Gender Equity In Sport

by Leanne W.

Gender equity in a sporting environment is resources, programs and decision-making being fair to both male and female genders and also identifies any imbalances in the benefits they receive. Sport is an area that we see many issues with gender inequity. The gender pay gap is seen heavily in sports among other areas. Female athletes are often paid way less than their male counterparts when participating in the same sport. This requires many female athletes to also try and balance full or part time jobs while they also have vigorous training schedules and family lives as well.

Basketball is a increasingly popular sport in North America. Players in the WNBA get paid way less than NBA players no matter what experience or skill level. The highest paid player in the WNBA still makes less than the lowest paid player in the NBA by thousands of dollars. In 2015 the US women’s soccer team just won a gold medal at the world cup and received only 2 million dollars compared the men’s team who came in 16th place and received 9 million. At major sporting events such as tennis tournaments female events often have lower paying prize money for the winners often the price differing by as much as thousands of dollars. Female athletes are fighting for change, as they deserve to make the same amount of money for playing the exact same sport in the exact same event. Although we have seen small changes to increase the amount of money female athletes make, we still have a long way to go until both genders are making equal amounts.

Another area of sport where we see gender inequity is sports media coverage. The Olympics is one of the only international events where we see women’s events advertised and broadcasted just as much as the men’s events. On regular sport broadcasting stations such as ESPN, less than 1 percent of all coverage is coverage of female sport, and we do not see female analysts only female reporters who are often very pretty. When turning on the TV casually and turning to the sports channels, you will never stumble upon a women’s event by accident it will always be male events as female events are not played at prime television hours. They are often played mid-afternoon during the weekdays when most individuals are still at work or early on weekend mornings when most people would still be asleep.

In 2018 the first female college gymnastics meet was televised on the ESPN network showing UCLA competing against University of Kentucky. These are the two top rated college gymnastics teams in the United States. Although ESPN broadcasted the event, it was broadcasted mid-afternoon and it was not properly advertised so it had a low viewer rating. Male college sports are a huge part of sporting coverage and have been broadcasted for years. The most common sports to see televised are national leagues such as the NFL, NHL, MLB and many others. This leads many to wonder if women’s sports even have national leagues as we never have the opportunity to view them

The gender inequities in sport lead to young girls not having proper role models in sports and this is a main factor that we see adolescent girls dropping out of sport at young ages. If our sporting systems had equal pay and equal coverage, we would see a boom in female grass root and competitive participation for girls of all ages as these young girls could see female athletes succeeding and develop positive role models in sport. Currently, young girls are not encouraged as heavily as their male counter parts to participate in sport, as being a female athlete is not currently a viable career path due to the wage gap. Many families believe sport is not important for young girls as they are most likely unfamiliar with female sport themselves, as they are not often exposed to it. If a young girl or her parents believes she cannot make a future out of something she loves, the likelihood of her continuing is very slim and she will shift her focus towards activities that are more beneficial for her future.

References:

https://inequality.org/great-divide/gender-pay-gap-athletes/

https://sportsmanagement.adelphi.edu/resources/infographics/a-look-at-male-and-female-professional-athlete-salaries/

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How can you watch what isn’t there?

by Josie King

When you turn on ESPN, you can expect to see coverage of Pittsburgh versus Philadelphia, LeBron versus Curry, and any other male sports league game, but when do you expect to see coverage of women’s sports? Perhaps its during tennis season, or when the Canadian women’s hockey team is playing in the Olympics. The fact is that although female participation in sport has increased since the implementation of Title XI in 1972, the coverage and attendance of women’s sports is still at a low (Ottaway, 2016).

There could be multiple reasons why people aren’t watching women’s sports, it can all be traced back to the dominance of sport as a masculine activity and the construction of gender roles. Sports have, and continue to be dominated by the narrative that participating in these activities is proof of one’s masculinity, an arena where femininity is looked down upon and criticized. Although blatant sexism in sports coverage such as this quote from a sportswriter in 1936, “It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it,” it has not disappeared completely. In fact, comments like this one, “The vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…. The baggy uniforms don’t help,” taken from Bill Simmons, an HBO sports personality in 2006, showcase how female athletes are often not talked about by their physical ability but their physical appearance (Ottaway, 2016).

Apart from discouraging comments about female athletes, there is also a lack of coverage of women’s sports which leads to the most obvious question, how can you watch something that isn’t there? In a study by USC researchers published in 2017, the research focused on decades worth of affiliate networks in the LA area, and their coverage time of women’s sports (Chaffee, 2017). The study found that these networks devoted only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports, which was actually a decrease by 1.8 percent in 1989 (Chaffee, 2017). The study also found that SportsCenter, one of the world’s largest viewed sports networks averaged only 77 seconds of airtime to female athlete stories, almost 50 percent less than male athlete’s stories (Chaffee, 2017). Once again, how can we watch women’s sports when they are nowhere close to having the same coverage of men’s?

Looking at the bigger picture, we come to the question of why aren’t we seeing equal coverage? One of the main arguments I can think of is that there aren’t as many leagues for females as there are for males, however, this is because the support for female leagues is not as aggressive as those for males. In fact, sport fans of both sexes prefer men’s sports to women’s (Tierney, 2003). But why is this? As mentioned above, it could be because sports have traditionally been a male dominated institution thought of as a building masculinity. And because of this masculine idea of sport, we see less coverage of women’s sports, and that coverage is usually lackluster and short, the only time we see coverage of women’s sports as inspired is when they are portrayed in idealistic feminine positions such as caring teammates, mothers, and spouses (Chaffee, 2016). But why does this cycle continue to happen? If women are now involved in sports at all levels, why does coverage remain low? Is it because we, as a society, still believe in the gender roles, and idea that women should not be the least bit ‘masculine’ or perhaps show their tough and competitive side? Or is it because people simply do not enjoy watching unenthusiastic coverage of sports?

