An investigation into the media representation of gender in sport.
There have been many studies and investigations into the different types and intensity
of the media coverage in sport involving both sexes. This investigation will look at
previous studies and reports carried out by researchers to discover why different
genders receive different media attention in sport, and to see whether this has an
adverse effect on other issues such as participation.
It is a clear fact that men receive much more media attention and coverage than
women in most sporting events. To support this statement Boutiller and San-Giovanni
(1983) report shows that there is very little newspaper coverage (text or photos) of
women sports. The report mentioned that of the 1,200 covers in the first 25 years of
publication, sports illustrated featured only 115 women on their covers. Similarly in
Australian newspapers, only 1.3% of their space was contributed to women's sport
(Mackay and Rowe, 1987).
In fact when media coverage was devoted to women it tended to drift away from their
performance and focus either on their beauty or image (Hargreaves, 1994) or to
highlight female athletes becoming more masculine. For example Willis (1994)
concludes that in order for women athletes to succeed in sport they must fail as
women i.e. women losing their femininity, replacing it with bulging muscles and no
breasts, in order to become the complete athlete.
However, what is mentioned above may not give a clear indication as to why women
are not represented in the media as much as men. One possible reason as to why
women are under-represented in sport is because of money. Media organisations, such
as sports illustrated, are run to generate a profit and will therefore need to focus on
the needs and wants of their customers (Sagas et al., 2000). For that reason, it is
possible that other institutional force will have an influence on media organisations
(especially profit making organisations) when involving women's coverage of sport.
In order to get a better understanding of this it may be more suitable to look at non-
profit making media sources and their attitude to coverage of women's sport. We may
predict that media sources, who do not seek to gain a profit, should provide greater
coverage of women's sporting events. However this is not the case. Shifflett and
Revelle (1994) investigation into the NCAA news discovered that women received
less written coverage and fewer photographs than men and when articles and photos
where produced involving women in sports they often appeared in less-desirable
Shifflett and Revelle (1994a) report examined issues in 1988 and 1991, and although
it provides us with information regarding media attention towards women at those
times it does not give us findings which are necessarily relevant in today's society or
The implications of women being under-represented in the media can have damaging
effects on both women's sport and women's place in society. Media is a vital tool in
the way in which society views and understands issues such as gender relations and
role differentiation (Low and Sherrad, 1999). Since the majority of media
coverage on sport tends to focus on men and leave out the achievements of women
(Pirinen, 1997) this can lead to stereotypical views and women becoming isolated
from certain sports. For example, golf has traditionally been seen as a sport for fit,
young and able males. Asch and Fine (1997) go on to indicate that women golfers
who are older or have a disability can become remote from the sport because of the
little or no media coverage that these types of women receive. Sagas et al., (2002) reinforced
this by acknowledging that the unfair media coverage that women receive hinders their
development in sport from...
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