Posted by: writersblock7 | October 2, 2009

An excerpt from an article

Excerpt from “Equitable media coverage of Female and Male athletes: is there a solution?” by John Vincent PHD – Assistant Professor – Sport Management
The University of Alabama – College of Education – Department of Kinesiology

To read the entire article click the link above

Media Coverage of female athletes

During the last 2 decades, numerous empirical studies investigating the interaction of gender, sport, and the media have consistently found that media coverage of female athletes have failed to mirror their athletic achievements. Studies of media coverage of female athletes show that they are generally under-represented compared to their male counterparts (Duncan & Messner, 1998; Eastman & Billings, 2000; Harris & Clayton, 2002; Pederson, 2002). Despite the exponential growth in women’s sport in the last three decades, elite female athletes typically receive only about 10 percent of print media coverage (Bernstein, 2002).

When female athletes receive coverage it is frequently imbued with socially constructed sex role stereotypes and replete with references to their heterosexual familial roles as wives, mothers, girlfriends, and daughters (Christopherson, Janning & McConnell, 2002). The mediated discourse of the heterosexual familial roles of female athletes serves to reproduce the pattern of male dominance in heterosexual relationships (Hargreaves, 1986). The male dominated sport media subordinate female athletic events as the “other” event through a myriad of journalistic and production techniques. Reports of female athletic prowess and achievement are combined with trivialization and are frequently framed with culturally stereotyped commentary about their physical appearance and feminine heterosexual attractiveness rather than their athletic prowess and skill (Bernstein, 2002; Christopherson et al., 2002; Eastman & Billings, 2000; Kane & Lenskyi, 1998; Kinkema & Harris, 1998; Messner, 2002).

Research has indicated that female athletes competing in the traditionally “gender-appropriate” individual sports such as swimming, diving, gymnastics, and tennis, which represent a narrow, culturally stereotyped view of female athleticism, receive more electronic and print media coverage than female athletes competing in the traditionally “gender-inappropriate” team sports such as field hockey, softball, and rugby (Pirinen, 1997; Tuggle & Owen, 1999; Vincent, Imwold, Johnson, & Massey, 2003).

Historically, African American female athletes have been associated with the so-called “race-appropriate” school-sponsored sports of track and basketball rather than socially elitist sports that require country club membership and private lessons. Generally, female African American athletes have received less media coverage than their Caucasian peers even when they have been successful (Williams, 1994). When African American athletes have received mediated coverage it has frequently been imbued with the racial stereotype of their being “natural” athletes, who rely on their athleticism rather than intelligence, work ethic, and tactical awareness (Cole & Andrews, 1996; Sabo & Jansen, 1994).

Media coverage of male athletes

The media devote the majority of their coverage to male athletes and generally valorize and revere them for their athletic prowess and judge sporting events by masculine standards. Summarizing a series of studies conducted for the Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles, Duncan and Messner (1998) reported that verbal descriptors were used to frame male athletes as strong, active, powerful, and in control. Male athletes were described in terms of their strengths and successes and liberal use was made of power descriptors and martial metaphors.

Recent trends

Several recent studies have indicated that female athletes are receiving a more balanced and equitable amount of media coverage particularly in major international sporting events (Tuggle & Owen, 1999;Vincent, 2002). This suggests that some media organizations in western countries have become sensitive to this issue. However, although there are now more images of powerful, strong, independent elite female athletes, paradoxically, the media have actively promoted and marketed female athletes who have a heterosexually feminine appearance, such as Anna Kournikova. A recent study comparing British newspaper coverage of female and male tennis players competing in the Wimbledon Championships found a relatively equitable amount of coverage female and male tennis players. However, the infotainment nature of the coverage appeared to be marketed and constructed to appeal to a predominately male readership. Anna Kournikova, the nexus of sexuality, commercialism, and athleticism, received more newspaper coverage than any other female or male tennis player. However, the newspaper coverage of Kournikova was replete with sexual inneudo, infantilization, and salacious incursions into her private life (Vincent, 2004). In her article entitled, “Is it time for a victory lap,” Bernstein (2002) argued persuasively that the recent trend to provide elite female athletes with more coverage is undermined if the narratives are replete with gender stereotypes, trivialization, and sexual innuendo.


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