It’s hard to determine one root cause for the lack of people watching women’s sports because there is perhaps too many that are woven together into a cycle we cannot seem to break. If we look at the disparity between sports both sexes play such as soccer and basketball, popularity of male teams is evident in coverage because men are said to be faster, stronger, and more athletic, attributes needed for those particular sports. For women, popular sporting events watched are tennis, gymnastics and ice skating, all events involving grace and beauty. The fact of the matter is, we continue, as viewers, to fall for this cycle that is completely gendered, one that makes us see certain sports as appropriate for female athletes. This cycle continues because the coverage of a specific sport that is deemed feminine is higher in production value and airtime than those considered more masculine such as basketball. We unknowingly view these sports and become reinforced to the concept of gender, and which sporting arena each gender belongs (Bodenner, 2015).  I truly hope the day comes that the audience chooses to watch sports solely based on talent, no matter the sex.

References

Bodenner, Chris. (2015)  ‘Why Aren’t Women’s Sports as Big as Men’s?’ TheAtlantic.com Retrieved from https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/06/women-and-sports-world-cup-soccer/395231/

Chaffee, Ian. (2017) ‘Forget about sexism: Now TV coverage of women’s sports is just plain boring’ USCNews.com

Retrieved from  https://news.usc.edu/127695/forget-about-sexism-now-tv-coverage-of-womens-sports-is-just-plain-boring/

Ottaway, Amanda. (2018) ‘Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports?’ Thenation.com

Retrieved from https://www.thenation.com/article/why-dont-people-watch-womens-sports/

 

 

Female Image in Sport

by Mackenzie M.

The image women display in sport is often considered negative by fans, society, and other athletes. Women in general face sexism, lack of opportunity, stereotypes, and social expectations. Women in sport face all the same issues with the addition of a constant internal battle regarding what they are willing to sacrifice and compromise in order to further their competitive career. It is well known that female athletes tend to pose in magazines for campaigns or products in order to receive adequate financial compensation in their athletic profession; however, this leaves them open to sexual objectification and shifts the focus from their chosen sport to their physical appearance. Unlike men, women are rarely pictured in a manner that involves the sport they compete in. In the few photos women are featured in a sport context, the pictures are highly sexualized with the intention of making the athlete sexy and appealing.

Many would argue that if women wanted to be taken seriously in sport, they would not subject themselves to this kind of publicity; however, sports leagues do not pay women a tenth of what they pay their male athletes. This leads to women looking for other compensation options, which involves posing nude or in minimal clothing a majority of the time. One study declared “when sportswomen were given a choice regarding self-representation, they emphasized their physical power, strength, and athleticism” (Kane, LaVoie, & Fink, 2013, p.273). Some of the ways women modify their appearance involves maintaining a feminine appearance, avoiding aggressive behaviour, and establishing a heterosexual reputation (Davis-Delano, Polock, and Vose, 2009). Female athletes are aware that these elements can further their career, lead to endorsements, and increase their publicity; therefore, they expose themselves in this way. Anna Kournikova and Danica Patrick are two talented athletes that have benefitted from their physical appearance. Being physically appealing has garnered them more public support and more attention. Other female athletes are criticized for their overly muscular physique and displaying more masculine behaviour. Women are considered either too muscular for a female athlete or too thin to play competitively.

Sexuality also plays a role in the image female athletes portray to the world. Many women feel they must act especially feminine in order to avoid being called butch or gay. As a society, we make assumptions regarding the sexuality of individuals based on their body or image and female athletes are no strangers to these presumptions. Female athletes are more captivating to the public when they exhibit heterosexual actions. One opinion is that negative outcomes for women can be minimized if women adhere to hegemonic femininity (Butler, 1990). This version consists of “submissiveness, dependency, concern over physical appearance and emotional ability” (Hardy, 2015, p.155). It is also stated that in sports with a male majority, women have a higher chance of being labelled with masculine attributes. Simply participating in sport regardless of physique automatically subjects women’s image to evaluation. Despite their objectives to become great athletes, their task also includes looking desirable to the audience, in particular men, in order to be relevant in sport discussion. The need to focus so much time and attention on femininity becomes a deterrence for many female athletes; therefore, their desire to participate decreases. Unfortunately, our society is so obsessed with image, and as a result it has directly affected female participation in sport.

Sport in its purest form encompasses athletic ability, skill, and performance; however, as a society we have corrupted it and altered its primary focus to appearance whether on or off the field. In today’s sport, the trend consists of the most popular and successful athletes being the most attractive; however, in men’s sport appearance is rarely correlated with the success of their career. For women, success in sport is not only dependent on the hours they commit to training or the skills they develop, but on how the world sees them. Their careers can often be at the mercy of public opinion. This also sends a negative message to young girls who often look up to female athletes. They are left with the concept that beauty is necessary to be successful in sport and that athleticism, talent, and hard work come second. Women in sport should have the opportunity be seen as strong, capable, talented athletes while also being allowed to display a feminine or masculine image. “Samantha, a basketball player, chose to be photographed in a dress while standing in the gym as a way to combine her athletic and female identities” (Kane et al., p.273).

Image should be irrelevant in sport. As someone who played competitive hockey growing up, I quickly became a fan of watching the sport on TV and going to live games. The enjoyment I received from the sport was from witnessing teams go head to head to outperform one another in aggressive competition. My interest in hockey was not contingent on the attractiveness of the male athletes on either team, it was based on the amazing skill they possessed. Women are also fierce athletes who unfortunately have to deal with their skills being constantly overshadowed by their physical appearance. Attention does not always get paid to the best hockey, soccer, or rugby player, it is often directed to the athlete with the complete package. The athletes with a certain image that can sell merchandise or promote companies are the ones consistently talked about and supported. While playing girls hockey, I also witnessed the assumptions girls made about other girls in regard to their appearance. They would judge players on other teams based on how long their hair was, the clothes they wore, and how aggressive they were. Unfortunately, men are not the only ones who use image to attribute certain characteristics to individuals, women are also guilty of this. As athlete’s women endure endless scrutiny and face stereotypes; therefore, they must support each other and the decisions they make in their athletic career in order to break down the image barriers they face and redirect the focus of female sport.

