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

The Girl Behind the Gun

By Taylor H.

Walking through the woods in a bright orange vest and a gun in hand is not commonly known as an activity that women participate in. I will never forget the day that I tracked down my first animal and pulled the trigger for the very first time. I experienced a variety of emotions that day. At first, I was overwhelmed by excitement and adrenaline, which then turned into feelings of achievement as I was extremely proud of myself for accomplishing something that most women do not have the opportunity to do.

So why is it that the word ‘hunter’ is often associated with men? Why is it that more men are involved in hunting than women? Is it because of the stereotype that girls are kind hearted and could not hurt a fly? Is it because we are taught that men are responsible for providing for their families? For many years now women have been integrating themselves into the world by challenging the typical gender roles and stepping out of their comfort zones.

Hunting is an activity that traces back to when the cavemen walked earth. The culture of hunting is known as a hegemonic masculine sport (Keogh, 2006). In the past, men would go on hunting trips to bring back meat and fur to keep their families fed and warm. Meanwhile the wives were assigned the responsibilities of gathering berries and looking after the children. To this day, it is still common for the man to go to work while the woman stays home to care for the children.

A study has shown that there are three types of constraints that decrease the likelihood that a woman will hunt. The first one is referred to as intrapersonal. Some women believe that they do not hunt because they have never been taught to do so. The second factor is referred to as interpersonal constraints. Some women believe that they do not take part in hunting because they are afraid of what others may think or say. And the final factor is structural constraints. Some women may not be able to take part in hunting due to certain domestic responsibilities such as cleaning, cooking, and taking care of the children (Keogh, 2006).

Women may have their battles in this male dominated activity, but over the years it has slowly become an activity that women are taking part in. The data have shown that female hunters have increased by 3%, and that hunting gear is 30% directed towards women now (Keogh, 2006). Many of the women who do take part say that they do it for their family, by bringing home healthy food. They also explain that they make it a family activity by bringing their children along. Furthermore, some women participate for the social aspect of it. When explaining why they hunt, some women explain that they do it because it makes them feel powerful and in control. They also feel proud when someone sees them dressed in camo and ready to go into the woods (Keogh, 2006).

The confidence that myself and other women receive knowing that we can engage in an activity that is mostly engaged in by men, is huge. Just because I may wear heels and paint my nails does not make me any less capable of pulling a trigger and supplying food for my family.

Reference

Keogh, S. (2006). Pink camouflage: Reshaping the gendered nature of hunting in the twenty-first century. Society & Leisure 39(3), 1-20.

The Importance of Male Athletes in Cheerleading

by Janelle H.

Long since the days of cheering other athletes to victory, cheerleaders no longer sit on the sidelines. Performing flawless dances, powerful gymnastic passes and creative lifts and tosses, cheerleading has become one of the most exciting up and coming sports. The biggest news in cheerleading is that in December 2016, cheerleading was given provisional status as an Olympic sport. This news has turned the cheerleading world upside down. Normally the largest competition is held in Orlando, Florida every year and now, cheerleaders may finally have a chance to show their talents on the Olympic stage. If the petition to make cheerleading an official Olympic sport is approved, then Canada will be looking for Olympians, and since teams are often comprised of as many as 25 people, we will need a lot of them.

Any cheerleader will be able to tell you that the best teams are the teams that have an even mix of male and female participants. Although central Canada is doing fairly well at finding male athletes, more rural areas are having a hard time. Unfortunately New Brunswick is one the places in Canada struggling the hardest, with the majority of teams being all girl, and if the team is considered co-ed, it generally means there is one to two boys on the team.

This stereotype that cheerleading is a feminine sport develops early. Arguably, as early as the gender reveal. At baby showers, people tend to give male babies gifts oriented towards sports that are stereotypically male like hockey or football, whereas females receive the ballet slippers or in this case, the pom poms. Since it is more socially acceptable to encourage females to join cheerleading, they get the advantage of starting training much earlier than the male athletes that generally start in their late teenage years. Although women train longer, male athletes are almost always guaranteed a spot on a team because there is such a high demand, and so few athletes.

