But sportswriting is an area where there is often not even an attempt to hide the assumption of the majority reader.