Stephanie L. and Amie A. both sent in screen shots of the MSN tabs “for him” and “for her.”   It’s not particularly surprising that MSN segregates its content by sex, but the gendered themes were interesting, especially given that Stephanie and Amie captured two moments in time.

First, notice that the information MSN chose as relevant to him is almost always leisure related:

The two lists above include how to build a man cave (where men escape daily responsibilities), the new Nikes, technological innovation and great inventions to read about, sports news, dating advice, and wacky stories about cocaine, $100,000 dollar bills, catching lobster, and urine.  Except for a non-leisure-related, health story, all are either about leisure activities or a way to provide leisure with wacky, weird or fun news.

What about for her?

Her stories are about work (male careers), sexual harassment, babies (breastfeeding and baby talk), teenagers, the economy, and food (superfoods and allergy labels).  The video on wildlife, the story about Chelsea Clinton, the piece on Mad Men, the new hospital gown design (???)  can be interpreted as leisure-related in that they’d be fun to read.

Overall, then, the material aimed at men is almost entirely related to leisure, whereas the material aimed at women is heavily tilted towards her responsibility for work and the family and serious topics like sexual harassment and the economy.   Perhaps MSN knows what it’s doing.  In fact, men do have more leisure time than women.  So this is a structural problem related to how we organize work and family, as well as a cultural problem in how we represent and relate to men and women.

Lisa Wade, PhD is an Associate Professor at Tulane University. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture; a textbook about gender; and a forthcoming introductory text: Terrible Magnificent Sociology. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Triathlon is the new Golf: As a young lawyer making a name for himself in the mid-seventies, my father’s superiors told him to “pick up golf” as a way to rise quickly within the firm, and to land lucrative clients. It’s still all about who you know, but if you want to get ahead in business today, don’t hit the putting green, sign up for an Ironman. Why?

Like Golf, Triathlon is cost prohibitive: The average annual income of an Ironman participant is nearly $160,000, while the average golfer makes a measly $100,980 a year, according to Golf.com’s 2009 Survey.

With Ironman entry fees upwards of $500 each (plus the flight and lodging expenses associated with destination racing), a decent bike starting around $3,000 (plus $400 for the shoes, helmet, peddles and accessories), $200 for swim, bike and run gear, and $300/month in coaching and facilities fees; you start to understand the need for that extra $60,000/year.

Triathletes make better business connections: Like Golf, Triathlon entrances “Type A” personalities, obsessed with winning, even if victory requires continuous practice and focus. Unlike golf, Triathlon also demands incredible pain tolerance and phenomenal endurance. Consequently, “the sport attracts high-income, driven, focused individuals who are able and willing to pay the price in time and money,” says David Samson, Florida Marlins president, and Hawaii Ironman 2006 finisher.

Not only are triathletes more driven, they’re also younger. On average, Ironman triathletes are 35-44, while avid golfers are generally in their early 50’s. Consequently, triathletes are at the peak of their professional careers, while many golfers are contemplating retirement, and thereby less effective in helping you infiltrate the network or company of your choosing.

Triathlon is a better way to schmooze (on a Micro Level): Now that you’ve drawn all of the rich, hard working, high powered individuals into one sport, it is time to make connections. Typically, only four players participate in a round of golf, which takes around 4.5 hours. You likely know at least one or two of the other competitors if you’ve been invited to play in the first place, so you’re left with at best two networking opportunities, which isn’t an efficient way to find the right contact for you.

Most of the Multi-Sport fitness groups in my home town (Marin County, CA), host weekly group rides, averaging thirty to fifty participants. The group usually covers seventy miles in a given ride, thereby providing five hours (plus a group brunch) to make friends, and connections. The group usually breaks into smaller packs of evenly matched athletes after a ten mile warm-up. As competitive, Type A folks, multiple members in a given group will eventually ask you how old you are, what team you belong to, and what you do (probably to ascertain how much time you have to train, how long you’ve been serious about the sport, who coaches you, and what if any advantage your bike may provide you).

It is during this hierarchical ranking process that you establish dominance over the somewhat older, not-as-fast man on the really expensive bike. He may be the CEO of a major tech company in Silicon Valley, but that is the professional “Pond” (Frank, 1987) or “Sphere” (Putnam, 1995). Right now, you’re both in the triathlon sphere, where you’re fitter, faster and had a better time at Ironman Canada last year. As Frank noted, it is relative status that creates happiness and satisfaction, and in this pond, your status is higher than his.

So, for the remainder of the ride (and during brunch afterward), he picks your brain about triathlon, and you arrange to have lunch with him at his office next week, a networking win you’d never enjoy if you’d attempted to engage said CEO in the professional Sphere.

Triathlon as a character reference: Not only have you now procured a meeting, you’ve already passed the first round of the interview process. The ability to withstand (and even enjoy) suffering is a form of ‘bonding social capital’ (Putnam, 2001) that forges a strong sense of collective identity. It implies a preference for achieving work-like goals in the leisure sphere, which translates seamlessly into a strong, professional recommendation from your new friend, the high powered CEO.