It is often thought that male cheerleaders are extremely feminine; however, recent research indicates that because of this stereotype, male cheerleaders generally feel, “the need to project a heterosexual image” ¹, and therefore act extra masculine. Therefore, to dispel the stereotype that male cheerleaders are overly feminine, many male cheerleaders are now some of the most masculine acting athletes. To prove themselves as masculine many male cheerleaders work hard to prove that they are the strongest or most reckless members of the team, making them assets for not only lifts but also gymnastics pass sections.

In conclusion, this notion that cheerleading is a feminine sport must be dispelled. Regardless of how male cheerleaders act, they are an asset to all teams. Urban areas have realised this and are doing a great job of encouraging male participation, but here in New Brunswick, we are failing. With provisional status as an Olympic sport, cheerleading can open up a world of opportunity for male athletes. So next time you are headed to a baby shower for a baby boy, be different, give him the pom poms. Who knows, you may be creating an Olympian.

¹ Bemiller, M. (2005). Men who cheer. Sociological Focus, 38(3), 205-222. Retrieved from https://login.proxy.hil.unb.ca/login?url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy.hil.unb.ca/docview/60021165?accountid=14611

Judge them by their Success

By Robbie P.

As our class is gender, sport and leisure, I thought I would choose a topic which could hopefully create some discussion for everyone. Homosexuality is a topic which is widely discussed and abused globally. Many people use terms in a derogatory manner, often either implying that someone is a homosexual or their perceived action is viewed as being homosexual. It is not uncommon for words to be thrown around a professional sport clubs change room. I’m going to be focusing on the difficulties that homosexual football (soccer) players face in their change room, and why they are so afraid of letting their voices be heard. Whilst I am fully aware that it happens in other sports, this is my topic of interest and so my examples will derive from this sport.

I would like to address that football is a working class sport, loved and played by all. It’s the easiest and cheapest sport to play by a distance, with limited resources needed to play. The participation rates for males and females globally, are making it the world’s leading recreational sport by a distance.  Other sports like American football are largely watched and played, but only in one country, football is global. It is a sport which is accepting of all people, yet sadly there are some bad apples, like in every sport, which cannot accept certain people. An example of anti-homosexual behaviour came from a Brazilian judge, way back in 2007, who said “football was a virile masculine sport and not a homosexual one”. Okay, we have a few issue here. Firstly, as a soccer player myself it’s not a masculine sport, and I’ll be the first to admit that. There’s to much diving and rolling around to even consider that, it’s almost like play-acting (the irony is, it’s mostly Brazilians who do so!!). I’m not saying it’s not physically demanding, but it’s not comparable to rugby where they fly for each other. Secondly, the number of women playing soccer in the North American continent is unbelievable, and their Nationals teams are far more successful than their men’s. The third thing I’d like to mention is that a person’s talent should not be judged on their gender. It should be judged on their talent and success.

The most recent footballers to open up about their homosexuality was former male German international Thomas Hitzlsperger in 2014, and Casey Stoney, former Team GB captain at the 2012 London Olympics. Both athletes openly admitted, only after retiring from the sport. These athletes show that hegemony is not seamless and that there is a possibility of softening hegemonic masculinity in the sporting realm. The first ever player to publicize his affection to the same sex whilst playing, was English footballer Justin Fashanu. He took so much criticism from team-mates and managers at the time, but eventually committed suicide at the age of 37. A young male had accused him of sexual assault, which drove him to take his own life (article included in references). I am all for professional athletes coming out and revealing whether they are attracted to members of the same sex. I feel like it will include more people in the sport and opens a number of gates for more participants to feel welcome. I have included a link to comments made by Preston North End goalkeeper Anders Lindegaard (formerly of Manchester United), as his support for the LGBTQ community. He talks about the culture in the footballing world, how it would be accepted by the players and managers nowadays, but there are still some old school fans who would be completely against it.

