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Female Athletes Scrutinized For Their Appearance

1767 words - 8 pages

Title IX was passed in 1972 and according to the Women’s Sports Foundation, as of 2011, women make up 38-42 percent of all sport and physical activity participants. Yet, research shows that women receive only 6-8 percent of the total sports coverage. A double standard is defined as a set of principles that allows greater freedom to one person or group than to another. (dictionary.com) In athletics, women are judged more on their appearances and their non-sport related activities, than their male counterparts who are judged primarily on their skills and performances. Female athletes are scrutinized based on their appearances more than their skills and athletic performances in the media.
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The researchers analyzed three TV sports networks in Los Angeles, KCBS, KNBS, and KABC. The study covered 236 sports news broadcasts that covered 17 hours of airtime. The research also covered three weeks of ESPN’s “Sports Center” that included 21 broadcasts. “The researchers found that: on the three network affiliates, men’s sports received 91 percent of the airtime, women’s sports got 6 percent and gender neutral topics got 2 percent.” (“Coverage of Women’s Sports at Standstill”) The study revealed that there was not major change in the quantity of women’s coverage, but the quality has changed. The researchers believed that the media coverage of female athletes is now more secretive, than it was in previous years. Women’s National Basketball Association has a summer season which is shorter than the National Basketball Association season. Because of this fewer games are televised and the players make less than their male counterparts. On magazine covers, male athletes are usually shown as skillful athletes, posing as athletes in their environment. On the other hand, female athletes are usually shown in provocative poses and over-sexualized, outside of their athletic environment. Donna Lopiano of Sports Management Resources comments that, “Girls also see a double standard in covering women’s sports. When male athletes receive media attention, such coverage is primarily focused on their skills and performance. When female athletes receive media attention, the media is much more likely to focus on their physical attractiveness or non-sport-related activities.”
According to dictionary.com, to feminize means “to make or become feminine” and feminine is defined as, “having qualities traditionally ascribed to women, as sensitivity or gentleness.” To be over-sexualized means to be over endowed with sexual characteristics. Both over-feminized and over-sexualized are accurate words used to describe female athletes in the media. Most female athletes are identified as “women first and athletes second.” Because of the over-sexualization of female athletes in the media such as Maria Sharapova, being portrayed as an over-feminine athlete is considered the only way the stay relevant in the sports world and in society. The most successful (well-known) female athletes in the media are often over-feminized and over-sexualized. Female athletes are just seen as over-sexualized women modeling clothes or equipment for a sports brand rather than skillful athletes. In magazine cover and internet articles, the term “athletes” is taken away and only the term “female” is left.
The way female athletes are portrayed in the media results in unattainable standards that viewers try to live by which also leads to lower self-esteem of female viewers. Female viewers are divided by arguing whether it is okay for women to be portrayed as sexual objects. This affects viewers by allowing them to only see the non-professional part of female athletes. The women portrayed in...

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