Triathlon is a better way to schmooze (on a Macro Level): There is no other sport in which every race includes Professional, Amateur and “Age Group” triathletes from under ten to over eighty, separated only by “wave” times, which are determined by age and gender. As Bob Babbitt, publisher of Competitor Magazine put it: “I can’t pitch to Barry Bonds or tee off with Tiger Woods, but I can be on the starting line with the top people in triathlon.” Consequently, you can train, compete and network with individuals of all ages and abilities, from around the world.

While the world of triathlon is growing rapidly (223,594 US adults participated in a triathlon in 2007, up from just 83,612 just ten years ago), Triathlon is still a small community, even at the Macro level. With a limited number of Ironman (2.4mi Swim, 112mi Bike, 26.2mi Run), Half Ironman (1.2mi Swim, 56mi Bike, 13.1mi Run), Olympic (.9mi Swim, 26mi Bike, 6.1mi Run) and Sprint (.5mi Swim, 16mi Bike, 2mi Run) distance races, you are assured to become familiar (and even friendly) with similarly matched athletes from across the country, and the world.

Triathlon is a reciprocal Panopticon: Your athletic club affiliations are declared on your uniform, and your age is written on your calf prior to each race (so you can check the legs of everyone you pass and everyone who passes you, to estimate ranking in on your age group during the actual race).

Your relative time and ranking is posted within minutes of completing the race, so all can see where you fall amongst the 2,000 or so athletes who participated that day. Award ceremonies are performed immediately, and results are posted online within 24 hours. You can even look up their participant’s photos!

Basically, Triathlon is a Panopticon (Bentham 1995 [1785]; Foucault 1995 [1977]), in which everyone is given the role of prison guard and prisoner. You can’t hide anything about yourself, but in turn, you know everything about everyone else.

Athlink.com results display an athlete’s age, gender, city, and results for every event completed:


Bentham’s Panopticon: A theoretical prison that allows guards to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) prisoners, who can’t reciprocally tell whether they are being watched:


Conclusion: Triathletes are a self selecting group of affluent, highly motivated individuals, who spend countless hours forging bonds through the competitive, grueling, and socially cohesive ritual of endurance athletics. The greater community convenes several times a year to establish relative rank by sex, age, casual, amateur and pro standards. With access to the region, age, gender and past performances of every athlete in this group, Triathletes are “tee’d up” to make local, national and international connections that turn into husbands, wives (38% of Triathletes are now women), employees, employers and friends. In a world where it’s all about whom you know, it doesn’t hurt to know the rich, successful, driven group that is Triathlon.


Bentham, Jeremy. 1995 [1785]. Panopticon Letters. Miran Bozovic (Ed.). London: Verso.

Foucault, Michel. 1995 [1977]. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. New York: Vintage.

Frank, Robert. 1987. Choosing the Right Pond: Human Behavior and the Quest for Status. New York: Oxford University Press.

Putnam, Robert. 2001. Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Galyn Burke–Brown, formerly a competitive equestrienne, is now an enthusiastic triathlete.   She blogs at Economic Sociology.

As I understand it, the leisure gap between men and women has largely to do with the fact that women spend more time taking care of children and (especially) the home. I don’t know if this applies internationally or not. In any case, here’s a graphic illustrating the leisure gap across 18 different countries (via Jezebel):


UPDATE: In the comments, Elena linked to the original OECD report, if you’d like to explore the methodology etc.

A big thanks to Cycles who went and looked it up.  A summary:


Chapter 2, “Special Focus: Measuring Leisure in OECD Countries,” answers most of the questions posed here about what is considered “leisure” and what is not.

Brief overview:

“The approach taken here is to divide time during the day into five main categories. These five-time categories are 1) Leisure, narrowly defined, 2) Paid work, 3) Unpaid work, 4) Personal care, and 5) Other time (uses of time which are either unaccounted for or undefined).”


“‘Paid work’ includes full-time and part-time jobs, breaks in the workplace, commuting to the workplace, time spent looking for work, time spent in school, commuting to and from school, and time spent in paid work at home. “Unpaid work” includes all household work (chores, cooking, cleaning, caring for children and other family and non-family members, volunteering, shopping, etc.). “Personal care” includes sleep, eating and drinking, and other household, medical, and personal services (hygiene, grooming, visits to the doctor, hairdresser etc.). “Leisure” includes hobbies, games, television viewing, computer use, recreational gardening, sports, socialising with friends and family, attending events, and so on. “Other time” includes all activities not elsewhere mentioned.”

… and then it goes into even MORE detail about specific activities within each of those five categories.

I highly recommend reading at least Chapter 2 if you have questions. It includes a fascinating backgrounder on past studies and how they categorized of time-use.


Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.