References

Davis, L.R., Pollock, A., Vose, J.E. (2009). Apologetic behavior among female athletes: A new questionnaire and initial results. International Review for the Sociology of Sport. 44(2-3), 131-150. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690209335524

Hardy, E. (2015) The female ‘apologetic’ behaviour within Canadian women’s rugby: Athlete perceptions and media influences. Sport in Society,18(2), 155-167. DOI: 10.1080/17430437.2013.854515

Kane, M.J., LaVoi, N.M., Fink, J.S. (2013) Exploring elite female athletes’ interpretations of sport media images: A window into the construction of social identity and “selling sex” in women’s sports. Communication & Sport, 1(3), 269-298. DOI: 10.1177/2167479512473585

Model or Role Model

By Kendra U.

In the book Women, Media and Sport (1994), there is a section that focuses solely on reflecting gender values. Pamela Creedon’s purpose throughout this chapter is to expand insights on how the playing fields in sports (rinks, fields, courts) serve as a metaphor for gender values. She states that “at the most fundamental level, gender influences which games or activities are defined as ‘real’ sports” (Creedon, 1994).  The media will choose which sporting events they want broadcasted for the world to see. A majority of the time it is men documented and they are the ones categorized as ‘real’ athletes performing in ‘real’ sports. Media can make or break a sport or an athlete and I believe this statement is highly influenced by one’s gender in the sport environment.

Being a male is a privilege in the sport setting; they get opportunities that women do not. Women are not granted access to play professional sports that are broadcasted on television such as football, baseball, or hockey in the elite-level leagues that men do. This is most likely due to the fact that society perceives women as less qualified, powerful or physical than men (Creedon, 1994). Don’t get me wrong, women do have access to sports. Most of the time they have a place to play any sport that a woman chooses to pursue, however, not to the extent that men do. Since the beginning of organized sport, it was designed by and for white, middle class men. Still today, a sport must be appealing to men for it to be effective. It is assumed that male sports have mostly male spectators; while most women’s sports must be attractive for men and women spectators in order to be successful (Dworkin & Messner, 2002).

Male athletes get paid a significant amount to play sports on television, regardless of how good they are, or how often they play. Cristiano Ronaldo is a professional soccer player who has a salary of $58 million with an endorsement income of $35 million, meaning he has a total income of $93 million. Jason Spezza is a third line National Hockey League player for the Dallas Stars, meaning he does not play as often as most players and his salary income is $7.5 million. Keeping those salaries in mind, let’s looks at Serena Williams, an American professional tennis player who was the highest paid female athlete in 2017. Her salary was $8 million with $19 million coming from endorsements adding to a total income of $27 million. She was ranked number one in singles on eight separate occasions and her salary is a seventh of the ‘best’ male athlete. Thinking about these statistics is insane!

Most women athletes get paid much more from participating in commercials, posing in magazines or partaking in advertisements than just earning a salary from playing their sport. In short, you could say that female athletes must be a part time model aside from their great athletic abilities to survive in a sport career. With that being said, would a less attractive female athlete be able to make a living from sport? Most likely no, because they would not be chosen to be in those magazines and advertisements. If you are a professional male athlete, there is a high chance that you are very well known in the public eye.  If you are a professional women athlete you have to be very well known by the public; women need media to be a successful athlete and make a living out of their sport.

So, let’s get this straight, men are able to play professional sports that get broadcasted on television daily, do not have to worry about their appearance to succeed, while getting paid an outstanding amount that can provide for their families and much more. Women, on the other hand, can be excellent at their chosen sport, train and play as much as men do, while they are rewarded with little to no television broadcasting, extremely low salary compared to male athletes, cannot survive financially to support their family and must have part time jobs on the side. Women need to put way more effort and plea into their sport to get half of the benefits men do.

After gaining all of this knowledge, what can society do to improve these limitations that women athletes suffer? Firstly, from a young age, we can teach and inform children on gender equality. Parents could show no difference in toys or games that their kids play with at home. Coaches, recreational leaders or teachers in gym class should also do the same as they interact with children growing up. Along with teaching children, school systems should also provide the same opportunities for boys and girl; offer the same sports, uniforms, travel money, practice facilities and scholarships that boys have usually received much more than girls in the previous generations.  If children grow up believing that girls and boys deserve the same opportunities, there should be no surprises when it actually does happen in the future.

Lastly, I believe society and the media, needs to put more superiority and pride on women’s sport. People make such a big deal over men’s sport which is why they are the ones get broadcasted all of the time. If the public puts more focus and attention towards women’s sport it could be more successful, leading to women striving financially, solely through their athletic abilities regardless of all the other factors that currently make a woman a successful athlete. This could be done by perhaps having a women’s Stanley cup to fight for each year, or offering a Vince Lombardi trophy for women who play football. Having these big events for women would draw much more attention to female sports and ultimately lead to the media wanting to document it. If women can get more awareness, praise and commendation on their sports, they too, just like men, can be a role model rather than a model to succeed in sport.

References:

Creedon, P. J. (1994). Women, Media and Sport: Challenging Gender Values. Sage. Retrieved from:https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=kn85DQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&dq=media+sport+and+gender&ots=hrlSiPBkGQ&sig=5bCSPHubmtbBGUtVXA6Yq7B7J1k#v=onepage&q&f=false

Scraton, S., & Flintoff, A. (2002). Gender and Sport: A Reader. Routledge. Retrieved from: https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=pGHK4I09ioAC&oi=fnd&pg=PA17&dq=media+sport+and+gender&ots=PSI9-CN_4z&sig=XxhttFD_z5UZqL2utvpJI8p9-LY#v=onepage&q&f=false

 

Female Athletes’ Dilemma: Make it Safer to Say No

by Karlie S.

