Has anything really changed? Analysing the relationship of Women’s Sport and the media

In the fourth blog we explore the relationship between women’s sport and the media to fully investigate if the relationship has changed over the years from the once toxic relationship they used to have.

The relationship between Women’s sport and the media has always been a rocky relationship. From women not being allowed to participate in sport due to being labelled too fragile to being sexualised on social media platforms. A previous example of the sexualisation of women in sport can be seen below. The left picture demonstrates how the male athlete is in his full uniform and it is apparent to the reader what sport they partake in, whereas the right photo of the women in the swimsuit shows off her body and doesn’t have any resemblance to sport. Within Eveleth (2013) research it was established that women appear on less than 5% of Sport Illustrated Covers, illustrating the divide between women’s sport representation in the media in comparison to men’s sport representation.

It has been documented that the media can easily influence and control society’s beliefs. Previous research has indicated that within traditional print press media would comment and focus on the appearance of the women rather than their ability and skills (Trolan 2013). Factors including a women’s hairstyle or makeup would be headline news within the media whereas male athletes would be praised on their strength and physical skills. The most infuriating factor for me personally from a females perspective is when male athletes make a mistake it would be displayed as bad luck within the media whereas if a female athlete made a mistake it would be blamed on emotional influences or lack of ability. Therefore, it can be interpreted the construction of these stereotypes are a result of the media demonstrating once again the rocky relationship between the media and women’s sport.

Aforementioned in previous blog posts, radios became popular in the 1920s and the new form of broadcast allowed for sport experts to become commentators. Even though women’s sport was heavily underrepresented by the radio, in the 1930’s BBC radio featured a small number of female commentators which was a huge step within the relationship between media and women’s sport. This was the introduction of the normalisation of women participating in competitive sport and fast forwarding to the present day the media and women’s sport do possess a better relationship. For example, as seen below, the Women’s England Football team won the Women’s Euro 2022 Tournament, the media reaction to this was significantly positive with headlines and front pages praising the Lionesses for their deserved success.

However, even with the roaring success there was still hidden criticism within the media towards the lionesses win as displayed below. Within the Daily Express the first statement regarding their success is “Can you believe it?” this suggests that no one thought that the women’s team were capable or had the ability to go on and win the tournament. If we compare this to the media following the Men’s Euros Final lose it was a different attitude blaming the “Cheating Italians” instead of the fact that on the day the Men’s England team didn’t perform well enough to win. Once again, demonstrating how the media display men’s and women’s sport victories and loses to a different standard demonstrating the continued unfair portrayal of women’s sport within the media. Thus, there is still a clear rocky relationship between women’s sport and media.

As the world has become more digitalised, the traditional forms of media have been less prominent in broadcasting sport allowing the take over from social media and broadcasting platforms. What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below!

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