Gender Differences in Attention of Sport Media

By Alex H.

Media is arguably one of the most influential agents for gender socialization. From morning newspaper to the late hours of Sports on the television, we are constantly kept in touch with the sporting world. Our generation can push a few buttons on our phone and find the latest highlights from the daily matches around the world.

Everyday I enjoy checking The National Post and their sport section. However, after a few gender and sport lectures, I now look at the sports section with a more critical standpoint. As I look at the different sports and leagues covered in The National Post, the first five sub-sections are; NHL, MLB, NFL, CFL and NBA. Great, they follow the “top” and most “exciting” leagues in North America. Unfortunately though, these are male-only leagues. If you click on one of the leagues, every news story will cover males playing sport. Why does the paper not follow Women’s professional basketball? Why is there so much more significance placed upon men sport?

Canada has had a steady increase in female sport participation (see Canadian Sport for Life). However, in comparison to other countries, we do not have nearly as much media coverage in terms of professional women’s sport. For example, Australia covers professional women’s sports such as netball and soccer. There seems to be more value in women’s sports in terms of media coverage than in Canada. Where does the downward spiral occur? For one thing, it does not happen because of the lack of college/university opportunities. There are policies in place that makes sure post-secondary institutions must give equal scholarships to both male and females. 

There is a link between the lack of professional opportunities and media coverage. Lack of media coverage on women’s sports leads to lack of major sponsorships. Since there is less money in women’s sport, there is little opportunity compared to men when trying to enter the profession. 

I believe there is a catch-22 situation in terms of little professional opportunity and low media coverage and women’s sport. As a boy, looking at my favourite athletes on TSN or in magazines gave me a sense of motivation as they were my role models. Since there is a lack of women’s professional leagues in Canada, girls do not have the opportunity to have the same type of role models.

Through socialization though media, both boys and girls accept and internalize the idea that professional sports is valued in the male realm. We internalize what we see in the news as we start to believe what we read and hear as true. This has led to the belief that professional sports for women is not a viable option. 

We have been so passive and inactive in terms of bringing this inequality of media coverage to the public; we have never brought this issue to the public for discussion. We must start asking questions: Why is there more media attention to men’s professional sports than women’s? Why is there less opportunities for women to play professional sports? 

If we want to change our societies perceptions concerning to inequality in sport between males and females, we must attack the issue straight on. We must look at the social determinants in society to understand why these issues occur. As an athlete, I believe it is extremely important to give men and women the equal opportunity to play sport. I believe if media can put more attention into women’s sport, there will be a greater want to participate in sport as both a profession and a leisure

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2 responses

  1. I also agree that an increase in media attention needs to be given to women’s sport to allow men and women to have equal opportunities. Television, social media and newspapers can all aid to decrease the gap between the perception that men and women are not equal on the sporting stage. The media has the power to create sporting superstars all across the globe. The link between the media and sponsorship also plays a part. I agree that it is a catch 22 situation in how low media coverage intern causes a perception that being a professional female athlete is not a viable occupation.
    I also feel that the under representation of women in pro sports, and the select broadcast of women’s sports on television such as netball and volleyball also means that even though professional female athletes are getting coverage, they are covering stereotypically “feminine” sports. Again, emphasising heterosexual masculine stereotype.

    Will Jennings

  2. Completely agree with your views, Alex.

    Even when women are seen in sports media, it seems to either be in a sexualized manner on magazine covers/commercials, for some sort of “off the field” controversy with an official, or for an extremely impressive highlight from a game. Even then, these highlights are very limited. You definitely hit it on point that if there was an equal distribution of attention and praise given to both genders, there would be more interest in participation at all skill levels. As coverage grows, opportunity should grow too right? Great post!

    – Meagan F.

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