Media Representatin of Women in Sport
Major Essay Current society is built upon stereotypes and constructions that are predetermined by previous generations’ views. One of the most recognised historical constructions is the patriarchal theory, that the female is subservient to the male. However, this construction of gender power is slowly equalising, with the rise of feminist groups in the latter part of the 20th century giving reason for this occurring.
Nevertheless, gender battles are still occurring, particularly in the sporting industry, which remains male dominated.
Female sport has been given much notoriety over their uproar in the past decade, but is finding in a male controlled industry it is difficult for women to receive help from governing bodies. Female sport is marginalised compared to male sport, largely due to the sexualisation of the athletes themselves. Professionally they are receiving very little media coverage in comparison to males and in an amateur sense; females are being stereotyped as a result of the images of ‘athletic’ sexualised women displayed in magazines such as Zoo, Sports Illustrated and Alpha.
The media has evolved female sport into sexually appealing entertainment and doesn’t give the sports that have not been sexualised, enough coverage. (Maria Sharapova Bikini) The media have constructed their own image of what a female athlete ultimately looks like by posting images in their magazines, “characteristics favoured in visual media are those commonly associated with feminine beauty, such as smiling, unblemished skin, slender and toned physique, and long blonde hair” (Schell n. d. ).
Maria Sharapova pictured below is the perfect example, and even though she isn’t the number one female tennis player and hasn’t been for some time, she is still one of the most popular and most followed players in the women’s circuit, she was the highest paid female athlete in the world come 2006, earning more from endorsements than prize money (Carr 2006). We see in Australia the sexualisation of sports like Netball, where women in the ANZ Championship wear skin tight, short dresses to play, making it appealing to male audiences.
We often see at the Australian Open, similar length dresses or skirts that leave little to the imagination. Venus Williams sent the media into frenzy in 2010 with her skin colour underwear visible as soon as she moved around the court, to which she designed herself (Eurosport 2010). Tennis uniforms are becoming a fashion statement more and more every year, which is always judged by the media when someone wears something even slightly risky or sexy.
Anna Kournikova was the pioneer in making tennis ‘sexy’ with her risque photographs in the magazine Sports Illustrated (Cover pictured below). Former tennis player and feminist rights activist Billie Jean King gave a response to the Anna Kournikova Sport illustrated photographs with this, “It doesn’t bother me at all if some of the guys come out to watch women’s tennis because they want to see a beautiful woman. Who could hold that against Anna?
Still, it’s unfortunate when others with a high skill factor don’t win the endorsements. Sure, the good-looking guys get more endorsements, but the difference in men’s sports is that the ugly ones get their share, too. ”(Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles 2000) In America, ‘sexploitation’ is taken to another level at a professional level, particularly in the sports of wrestling and in the gridiron league Lingerie Football League.
In these competitions, females wear very little, going down to the bare minimum. Pictured below is an image of the Lingerie Football League, clearly the uniforms (Lingerie Football League 2009)(Anna Kournikova 2000) leave little to be desired, but are used to entertain to a male dominated audience. These sports are both considered to be female sports in their own right, but we also see the sexualisation of women in male sports, particularly in professional sides in the form of cheerleaders.
Cheerleaders provide entertainment during the sporting breaks, which we often see during breaks in male sports, providing a view of females in general as sexual objects and inferior to the male ‘athletes’. So from our perspective it is clear that the media has constructed a view that the amateur female athlete must be ‘sexy’ in order to be able to succeed, we don’t read in magazines or see photographs of less attractive female athletes, they have excluded them for what in their mind is good reason, sex sells.
However it is creating an unrealistic image of the perfect female athlete, they are not judged by how good they are at hitting, catching, shooting, running or jumping, but by how much they can get paid for taking their clothes off. (Caple, Greenwood Lumby 2010) Another cause for concern over female sport is that professionally they are not getting anywhere near enough media coverage and money as their male counterparts. The media cover male sport in far more depth; in fact a study in 2006 by South Australian Premier’s Council for Women found just 4. per cent of coverage was about female sport () and on Foxtel approximately 10 per cent was about female sport (Senate Standing Committees on Environment, Communications and the Arts 2006). The chart below shows the volume of news coverage that all the different sports receive, which not surprisingly shows Tennis as being pretty much the main female sport that is being covered, with very little else in comparison to male sport, even horses gain more exposure than females.
So while females are being splayed all over the magazines in compromising poses and clothing, they receive very little coverage of them competing within their sports. So even though the “Australian women’s swimming team at the 2004 Olympic games secured more medals than their male counterparts. The women’s hockey team, the Hockeyroos have frequently dominated international competition, winning Olympic gold and international championships on many occasions.
The Australian women’s netball team has won eight of eleven world championships”(Senate Standing Committees on Environment, Communications and the Arts 2006), we still don’t see these teams play, other than at major sporting competitions like the Olympic and Commonwealth games. The lack of exposure can be hurtful to professional female athletes, in an interview with former Australian netball player explains her pain, “’I went very close to an emotional breakdown’ Ellis said, describing a time when she was struggling to combine her work as a solicitor, a marriage and the daily demands of club training and competing for Australia. (Magnay 2006) So while professional male sportsman have sport as their only profession earning a large salary in doing so, most women who compete at the top levels of their sports don’t actually receive any payment for their services, or if they do, they definitely couldn’t live of it, so majority of them have normal day jobs, which in itself would be stressful, but in conjunction with family, training and games, they must lead extremely demanding lives, which hardly seems reasonable.
