Gender Inequality: A Sports Media Perspective on Sports Media

By Meghan O.

Sports are highly valued in the world we live in. In 2014, Forbes claimed that the North American sports industry made over 60 billion dollars and projected it to climb to 73 billion by 2019. This money is made through sports merchandising, sponsors and media coverage. These industries include the MLB, NBA, NFL and NHL, all of which are  dominated by a common factor: men. Sports coverage in the media is mainly centered around men rather than women’s participation. This perpetuates the traditional notion that men are strong, athletic and women are not. Studies have shown that females are more likely than males to stop participating in sports as teenagers (Kjartan, 2016). To at least some extent, this can be attributed to the absence of women as role models in sports media. With this being the case, young females are missing out on well-known benefits associated with sports participation: higher self-esteem, positive body image and lower levels of anxiety (Slater et al., 2011).

From my own observations of the media,  the exposure of female athletes in the media improves during events like the Olympic Games and World Cup Soccer. However, these events do not lead to continuous long-term exposure for female athletes. Even with the increased coverage during these times, broadcasters will target women’s appearances or even worse, their male partners. This needs to be improved on by TV companies by taking responsibility for the importance of women’s coverage. These companies should have policies in place to inform their employees of the implications of focusing on only these aspects of women. By overshadowing a woman’s athletic performance with what they are wearing or what hair accessories they are using, it gives the idea that no matter how successful their performance, they are only as good as their outfit. It seems as though no matter how well women perform and provide that “entertainment value”, the media continues to refuse to give them more air time. Male athletes continue to take up most of that time on in sports media. And it would be absurd if anyone were to comment on a male athletes outfit!

Another way to improve women’s representation in sports media is through commercials and sponsorship. There has been some progress in this area, but commercials aired with sports media still remain mainly male. This gives young males role models to look up to and aspire to be like. If young girls had the same amount of athlete role models, they could potentially be more interested in sport and consequently reap its benefits. There are also more ways people working directly in sports media need to improve. TV companies should be focused on supporting both men and women’s participation. It is, however, clear that this media has one thing in interest: money. These companies believe that they are providing for their audience by airing mainly male sporting events. I strongly believe this is a huge mistake. By not providing for the women who do have an interest in watching women’s sport leagues, they are missing out on money that could be made from this kind of coverage. If these TV companies produced a “sister” company for women’s sport coverage, it would benefit them financially, but it would also make strides to positively impact young girls.

References:

Ólafsson, K. (2006) Sports, media and stereotypes – Women and men in sports and media. Akureyri, Centre for Gender Equality.

Lopiano, D. A. (2008). Media coverage of women’s sport is important. Sport Management Resources. N.p., 2008. Web. 22

Slater, A., & Tigerrmann, M. (2011).  Gender differences in adolescent sport participation, teasing, self-objectification and body image concerns.” Journal of Adolescence 34(3), 455-463.

Lamoureux, A. (2012). How the media portrays female athletes. Retrieved from:  https://aimeelamoureux.wordpress.com/

Heitner, D. (2015). Sports industry to reach $73.5 billion by 2019. Retrieved from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/darrenheitner/2015/10/19/sports-industry-to-reach-73-5-billion-by-2019/#6ea3e9ce1585

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