One thing I am impressed with is the progress that is being made within the LGBTQ societies surrounding football, and more players are beginning to realize that change is needed. A study by Roper and Halloran (2007), looked at the views of heterosexual male and female student-athletes on homosexual male and female athletes. It was reported that the men were seemingly more negative in their views as opposed to the women. I would be interested in seeing a study of what this would look like, 10 years on, and how far we have come as a community. It’s all just a matter of who takes the big step forward and becomes only the 2nd person to openly admit to being attracted to the opposite sex, whilst they are still an active participant in the professional industry. Everyone should be judged on their success, talent and effort, no one should be judged by their sex or gender.

References and Links:

Anderson, E. (2016). Openly Gay Athletes. Gender & Society, 16(6), 860-877.

Roper, E. A., & Halloran, E. (2007). Attitudes Toward Gay Men and Lesbians Among Heterosexual Male and Female Student-Athletes. Sex Roles, 57(11), 919-928.

http://www.fifa.com/mm/document/fifafacts/bcoffsurv/emaga_9384_10704.pdf  (Fifa Survey)

http://www.breakingnews.ie/sport/football-needs-gay-hero-says-manchester-united-goalkeeper-575849.html (Anders Lindegaard)

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/167715.stm (Justin Fashanu)

 

 

I Will What I Want Campaign: “You don’t need permission when you have will”.

By Meghan Stultz (M.S.)

“Women’s apparel some day will be larger than our men’s apparel business, which is our goal,” predicted Kevin A. Plank, a former college football player who founded Under Armour 14 years ago.

For the past few years Under Armour has been on an upward journey to become one of the major name for athletic clothing companies, however they have never had as big of a success in the women’s department as they have in the men’s…but that gap is closing.

When reflecting on the company’s first attempts to go after the growing women’s athletics and leisure market in the early 2000’s, Kevin Plank commented his team’s best attempt to go after the market was to take their male clothing and “shrink it and pink it.”

After the release of their women’s pastel coloured workout clothing line was a total failure the company went back to the drawing board and came back big in the advertising world with “I Will What I Want” women’s campaign. This $15 million dollar campaign has been a hugely successful investment leading them to be named 2014 Marketer of the Year by Ad Age and recently complete their 18th consecutive quarter with more than a 20% sales growth.

So how did they change how advertisers are representing females in their ads – while keeping their advertising costs at a 1/3 compared to Nikes?

They did it by simply showing real and raw women in their element

Their digital ad’s feature emotional storytelling, that speaks to the mind and the heart simultaneously. It is relatable

The first campaign showed in late summer, Misty Copeland, currently a soloist star for the American Ballet Theatre. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZY0cdXr_1MA).

Misty’s Ad now has a staggering 7.6 million views on YouTube – It shows the traditional ballerina in a nontraditional way. The angles of the camera emphasis her strength in her moves – while she is wearing Under Armour apparel instead of the traditional ballerina staple, the tutu. Tied along with a narration of a rejection letter she received at the age of only 13, which pointed out all the parts of her body that are so “clearly” wrong for ballet.

The second Ad to be surfaced featured supermodel Gisele Bundchen (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H-V7cOestUs). Gisele is seen training with a punching bag – but this time the narration is plastered all over the walls with a live feed of social media posts. Some positive posts but mostly negative comments like “she’s not an athlete, stick to modeling sweetie or she is a has-been.”

As a female with an athletic background I think these campaigns are so powerful because it relates back to how we’ve all dealt with negativity and adversity throughout life, be it in a sport or on a social media platform.

The way Under Armour presents these advertisements with the narration reinforcing success can overcome failure creates an emotional connection for their audience to their message, ultimately making it stronger.