The inability of female sport to be fully professional and given similar or equal coverage in the media leaves the representation of women very much being subservient in a male dominated industry. The representation of the ultimate female ‘athlete’ projected as a result of the sexualisation that has occurred in higher level sport today has created a flow on effect into the amateur level of sport. Solmon et al. (2003) found that college-aged women who perceive a sport as gender-neutral are more confident about participating than are women who identify a sport as masculine. ”(Hardin and Greer 2009, 207) Which is a direct result from media exposure, they see sports on television almost every day; recognize that it is a male sport as the athletes are male and then deem it too masculine to try.
There is also the issue of sexuality discrimination when a female becomes involved with sport; because we see the masculine sports on television, any participation in such by a female has become deemed as homosexual, constructed by our culture and media, “so when a female is called a ‘dyke’ or ‘lesbian’ in a derogatory manner, she may alter her actions and dress to be ‘more feminine,’ downplay her athletic talents, or avoid sport altogether”(Schell n. d. ).
This has become a common problem with women’s amateur sport, particularly sports that are deemed to be too masculine for women to try such as cricket (Burroughs, Seebohm and Ashburn 1995, 29) and Australian Rules football (Hillier 2006, 18) that there is an automatic stereotype of being homosexual. The social construction that female participants are labelled as homosexual in male dominated sports is a media formed fallacy. The reason why this has occurred is that in past societies, homosexuality was frowned upon and when a female athlete is found to be a lesbian, then the media reveals it to the world, the stereotype builds.
This happened to the Australian women’s cricket team in the opposite fashion when “it was reported that female cricketer, Denise Annetts, had been dropped from the Australian team and had alleged that her sacking was due to her heterosexual preference and marital status. ”( Burroughs, Seebohm and Ashburn 1995, 29) This built the reputation than women’s cricket still holds to this day. Nowadays there has been a movement towards helping women’s sport grow more. There have been the new Australian digital television channels which allowed channel Ten to show Netball during the day on their channel ‘One’.
ABC still broadcast lawn bowls and women’s Basketball fairly often, and just this year, channel Nine started broadcasting female Twenty20 cricket that was played before the men’s game. So there has been improvement in the coverage regard, however women across the globe are still victims of sexploitation, which is undermining the coverage solution because we are still able to receive the media’s representation of females in sport as marginalised and subservient to a male industry. Until this is solved and females stand up against this, then there is little chance they have in improving their image in the sporting industry.
Reference List Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles. 2000. Sportsletter. 12 (1,2): 2009. Quoted in Messner 2002, 100. Anna Kournikova. Image. 2000. http://sportsillustrated. cnn. com/vault/cover/toc/9744/index. htm (accessed May 20, 2011). Australia. Senate Standing Committees on Environment, Communications and the Arts. 2006. About time! Women in sport and recreation in Australia. Volume 1. Canberra: Senate Printing Unit. Burroughs, A. , L. Seebohm, and L. Ashburn. 1995. Sporting Traditions. The Journal of the Australian Society for Sports History 12 (1): 29. Google. www. google. om. au (accessed 21 May 2011). Caple, H. , K, Greenwood and C, Lumby. Image. 2010. http://www. ausport. gov. au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/356209/Towards_a_Level_Playing_Field_LR. pdf (accessed May 20, 2011) Carr, J. 2006. Maria Sharapova has become the sport’s most marketable icon. http://mariasharapova. wetpaint. com/page/Endorsements (accessed May 20, 2011). Eurosport. 2010. Australian Open – Cheeky Venus outfit shocks crowd. http://uk. eurosport. yahoo. com/24012010/58/australian-open-cheeky-venus-outfit-shocks-crowd. html (accessed May 23, 2011). Hardin, M. , J. D. Greer. 2009.
The Influence of Gender-Role Socialization, Media Use and Sports Participation on Perceptions of Gender-Appropriate Sports. Journal of Sport Behavior 32 (2): 207. Questia. www. questia. com (accessed 19 May 2011). Hillier, L. 2006. Safe Spaces: The upside of the image problem for same sex attracted young women playing Australian Rules football. International Journal of Football Studies 8 (2): 18. Google. www. google. com. au (accessed 21 May 2011). Lingerie Football League. Image. 2009. http://www. stuff. co. nz/sport/2834471/New-Lingerie-Football-League-under-debate (accessed May 20, 2011). Magnay, J. 2006.
Women deserve sporting chance: Ellis. http://www. smh. com. au/news/sport/women-deserve-sporting-chance-ellis/2006/08/02/1154198205721. html (accessed 20 May 2011). Maria Sharapova Bikini. Image. n. d. http://www. dailybum. com/ (accessed May 20, 2011). Messner, M. 2002. Taking the Field: Women, Men and Sports. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Schell, B. n. d. (Dis)Empowering Images? Media Representations of Women in Sport. http://www. womenssportsfoundation. org/Content/Articles/Issues/Media-and-Publicity/D/DisEmpowering-Images–Media-Representations-of-Women-in-Sport. aspx (accessed May 20, 2011).
Short Research Essay Reflection What strengths and weaknesses did you identify in your Short Research Essay? My short research essay was not quite as good as what I had hoped, the topic Sexual Abuse in Sport: With a focus on the AFL was too narrow, it was not a smart decision to give myself such a small focus, which basically narrowed myself down to Australian texts only, which wasn’t easy. I did find a fair arrange of resources, but perhaps didn’t utilise them as much, and just relied on my own theory. The need to rely on stereotypes and overuse of emotive language also hampered my essay.
How did you use the tutor’s feedback to improve your work for the Major Essay? I firstly acknowledged the fact that my essay used too much emotive language and made it a conscious focus to not try and use it so much, to what effect I am not sure, it is a habit in my writing that needs fixing for the future. I also rewrote my whole essay, broadening the topic to women in sport, which meant I could find an array of sources. I also have cleared up my analysis and hopefully the referencing has improved. All in all I believe that this essay is a far improvement on the short research essay.