Within todays sporting community, certain aspects of sport and its practices promote and construct ideas that sport in general is a male dominated. Sports media often provides an unequal representation of genders. Women athletes are regularly perceived as mediocre in comparison to their male equivalents (Lenskyj, 1998). Achievement in sport is generally established through displays of strength, speed and endurance, men usually set the standards in these areas, consequently woman rarely reach the level set by top male athletes. Due to this, the media significantly shows bias towards male sports while we are ill-informed about the achievements in the female sporting community. On the occasion that a female athlete does make some form of an appearance in the media, images and videos used will usually portray the female in sexually objectified ways (Daniels & Wartena, 2011). This depiction of female athletes can cause males to take focus solely on the sexual assets of the athlete in preference to to their sporting abilities (Daniels & Wartena, 2011). Sexualisation of sportswoman in the media is a prevalent issue in today’s society, it can cause physical, social and mental problems among women of all ages (Lenskyj, 1998).
Female athletes, unlike males, are not always portrayed exclusively as performance athletes, instead attention is placed on sex appeal usually overshadowing their on-field accomplishments. Unfortunately female sports, like male sports, are directed primarily to a male audience, the media commonly use marketing techniques which involve sexualisation of the female bodies under a male gaze (Bremner, 2002). The idea that “sex sells” is used to generate viewers and followers of female sport.
Ashley Harkleroad is an American born professional tennis player who turned pro in early 2000. Harkleroad was not a well-known athlete yet she made a name for herself by appearing on the cover of perhaps the most recognized pornographic magazine in the world, “Playboy”.
The impact Harkleroad’s photo shoot had on her popularity is evident in the above Image collected form google trends (Google.co.nz, 2014). The image shows the influx in attention received by Harkleroad in the months following her participation the Playboy magazine. Harkleroad’s situation complicates the idea that sexualisation of female athletes is caused by the media as she consented to use the publication as a form of marketing and a way to increase publicity and endorsements. However, pressure to expose her body sexually was imposed by the media through the medias emphasis on how women’s bodies appear to be more important than what they can achieve (Harrison & Fredrickson 2003).
Harkleroad’s highest ranking in her career was a forgettable 39th (Women's Tennis Association, 2014) and she never won a single grand slam title. If it wasn’t for her involvement with Playboy Harkleroad would simply be another overlooked good tennis player. Harkleroad’s biggest payday did not comprise...