I was happy to have stumbled upon this video, which gives a great summary from the creators and where you can see the companies authenticity shine through – (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqTl7C2LTFQ)

When commenting to Advertising Age, Senior VP, Ms. Fremar, says the insight behind “I Will What I Want” was not “you go, girl,” she said. The goal was to celebrate women “who had the physical and mental strength to tune out the external pressures and turn inward and chart their own course.”

Ms. Fremar distilled the narratives to a few words: In Ms. Copeland’s story, “will trumps fate,” she said. And for Ms. Bündchen, “will trumps noise,” she added, a reference to the unforgiving media glare on supermodels.”(Schultz, 2014).

These types of media ads get attention – and they are getting it for the right reason. They are inspiring females to not look at themselves as a female athlete but simply as an athlete that can break any barrier presented to them.

My favourite line from the clip was “You don’t need permission when you have will”.

 I have never asked permission as an athlete to go to a certain gym, try out for a certain team but have always felt the looming judgments or stereotypes because I am a girl. If I’m cut, not strong enough for the next level or too insecure I should just give up instead of challenging myself.

Now through messages like these from Under Armour, they are changing how we see females in advertising and in turn in our own personal sport worlds for the better – showing that women can face fear, criticism, and surpass the limitations that society and ourselves have put on one another. Challenging us to have the will to want what we want and to go out and achieve it at any cost!

References:
http://adage.com/article/news/marketer-year-armour/296088/

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/02/07/five-smart-things-under-armour-did-to-take-on-the-sports-retail-giants/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/01/business/media/01adco.html?_r=1

Climbing through Gender Stereotypes and Benevolent Sexism

Note: for those who don’t understand climbing terms I’m putting out there. Here’s a climbing dictionary.

Getting ready to lead a climb as a warm up outside a cave in Malaysia, a male, local to the area, comes up to me and asks, “ You’re going to climb? But you’re a girl,” I clench my jaw, never knowing what or how to respond back to such a statement, my male friend, belayer and coach swoops in and saves the day by responding, ” don’t look down on her small frame and build, she is stronger than she looks and fearless too, females are actually better climbers than we(men) are.” The guy nods his head and silently watches us all climb.

Rock climbers are predominantly males whether it is indoor or outdoor, women have quit climbing because of how high the level of testosterone is there in the gym. Being in the gym, staring at a route in frustration, I catch myself sometimes blaming myself being a female with weaker bodies and having a shorter reach and the next moment I’ll see another fellow climber a few inches shorter than me climbing the same route and flashing it with ease, giving me no excuse and shaming myself for blaming on my gender.

People think indoor climbing is about brawn and powering it through, as a matter of fact, in an article titled Rock it, says climbing is about full body strength, balance, grace and flexibility; women tend to be better climbers as we naturally have better weight-to-strength ratios and are more conscious of using technique over brawn. Climbing is also about perseverance, problem-solving and self-confidence; women seem to better appreciate the Zen-ness of indoor rock climbing.

Fellow climber, Ester Packard-Hill, wrote an article about gender stereotypes and sexism in climbing; ‘playing the game’. You get a lot of ‘for a girl’ comments, hearing those kinds of comments frustrates a lot of female athletes, not just climbers. You don’t hear people say, “you played really well, for a guy.” Most images of female climbers you see in magazines are women climbing in their sports bra. The emphasis of female sex-appeal is across many sports like volleyball, tennis, track, golfers and the list goes on and on: tight, short, and barely covering anything. Most sports rely on women developing traditional masculine qualities, Ester explains that female athletes promote their femininity because of fear of being questioned of their sexuality.

In a blog, writer Georgie Abel asked almost 100 female climbers to tell a story about notable experience they had while climbing with a male. They tend to make assumptions that women are weaker; uncomfortable with highballs and trying hard boulder problems or leading a route. Thinking the girls don’t want to do problem-solving and start showing or shouting beta to them. some of them would discourage women from trying hard, heady, or powerful climbs. If a guy repeats hard boulder problems, they are praised at. If a girl repeats hard boulder problem, they would downgrade it. There are also stories of males being cocky, obnoxious and/or egoistic, I have seen men quit climbing just because a woman could ascend a route and they could not.