Sometimes, the latest sports news can be mixed up with “family stories”, when female athletes have been successful in making headlines. Marginalization and trivialization of women athletes is not something new. It has become all but a cliché to point out that their achievements are being undervalued whereas their contributions in boosting female esteem and stimulating gender equality are being ignored. But that’s the reality, for now, and possibly for the nearest future as well, unless resorting to certain compulsory means. Take the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, where U.S. women athletes made themselves the biggest winner out of the 206 nations competing at the Games, headlines turned out to be like this: “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio”. The media later apologized for using the world “wife”, after remarks sparked outrage on social media platforms. But we all know that this can hardly be the end. Media will still follow the “norms” of news reporting, in particular within the sport context, by equating male as “athlete” itself, labeling them with words like “strong”, “powerful”, “fast”, “big”, and “greatest”, while portraying female as women doing sport, referring them to “unmarried”, “eye-candy”, “pregnant”, and sometimes “like a man”. Is it too difficult to make a change, or there too much reluctance to do so? Given the complexity of interests interwove in today’s economy, things can get a little bit tricky, especially for those insiders.

In fact, if we look at reports involving female athletes, which takes up only tiny amount of overall news reporting, it is easy to notice that trivialized stories are everywhere. Just think about it. How often do we see female athletes hit the “front page”?

Cooky et al. (2015) found through their 25 year longitudinal study that coverage of women’s sports hasn’t expanded–Los Angeles broadcast affiliates devote only 3.2% coverage to women’s sports whereas SportsCenter (a program run by ESPN) devote only 2%, a number has remained “remarkably(p7)” flat; 32 segments out of 934 news stories from 2014 were on women’s sports; only one out of the 145 teasers alerted the audience to an upcoming women’s sports story while only three out of 199 SportsCenter’s teasers were focused on women’s sports. What’s more, according to a 2014 Upper Midwest Emmy Award-winning documentary: Media Coverage and Female Athletes, out of all athletes, 40% are female, but they receive only 4% of all sport media coverage. Likewise, Billings and Young (2015) found that during 2013 and 2014, women’s sports were aired less than 1% in Sports Center and Fox Sports Live.

Despite all the efforts of encouraging females’ participation in sport, women’s sports coverage hasn’t kept up. Even though in some cases, they make it onto the front page, what the audience saw was often a beautiful woman, with a big smile and a suggestive posture, hardly reminding you of her athleticism. While magazine coverage is no exception, large institutions are “selling” female athletes not only in a more provocative manner, but also adding “family stories”. And seemingly, media agencies tend to shift gears from describing female athletes as sexual objects to portraying them as mothers, wives, girlfriends, and caregivers (Cooky et al., 2015; Messner, 2010)

But that’s not the whole story. When it comes to female athletes’ cover page shooting, there is a larger possibility of sharing that cover shot with a male athlete, depicting female athletes in a sexually objectifying pose. One study noted that out of the 35 female included covers, only 18 featured the female as the primary or sole image (Weber & Carini, 2013).

Media never failed us in using this stunt. As “weaker” and “less important” constitute female athletes’ role, the media makes no small effort in cementing it as a social norm.

However, should they be the only one to blame? When economic interests make the call, what we’ve seen cannot be judged with simply “right” or “wrong”, especially in an era when new media stimulates the evolution of communication, fostering an insatiable desire for entertainment and news consumption. Everyone is an insider——For either sports TV or magazines, the tail wags the dog. While viewers’ appetite leads the coverage, media improve revenues by give whatever images viewers want. The more coverage or airtime given to men’s sports, the more male followers will subscribe, and they will be more willing to buy magazines if the cover girl looks pretty, sexy, and attractive. And if that cover girls happens to be a female athlete, even better. At least, this is how the most media is sorted out. While for those who made it to a cover page, be it sole image or partnered with a male athlete, they get the money, which might play a significant part in keeping her athletic career funded, especially considering that female athletes’ wages are remarkably low compared to their male counterpart. A reporter from CNN noted that “The average salary for a WNBA player is $72,000, which doesn’t include bonuses and benefits, while the average salary for an NBA player is around $5 million, or about 70 times what the average female basketball player makes.” With that being said, it’s even impossible for female athletes to get high quality training, not to mention to blow audience’s mind with a fabulous performance.

If they can get funding by just simply shooting a picture, why not? Regardless of the reasons, female athletes need money to support themselves and their family. They also need media exposure to build fan base. Audiences will purchase whatever “sports kit” is provided by the media, creating false impressions of how media portrays female athletes. And the circle goes on.

When everyone is the stakeholder, it’s hard to make change. As for media, they could just simply apology when things went wrong and at the same time enjoy higher pageviews. Even though female athletes might feel uncomfortable sometimes in the face of sexualized shooting, still, they are more likely to accept it instead of taking risks of ending their career because of lack of funding. There’s less space in the society accessible for women to fall and rebound.

You fall, you fail.

However, one thing we need to acknowledge is that we are living in a more open and quickly developing world, where people are inclined and able to create new norms, in particular through networked devices. Changes are on the way. And, if attitudes about women sports, or the way female athletes are presented in the media, still have a long way to go before we reach out to true gender equality, some strategies should be adopted in the meantime. With a certain amount of airtime devoted to women’s sports, female athletes would have opportunities to build up their own followers, fostering the development of an audience base for women’s sports, and presenting their commercial values in an athletic way. Since the money goes where audience is, the more supporters female athletes get, the more money they would possibly make, and the leadership is more likely to make change “voluntarily”. As rules of the game changed, we will make a big step further towards gender equality. At that time, it will be easier, and in many ways safer, for female athletes to say no in the face of sexualized media portrayals.

