Where are female athletes in the media?

When was the last time you saw a female athlete highlighted for her athletic ability on ESPN? Yesterday Tina Fey was the only woman on the ESPN home page.

Women are rarely mentioned in the media and when they are it is usually for superficial reasons (i.e. body). In the book “Taking the Field: Women, Men and Sports”, Michael Messner mentions that “only 2.2% of Sport Center’s coverage is devoted to women’s sports” (Messner 95). When do professional female athletes get recognition for their accomplishments? Where can you find news about professional female athletes?

Today sports coverage on women is “regulated to small marginal cable channels, websites and specialized magazines” (Messner 92). In order to locate results or any mention of women’s athletics on ESPN a user must go to “More” then click on “Women’s BB”, which then takes the user to “ESPN W”, which is ESPN for Women. 

Glamour Magazine posted an article on their website, “Turns Out Women Want Athletes to Look Like Athletes, Not Sex Symbols”. When news concerning female athletes hits the mainstream media they are often sexualized. Does the presentation of female athletes in the media change our views of their athletic abilities?

How women are portrayed in the media should not effect how people view their athletic abilities. These women are professional athletes that are strong and talented. The bigger issue is why are women rarely recognized for their athletic ability and how are they being represented in the media? 

In the book Gender and the Media by Rosalind Gill addresses that when women are recognized on the news, the focus in on their physical appearance. The media is “incapable of publishing a story featuring a woman without some evaluation of her attractiveness, or at least a description of her attractiveness, or at least a description of her age and hair color” (Gill 115). 

Gill explains that the media will represent women in one of two ways – in the terms of her domestic role or her sexual attractiveness. As you can see there is no middle ground for women in the media in- between housewives and sexy. Noelle Pikus-Pace, is an American skeleton racer who was featured in a AT&T commercial during the Sochi Olympic that emphasized her domestic roles. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7505xlW_zik

We have seen a couple examples of this in class with Maria Sharapova, who is most often sexualized rather than being recognized for her skills on the tennis court. The first article that shows up when you Google, Maria Sharapova is “Maria Sharapova Shows Off Toned Bikini Body in Mexico: Tennis Pro in Swimsuit Picture”.

Then we have other incredible athletes, such as Abby Wambach, who is at the top of women’s soccer and has recently broke Mia Hamm’s all-time mark for goals. But because Wambach does not meet the normative modes of attractiveness demanded by the press, we rarely hear about her. Yet we can find her along with other female athletes in specialized forms of media. 

When women as well as young girls are consuming the media they are looking for people to aspire to. Viewers want to see someone like themselves to relate and aspire to.

We need to start giving women the credit they deserve, because there athletic abilities are incredible! On ESPN there is a clip called, “Nine For IX: Exclusive Clip From ‘Branded’” that highlights reasons for fans to watch the WNBA. http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=espn:9589024 It’s noteworthy to mention “Branded”, because the last installment on EPSN talked about how women athletes, who are endorsed by brands typically have a certain look, but are not the best athletes. I suggest checking out this series, because it holds a lot of promise. 

Will today’s media ever get passed representing women in a domestic role or a high sexualized in role?

Unfortunately it is hard to say, but if people are demanding athletes to look like athletes rather then sex symbols in the media, it just might change. The marketing teams from the brands we love, such as Nike want to know what the consumers want!

This is a step in the right direction, but we have a long way to go. 



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