Of course, there are positive experiences climbing with men, after 3 years of climbing at the wall climbing gym at UNB Lady Beaverbrook Gym, I realized the regulars there refuse to let females blame their femininity, there is no judgement in there, no pride at stake, there is however, encouragement to push through your own limits, focus on yourself and not let anyone else talk down to you, especially yourself.

Reference:

Rock it: Literally climbing the walls, women are finding they’re built to excel when it comes to indoor rock climbing. (1993, 01).Flare, 15, 23-23,71. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/223845985?accountid=14611

Gendered Language: Men versus Girls

By Emily M.

Being in an all female sport, I have been subjected to a lot of insulting comments. “Oh look at those synchronized swimmers, wearing all that makeup and dancing in the water, aren’t they cute.” Just because it is a female sport, people tend to take the athleticism out of it. They do not see that we throw two, 120 pound women completely out of the water, not using the bottom of the pool, might I add. All they focus on is how pretty and delicate all these female swimmers are.

There are many ways that the media trivializes women’s participation in sport. One-way is by gender marking. Female events are listed as “women’s athletic events” and men’s are just “athletic events,” marking women as the “other” category. Another way media and the commentators minimize women’s athletics, is by calling females athletes girls, ladies, and women; however, men are consistently referred to as men. The word girl implies immaturity, and the word lady implies helplessness, elegance and lack of athletic abilities. Commentators use this type of language during female sporting events and this demeans women’s sport. You would never hear a commentator say, “oh these boys are really doing a good job”, no you would not hear that. They would refer to them as men, strong men or athletic men, never boys. There should not be this gender stereotype that women are delicate or non athletic. Elite female athletes train just as much as male elite athletes, so they should be treated as such. Men tend to be called by their last names and women by their first names. When commentators call female athletes by their first names, it reinforces an already existing negative attitude about female athletes. It diminishes their professionalism in comparison to men.

Commentators tend to focus on how women athletes appear rather than on how they perform. They discuss their outfits or their makeup. One of my competitions was televised a few years ago, and the commentators did not mention how strong the athletes were or focus on the extreme cardio it takes to swim through a routine. They said things like “what a beautiful splash” “look at the elegance and grace”, “look at the gorgeous makeup”. These comments were completely stereotypical. What it conveyed to me was that women are not supposed to be athletic; they are not supposed to have strong muscles or a competitive side. This gender-biased language reinforces stereotypical feminine gender roles, and undermines women’s involvement in sport as well as their achievements. The commentators are coming to terms with the fact that women are increasingly participating in sport and they are increasing their coverage. However women still have to be in a certain box, they cannot be compared to male athletes. They cannot have commentary that emphasizes their athletic abilities and strengths.

When commentating women’s sports, they tend to minimize the females strengths by pairing it with a demeaning word, such as “she’s a strong girl”. Positive comments followed by demeaning comments. This is in line with the gender roles we grow up with. As children we are constantly told women are delicate, passive, and focus on their looks. Men are aggressive, athletic, and macho. Although women’s participation rates are going up in sport, they are still not being recognized as true athletes. Female athletes are still expected to be feminine and are viewed as caring more about how they appear rather then how they perform in their sport.

Women have come a long way in the sporting context. Originally, it was exclusively a man’s world. However now you see women participation rates increase significantly. Seeing all these elite female athletes really motivates women to reach for their goals. However the stereotypical language used towards women in sport, is still a huge barrier. Women should be taken seriously in the sporting world. It is not about their outfits or their makeup; it is about their achievements.

 

References:

Halbert, C., & Latimer, M. (1994). “Battling” gendered language: An analysis of the language used by sports commentators in a televised coed tennis competition. Sociology of Sport Journal, 11, 298-308.

Messner, M., Duncan, M., & Jensen, K. (1993). Separating the men from the girls: The gendered language of televised sports. Gender and Society, 7(1), 121-137.