This heading is a bit misleading, because if you were to ask many males if they would consider watching a televised broadcast of women’s basketball when men’s basketball is on, the answer would probably most often be “… uh, no!?” This response may then be followed by maybe a chuckle or some laughter.
Fear not, male counterparts, this isn’t abnormal…
I will touch on some issues being faced by many women throughout this Olympic season (and with sports in general).
As it’s the season for the Summer Olympic Games (a sporting cavalcade of various sports where athletes of both male/female fight for national pride), it is common place for people to pretend to love both men’s AND women’s summer sports, with some answering ‘Of course, I love watching women’s gymnastics’ or ‘women’s volleyball is great’.
In the Summer Olympics, there should theoretical be an ‘even playing field’ of equal representation of men and women in sports. But its not just your subconscious that undermines women and women’s sports, especially in comparison to their male counterparts.
Do you know who else doesn’t like women and sports? The media.
Women are overtly objectified and not put in the same positive athletic scope that their male counterparts are, and in turn are surveyed for their femininity or sexual prowess, and this can diminish their athletic accomplishments as a whole. Delrome (2014) conducted a longitudinal study which concluded that female athletes would be systematically underrepresented in sports media coverage, especially pronounced for the traditional ‘male’ sports. Further, journalistic coverage of international sporting events is somewhat biased, with the media following their sexist national culture (all of them are sexist, not one particular country) by airing and glorifying more popular male athletes over female athletes. As a fall out, many female sports become under promoted and in turn their successes diminished, which brings rise to decreased security measures and safety protocols for female athletic events through the games.
Also in the Olympics, there are very different testing for man and women. Jakubowska (2014) discusses how gender verification and testing is a female phenomenon, and how rarely males are tested for increased levels in oestrogen, whereas women are tested to check for inter-sexual athletes in elite sports, which first began in the 1966 Olympics, with the International Olympic Committee not agreeing that sex testing violates an athlete’s human rights. This violation is a breach in human rights, personal security and shows a bias from the International Olympic Committee officials toward women.
However, the key issue which women face through the Olympics, as well as sport in general, is the hyper-sexualisation of elite female athletes in advertising. For example, Anna Kounrnakova was the most searched for woman in 2008 on the internet, and that wasn’t just due to her amazing tennis prowess. As athletes are common in advertising as they are seen as role models, athletes have been used as spokespeople for many years. There are copious amounts of research about the sexualisation of female athletes, however limited research into the sexualisation of male athletes. This can lead to greater objectification of women, and in turn diminishing their capabilities when that individual is perceived primarily as a sexual object rather than a person (Nezlek et. al, 2015).
So I ask, how do we change this perception?
What can we do to allow for a greater playing field in this Olympic season, and moving forward in a sporting environment?
The key issue is, there is a societal shift which needs to occur. Some may argue ‘where is the money?’ – and to that, I present this article. (which I am happy to go into more depth upon, if people are interested in the topic…)
Women’s sport has the capacity to be equally as watchable and exciting as male dominated sports. There are a series of changes which need to occur from the ground up, and the first and most important is an entire societal overhaul.
It’s not much, but it’s a start.
It starts with you…
‘Anna Kournikova’ by Kalumba2009 available at https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalumba_joel_ego/3576896132/in/photolist-56ocL5-7oDDPa-6gRLMm-6s5wAY-7nP2w9-4BXPXg-5mzCdD-7oHuY7-9pbnFd-8ewMMo-6ANcgF-6ASn8d-6ASn5f-6ARpZ7-7nPwRQ-7nKzag-7nKzAt-7nPwVf-7nK8Pe-7nKzsv-6ANcpt-7oHxLm-7nQ6zy-7nLdCt-7nLcTa-7nP2yC-7nP2u9-7nK8Hx-7nP2DL-7nQ5ss-7nQ6ow-7nQ7jS-7nLcHk-7nQ75L-7nK8L2-7nPxah-7nPwYL-7nKD3M-7nKCKD-7nPtib-7nPwGd under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Full terms at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0.
Delorme, N 2014, ‘Were Women Really Underrepresented in Media Coverage of Summer Olympic Games (1984–2008)? An Invitation to Open a Methodological Discussion Regarding Sex Equity in Sports Media’, Mass Communication & Society, 17, 1, pp. 121-147
Jakubowska, H 2014, ‘Gender verification in sport as a surveillance practice: An inside and outside perception’, Surveillance & Society, 11, 4, pp. 454-465
Nezlek, J, Krohn, W, Wilson, D, & Maruskin, L 2015, ‘Gender Differences in Reactions to the Sexualization of Athletes’, Journal Of Social Psychology, 155, 1, pp. 1-11.
For more fun video’s, ESPN have released a ‘Nine for IX’ series about women in sports, as well as releasing some short movies. You can find some of those here!