References

Billings, A. C., & Young, B. D. (2015). Comparing Flagship News Programs: Women’s Sport Coverage in ESPN’s SportsCenter and FOX Sports 1’s FOX Sports Live. Electronic News, 9(1), 3–16. https://doi.org/10.1177/1931243115572824

Cooky, C., Messner, M. A., & Musto, M. (2015). “It’s Dude Time!”: A Quarter Century of Excluding Women’s Sports in Televised News and Highlight Shows. Communication & Sport, 3(3), 261–287. https://doi.org/10.1177/2167479515588761

Messner, M. A. (2010). Gender in televised sports : news and highlights shows, 1989-2009. [California]: Center for Feminist Research, University of Southern California, [2010]. Retrieved from https://search.library.wisc.edu/catalog/9910104196502121

Weber, J. D., & Carini, R. M. (2013). Where are the female athletes in Sports Illustrated? A content analysis of covers (2000–2011). International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48(2), 196–203. https://doi.org/10.1177/1012690211434230

 

Media’s Negative Portrayal of Women in Sport

By Ryan L.

“Despite the tremendous increase in female participation, many have argued that sport as an institution continues to perpetuate male dominance in society” (Darvin & Sagas, 2017, p.178). Although much progress has been made over the last century in portraying women as legitimate athletes in a variety of sports, there are still many ways in which we continue to marginalize them. The sports media industry, in particular, plays a significant role in the continued negative portrayal of female athletes. Whether it be through objectification, the use of sexist language, or even through the hiring of woman for sports television networks, the media continues to emphasize the masculinity of sport as a whole, while preserving the femininity of female athletes.

It is a well-known fact that men’s sport receives significantly more media coverage than their female counterparts; what often falls under the radar, however, is the difference in the quality of media coverage between males and females. “An investigation of the production–reception relationship for women’s events found that these broadcasts contained fewer camera angles, fewer special effects, and fewer shot types than comparable men’s events” (Darvin & Sagas, 2017, p.181). Due to the lack of effort to provide quality coverage of female sport in the media, viewers may be less likely to find female sports as exciting as male sports, which may contribute to the large gender differences in media coverage. In addition to this, female athletes often receive more media attention for their physical appearance, rather than for their physical abilities. Regardless of how far woman may deviate from the typical gender stereotypes in sport, they continue to be objectified. Take former UFC champion Ronda Rousey, for example. As a mixed martial artist, she possesses a number of “masculine” characteristics that are opposite of what society expects a female athlete to possess: aggressive, strong, powerful, and muscular. Despite her “manliness”, she can still be seen posing in a bikini on the cover of the popular Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. This type of objectification of female athletes in the media tends to mislead society into believing that in order for a female to succeed in the sports world, they must not only perform at a high level, but also look good while doing so. Along with the quality and type of media coverage that female athletes receive, the use of gendered language has also led society to portray sport as a male-dominated domain.

Although it may seem to be a minor detail when looking at the various factors contributing to media’s negative portrayal of women in sport, the language used in sports media can significantly impact the way we see sport. Fink (2015) used the term “gender marking” when reviewing the differences in media coverage between males and females; this refers to the “verbal and visual presentation of male athletes and men’s sport as being the norm, while rendering female athletes and women’s competitions secondary status” (p.333). Much of the language seen in today’s sports is gender marked; for example, the use of the word “Women’s” tends to be included for female sports leagues, while the word “Men’s” is often omitted in male sports (e.g., Woman’s National Basketball Association vs. National Basketball Association). Although it may go unnoticed, this type of language assumes that men’s leagues are the standard, while woman’s leagues come second. The use of gender-marked language can also be seen in sports commentary, where we often hear the term “female athlete” as opposed to “athlete”. Weiller and Higgs (1999) observed gender differences in media coverage of a men’s and a woman’s golf event, and found that gendered language was used 36 times in the woman’s event as opposed to just 8 times in the men’s event. As long as the media continues to imply that sport is a male domain through the language that they use, woman will continue to be limited in their opportunities to be respected as athletes. When looking at sports television networks specifically, female sportscasters generally play different roles than their male colleagues, which can also contribute to the negative portrayal of woman in the sport’s world.

As an avid sports watcher, I can recall very few times where I have seen a woman as a sports analyst; instead, they are usually responsible for recapping sporting events or interviewing athletes. Rather than being hired for their knowledge of sports and their ability to dissect different sports plays, females seem to be hired for their physical appearance and their ability to present news stories. Questioning the credibility of woman in the sports broadcasting field could potentially carry over to the actual sports setting, where woman may feel as though they are not as capable as men to excel in sports. Based on recent studies, evidence suggests that women are actually just as capable, if not more capable than men in their ability to present and dissect sporting events. Harris (2012) explored females’ credibility when commenting on male and female sporting events, specifically basketball; results found that both men and woman categorized as high sports watchers gave the female sportscaster higher dynamism and qualification ratings than the male sportscaster. If sports television networks can move towards a more equal distribution of male and female sportscasters, then viewers may begin to see that females are just as knowledgeable in the area of sports as men are, and may therefore shift society’s perception of sport as being more for males.

In order to continue to work towards gender equality across the sports spectrum, several adjustments need to be made in the way media portrays women’s role in sport. Media outlets need to emphasize the athletic qualities of female athletes, rather than objectifying them and persuading viewers to admire their physical attractiveness instead. Sports organizations and commentators need to be aware of sexist language, and work towards using more gender-neutral language in order to move away from the notion that males are the dominant gender when it comes to sport. Females working for sports media networks need to be recognized more for their ability to analyze sport rather than their ability to simply present sports news. With media being one of, if not the largest influencer on society’s perception of sport, major changes in this domain are crucial in order to provide an equal opportunity for woman participating in sport.

 

References:

Darvin, L., & Sagas, M. (2017). Objectification in Sport Media: Influences on a Future Woman’s Sporting Event. International Journal Of Sport Communication, 10(2), 178-195.

