Boob Tube: Media Coverage of Female Athletes
The 2012 London Olympics, hailed as the “Women’s Games,” have been praised as having achieved near gender equality in terms of participation of female athletes. This year for the first time, every participating country has a female athlete competing and women are competing in every single sport (as women’s boxing has finally been included).
I want to be happy about this apparent step in the right direction for woman in sports. Progress is progress, right?
Still though, outside of the Olympics, major television networks (like NBC, heard of it?) would neeeever be airing women’s sports. As soon as the olympics are over, female athletes will return to their second-class status where they fight to earn liveable salaries, rarely achieve sponsorship deals, and are generally ignored.
Who can name a single WNBA player? Who can’t name Miami Heat’s “the big three,” or whatever? So where does all the money, fame and attention showered on male athletes come from? It’s almost too duhhhh to say: media coverage.
It’s obviously really important how women and sports are portrayed in the media. Let’s do a quick roundup, starting with this year’s “Women’s Games.”
Allegedly, the most coveted tickets in London this summer were to Women’s Beach Volleyball games, a sport which has also gotten a ton of television and other media coverage. FEMINISM! oh wait…
That picture came from a men’s magazine along with an article entitled, “Which Olympic beach volleyball team have the nicest bums?”
Reputable sports website Bleacher Report felt that the relative sexiness of 25 female athletes not participating in the Olympics was newsworthy, even right in the middle of the games.
The mayor of London, Boris Johnson, wrote this regarding the Olympics:
As I write these words there are semi-naked women playing beach volleyball in the middle of the Horse Guards Parade immortalised by Canaletto. They are glistening like wet otters and the water is plashing off the brims of the spectators’ sou’westers. The whole thing is magnificent and bonkers.
Rob Ford should hang out with that guy.
Sadder still was the reaction of some of those athletes when interviewed about the draw of their skimpy outfits for spectators. As experienced female athletes, they are just grateful to have anyone paying attention at all.
Specifically, Canadian media is really doing its part to destroy any credibility women may have in the sports world. Do we all remember the embarrassing “women’s” show picked up by CBC.ca during the NHL playoffs: “While The Men Watch?” I’m not even going to link to it here, because it was so unbelievably sexist and negative that I can’t bear to draw any more attention to it than it already got. Google it if you have to.
The basic premise was that women can’t find sports interesting, but men definitely can and do. Since women should never pursue their own interests (duh!), we should instead focus on keeping ourselves entertained while “our men” watch hockey. That is, once dinner has been cooked and cleaned up, of course.
It was horrifying. Truly. I can’t talk about it anymore because it makes me angry.
It sure is easy to blame the media for everything, so I’m just going to go ahead and do that here. If mainstream television networks (and newspapers and magazines) could find a way to cover women’s sports with honest interest and effort, I really believe that fans would fall in line.
There are fans of a (very entertaining, but very silly) show called Storage Wars. I really think there would be fans of women’s sports.