Fink, J. S. (2015). Female athletes, women’s sport, and the sport media commercial complex: Have we really “come a long way, baby”? Sport Management Review (Elsevier Science), 18(3), 331-342.

Harris, K. (2012). Gender Stereotypes, Gender Segregation, and Credibility: Crossing the Lines in Sports Media. International Journal Of Sport & Society, 3(2), 137-159.

Weiller, K., & Higgs, C. (1999). Television coverage of professional golf: a focus on gender. Women In Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 8(1), 83-100.

Issues Surrounding Media in Sport

by Jacob B.

Social media is a double-edged sword that has the potential to bring viewers together to give rise to a voice to people or groups that are willing to engage with it. However, social media has the potential to turn into a virtual warfare. Anthony Carmona describes social media as an “envisaged function of creating a positive communication link among friends, family, and professionals. It is a veritable battleground, where insults fly from the human quiver damaging lives, destroying self-esteem and person’s sense of self-worth” (Carmona, n.d). This quote relates to the effect that media has on the sport by altering the way people view certain sports and to the levels of participation in different athletics. Due to the way media portrays sport with stereotypes and stigmas, there has been a steady decrease in the rates of participation in sports form 1992 (approximately 45.1%) to 2010 (approximately 25.8%). A decrease of 20 percent has been seen in a span of 18 years, affecting more females than it has male participants. Media uses methods of live coverage, magazine covers, and poor commentary to sculpt the public’s views and beliefs on sports which gives rise to popular stereotypes that are ongoing in today society.

Representations of professional athletes in advertising – particularly in magazine spreads and the like (for example: Sports illustrated, Men’s Fitness, etc) serve to reinforce the socially constructed traditional male and female roles. Weber and Carini (2012) conducted a study to determine the difference in coverage between men and women in Sport Illustrated magazines from 2000-2011. Despite women being 40% of the total registered competition they only appeared on 4.9% of the Sports Illustrated covers. In 2009 women’s sport suffered its lowest live coverage of athletics from ESPN’s SportsCenter at 1.4%. Weber and Carini emphasize the fact that Sports Illustrated uses the lack of coverage to as a selling technique and to increase their popularity. Due to the limited coverage, when Sport Illustrated releases a magazine dedicated to women athletes, the public reinforces it by purchasing the articles that place women in poses that try to promote their physical beauty rather than their athletics.

Despite female athletes’ tendency to be seen as ‘overcoming’ traditional traits of femininity: that is, delicacy, fragility, and weakness, in media and in magazines they are brought back to being objects of male gaze. While dominating in their chosen field of sport or athletics, when placed on the cover of a magazine they resemble stereotypical images of women. If an individual was to do a simple Google search of male cover athlete for Sports Illustrated and compared them to female cover athletes, the difference is self-evident. Men are shown wearing their gear and often in an intimidating or aggressive pose, whereas women are placed in poses that makes them look laid back and appealing to an outside gaze.

During the opening ceremonies of the Pyeongchang Winter Games, Tongan athlete, Pita Taufatofua marched out carrying his country’s flag wearing nothing but a traditional Tongan mat. CBC provided coverage from three reporters (a male and two female) during his walkout the women reporters emphasized on the athletes body image stating “he always comes to the opening ceremonies topless and greased up – I have no issues with that” too many this does not seem like a big issue until the male reporter replying to the comment’s about the athlete by saying “you have gone through the whole scenario and yet, you haven’t mentioned his name, which is Pita Taufatofua and he’s a cross country-skier”. This portion of CBC’s coverage raises thoughts to how this situation may have been viewed publicly if the roles were reversed, and it was men talking about a female athlete in a similar fashion. Or if a women wore similar attire during the opening ceremonies, would the media praise her the same or would they criticize the women for wearing such revealing clothes and oiling up her skin?

In recent years sports have become more accepting of homosexual athletes, however, it comes with a price. Since the first appearance of AIDS, the disease has been tied to and associated with homosexuality. Because of this social stigmatization, AIDS is viewed as the fault of homosexual athletes and thus the media and public subjugated the athletes and in turn, AIDS were viewed as a form of punishment for those who engage in sexual activity. Heterosexual men who participate in sexual activity have more leeway with the responsibilities of the outcome of their encounters because it is viewed as a hegemonic masculine trait. Understandably this is a major concern and has a direct correlation with athletes who are not public with their sexuality.

The media has come a very long way with the faults that it has, however, there is still a lot more that can be done. When media is capable of providing a form of gender equity, the stereotypes will diminish and therefore a safer sporting environment will be available where individuals will not be in fear in participating in a sport outside the “norm” or won’t feel like they need to hide their sexuality in fear of being discriminated against. Emma Watson said that “ Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… it is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideas.” (Watson, Goodreads, n.d) sport shouldn’t be a reason to hide a part of who you are, or limit you from participation.

References

Weber, J. D., & Carini, R. M. (2013). Where are the female athletes in Sports Illustrated? A content analysis of covers (2000–2011). International Review for the Sociology of Sport, 48(2). Retrieved February 15, 2018.

Facts and Stats. (n.d.). Retrieved February 15, 2018, from http://www.caaws.ca/facts-and-stats/

Wachs, F. L., & Dworkin, S. L. (1997). There’s No Such Thing As A Gay Hero. Sage Journal, 21(4), 327-347. Retrieved February 15, 2018.

Carmona, Brainyquote, n.d. Retrieved from https://www.brainyquote.com/search_results?q=Anthony+Carmona

Wight, C. (2018) Leisure Meanings+Sport Participation Rates. Retrieved from https://lms.unb.ca/d2l/le/content/129657/viewContent/1398260/View

Gender Fan Support and Media in Sport

by Nicola S.

Female University student-athletes put in the same amount of dedication, commitment, time, and determination as male athletes, so why is it that we are still seeing a difference in the amount of fans at both games. I witness this divide every year as I play on the UNB Women’s Soccer team. Our games are right before the men’s game, and it is clear to see the trend of fans filling the bleachers near the end of our game in order to see the men’s game kickoff. Of course, being a female athlete, I can say I am very used to not having a huge fan base compared to the men’s team, but that does not mean I am not affected by it. Balish, Deaner, and Lombardo (2016) record that from 1995 to 2011, the German men’s national soccer team attracted six times as many TV viewers as the women’s national team did. Several studies have been done providing reasons why fans may prefer to watch men play sports rather than women, and in my opinion, media coverage plays a huge role in this trend.

Historical View of Gender Roles

The traditional view of gender roles from decades ago has produced the portrayal of sport as being ‘masculine’ in today’s society. Discussed in lecture and seen throughout research, are two key words: sex and gender. Sex refers to the biological differences of males and females. However, it is the word gender that causes a greater debate. It refers to society’s expectations of what it means to be considered a female or a male, and due to historical phenomenon, what is means to be therefore feminine or masculine. In a sporting context, gender differences are made even clearer as females are portrayed in a way of beauty rather than athleticism. Articles have consistently broadcast that men in sports, living up to expectations, are accustomed to showing fans their “strength, athleticism, competitiveness, risk, and excitement, ” and females just aren’t biologically built for it. Of course, there are statistics proving that men do become physically stronger than women. At age thirteen there is a shift such that by age 15, boys are around 12 percent stronger than girls in their lower body and 23 percent stronger in their upper body. Research indicates that by age 17, boys are 50 percent stronger than girls in lower body strength (Kelley, 2017). It is these statistics that have shaped why our society defines sport as ‘masculine’ and is why people are more attracted to watching men play a ‘man’s game’. This stereotype between masculinity and sports is, and will be, tough to crack as people are so indulged in such statistics.

Media Coverage Among Female and Male Sport

Although the evolution over the last four decades of women’s sport has been exceptional, the media coverage has not. Media is a system that is so powerful to everyone who is a part of it and can create a ripple effect of feelings towards whatever it is portraying. Media does not necessarily reflect reality; it constructs it and strongly influences our beliefs, values and attitudes concerning ourselves, others, and the world around us. That being said, Ottaway (2016) declares that about 90% of sports editors are men. If the majority of people broadcasting these sport stories, pictures, news’ articles are men, then the majority of media will have men as the focus of display. As previously mentioned, the historical view of males and females has dominated into the 20th century and media is only making it worse. It is an unfortunate trend because the money goes where the audience is, which only continues this downward cycle. Ottaway (2016) reviews some quotes broadcasted in the media for the world to see:

“It is a lady’s business to look beautiful and there are hardly any sports in which she seems able to do it.” Sportswriter Paul Gallico, 1936

“Well, the vast majority of WNBA players lack crossover sex appeal…. The baggy uniforms don’t help.” –Bill Simmons, HBO sports personality, circa 2006

“Women’s sports in general are not worth watching.” –Sports Illustrated contributor Andy Benoit on Twitter, 2015

From 1936 to 2015, the media has proven to continue to display the division between males and females and further discourage women from engaging in competitive sports. The lack of media coverage for women’s sport has lowered the desire for people to watch women play, which happens at all levels of sport.

Lack of Fans

In my personal experience, as I previously mentioned, there is a clear difference in fans at our soccer games compared to the men’s games. I have heard several people say, “The men’s game is just more fun to watch.” This is a common theme among University sports. Their game is perceived as being faster, more aggressive, and more exciting and therefore more ‘worth the watch.’ However, I believe it is this notion of sport as a ‘man’s game’ constructed decades ago that is still affecting even University female sporting events today. This stereotype will not change overnight, however with a shift in media coverage towards publishing an equal number of men and women in sport, change will begin to occur. Again, media is the core of changing perspectives and can easily do so with its power. As soon as the connection between sport and masculinity disappears, it will be a level playing field. This will without a doubt increase the number of fans and therefore switch the direction of this trend towards gender equality in sport.

References

Balish, S. A., Deaner, R. O., & Lombardo, M. P. (2016) Sex Differences in Sports Interest and Motivation: An Evolutionary Perspective. Evolutionary Behavioural Sciences. Vol. 10, No. 2, 73–97

Kelley, C. (2017, Sept 11th). How Gender Stereotypes Affect Athlete Development. US Lacrosse Magazine.

Ottaway, A. (2016). Why Don’t People Watch Women’s Sports? The Nation.

“Sorry, Not Sorry”: Analyzing Female Apologetic Behaviour in Women’s Sport

by Megan C.

Femininity can be defined as a socially constructed concept that states how women should look, act, and what they should value (Hardy, 2015). Hegemonic femininity is the sociologically “correct” version of women, which includes white, heterosexual, and middle-to-high class women. Additionally, hegemonic femininity is defined by traits such as “submissiveness, dependency, concern over physical appearance and emotional ability” (Hardy, 2015, p. 155).

“The social construction of sport [is] a space where hegemonic masculinity is defined, … and sport participation [is] associated with masculine traits, such as aggression, strength, power, dominance, and violence” (Hardy, 2015, p. 155). Therefore, women who participate in sport, specifically male-dominated sport, are often labelled with masculine traits and their sexuality is questioned. Female apologetic behaviour, in sport, exists to combat the masculine and lesbian stereotypes associated with female sport participation. Female apologetic behaviour is when female athletes ‘apologize’ for participating in sport by overemphasizing their femininity through clothing choice, physical appearance, self-expression, and style of athletic play.

The media plays an important role in continuing the trend of female apologetic behaviour in sport, specifically elite level sport, because increased media exposure and sponsorships are given to female athletes who conform to society’s idealized version of hegemonic femininity. “Emphasizing femininity reinforces females’ inferior status to males’ … and ensures that they remain desirable to men” (Hardy, 2015, p. 156). This is demonstrated through the media’s portrayal and sexualisation of female Olympic beach volleyball athletes. The women’s Olympic beach volleyball uniform and television coverage of the sport places a priority on the sexualisation and physical appeal of the athletes and the sport, over the comfort and skill level of the athletes, by focusing on the athletes’ body and not the sport. This demonstrates that being stereotypically ‘attractive’ should be more important to athletes than excelling in their sport, because that is the focal point of the broadcasting.

Female athletes “are always framed by their status as both athletes and women” (Hardy, 2015, p. 156). Furthermore, men can succeed and be publicly recognized as ‘just an athlete’, while women cannot solely have an athletic identity, it must be overshadowed by either their physical appearance or caregiving abilities. For example, the Olympic gold medalist curler, Jennifer Jones’, is the skip, a dominant and authoritative position within the sport of curling. However, when portrayed by the media and in commercials the focus is directed towards her nurturing and providing roles as a wife and a mother, not her success as an athlete, which gives the illusion her athletic accomplishments are not valid and not good enough. This may be harmful, particularly to young females, as it demonstrates that girl’s/women’s athletic dreams and ambitions do not matter, because being a wife and a mom should be the primary focus in your life, your main role, and what you will be known for.

These examples demonstrate that “women are still confined to two acceptable roles, sex object or mother, both of which trivialize their athletic abilities and inherent value” (Hardy, 2015, p. 157). Advancing women’s sport today proves to be a vicious cycle; increasing media exposure, sponsorships, and viewers seems to only be possible when female athletes degrade themselves and their sport, and focus on their sexuality and the physical appeal of their sport. Thus, the importance of female athletes such as Serena Williams who pushes boundaries and demonstrates that women do not need to limit themselves to be ‘approved’ by society; women can be strong, muscular, beautiful, and successful, all at once. And Lanni Marchant who is advocating for female body image in sport, by combatting the issue that female athletes’ appearance and uniforms attract more attention than their performances.

Female apologetic behaviour is more visible in elite level sport because of commercialization and media portrayal. However, this behaviour exists in all levels of sport. Therefore, it is important for coaches and parents to emphasize the importance of physical performance and not physical appearance in young athletes. This can be achieved by selecting athletes based on their talent and not physical appearance, which is particularly important in aesthetic sports. Furthermore, coaches should allow athletes complete control over their body’s and their choice of uniform (when possible), providing it fits within the guidelines and regulations of the sport.

We cannot alter the focal point ‘sex sells’ portrayed by the media industry, however, we can choose where our money goes. We select what products we buy and what we watch both live and on television. It is important to think critically and use your voice as a consumer, to give hope for upcoming generations of female athletes that their dreams are valid, and that talent and hard work is enough to be successful.

References:

Hardy, E. (2015). The female ‘apologetic’ behavior within Canadian women’s rugby: athlete perceptions and media influences. Sport in Society, 18(2), 155-167. doi: 10.1080/17430437.2013.854515

Female Athleticism: A Cause for Celebration

by Amanda K.

The women’s rights movement dates back to 1884 when a group of women gathered together to fight for the equality of women. Since then, women have made great strides towards equal opportunities for females around the world. Girls growing up in today’s society are experiencing a very different world compared to women who were born in the 1800’s. While the movement has brought great change to the world, women are still fighting against injustices they face on a daily basis. Although women are able to vote and be seen outside the home, they are still viewed as the inferior sex, especially in the sporting arena. Although women are able to participate in sport which wasn’t always the case, they are paid less and as a result are given less opportunities to pursue professional careers in sport. Because of the inequalities between male and female sports, females in sports are not taken as serious as competitive male athletes; basically, they viewed as less feminine women.

On average, in professional sports, women are paid only 77% of professional male athlete’s salaries. Although this percentage varies among sports, it is consistent that males are paid higher salaries. Due to lower salaries, in order to support a comfortable lifestyle female athletes must find other sources of income to make ends meet. For some female athletes this means sexualizing their bodies by posing naked in order to make extra money on the side. Although posing naked has received negative opinion of the general population, posing naked not only benefits the wallet of the athlete, but has created a movement to accept female athletes and their body image.  Amongst these females are Gabriele Reece; a professional volleyball player who posed for playboy in 2001, Hope Solo; a professional soccer player who posed for ESPN in 2013, and Lolo Jones; Olympic track and field athlete who posed semi-nude for ESPN in 2009.

Women participating in sport challenge the image of femininity. According to the definition of femininity, females are supposed to seemingly have feminine qualities at first glance. This means having petite bodies, smelling nice, and ultimately being weak. Females who participate at the highest level of sport spend hours in the gym to build muscle in order to compete against the best athletes in the world. As a result, female athletes are considered less feminine due to their large muscles and aggressive behaviour while playing sports. Since female athletes don’t traditionally fit the feminine role they are stereotyped as “butch” or “lesbian”. Female athletes posing naked sends a message to the public demonstrating that the female athletic body type is nothing to be ashamed of but instead something to celebrate. I think this message is very important to portray to young female athlete growing up with body image issues.

Personally, growing up an elite athlete I always struggled with body image. While all my friends were very petite, I had large thighs as a result of playing soccer and figure skating. I was always self-conscious wearing shorts or finding the right pair of jeans that fit my thighs properly as well as my waist. Over the years’ companies such as Nike have brought attention to this issue with their “real women” campaign that highlights the acceptance of having big thighs, shoulders, etc. This campaign was a pivotal for me and allowed me to finally begin to accept my athletic body type instead of being ashamed of it.  Instead of trying to hide my muscles it became a cause for celebration. I think it so important for female athletes to continue to empower young female athletes in this sense to increase the acceptance of females in sport. Growing up, I wish there were more female athletes who stood for what these campaigns are standing for. As a result, females will be able to further themselves in sport and bring more positive attention to female sports.

 

http://www.infoplease.com/spot/womenstimeline1.html

http://www.adwomen.org/2011/06/controversial-nikes-campaign-for-women/