Name: Andrew Shaw
Number: n 8310319
Tutor: Dr. Katie Page

"With the miniscule coverage that women’s sport receives in the media, it is little wonder that young women struggle to find female role models to look up to." Netball Australia

Cultural Artefact


This picture was featured in the Daily Mail Online on the 24th of May 2010, in an article titled “Ooh la la! Venus Williams reveals a little too much in lacy burlesque dress at French Open” It illustrates Venus Williams, a professional tennis player wearing a lacy dress which she designed. Her underwear is skin coloured and gives people the perception that she is not wearing any underwear at all. Ms Williams is actually wearing underwear, but it has been designed to be the same colour as her skin. This outfit, according to spectators, could be mistaken as negligee from a burlesque troop at the Moulin Rouge.

Public Health Issue

There is evidence to suggest that diseases such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, and depression can be reduced with regular physical activity (Warburton, 2006). Physical inactivity, according to a Medibank Private Health Insurance company, accounts for roughly 719 million dollars worth of insurance claims. Direct mortality costs of physical activity were found in 2008 to be roughly 3.8 billion dollars for that year (Medibank, 2008). The National Heart Foundation has stated that the majority of Australian women are not physically active enough to obtain any real health benefits. (National Heart Foundation, 2008) According to a recent survey, more then half of Australian women aged 18-75 are not reaching the recommended levels of physical activity (National Heart Foundation, 2008). With the lack of female role models on TV, this potentially could lead to a decrease in physical activity, and an increase in the prevalence of these diseases.

Literature Review
According to available data, women’s sport does not receive equal media attention to men’s sport. There is a divide in the time devoted to each gender in sport. According to the Federal Minister for Sport and Recreation, Ms Kate Ellis MP, women’s sports makes up only 9% of all sports coverage in News and Current affairs (Federal Sport and Recreation Minister Kate Ellis, 2010). Furthermore, to outline this divide in sports media, horse racing, a sport that could be considered neutral gender, makes up 10% of this time. This means that men's sport is covered for 81% of the time. Data gathered by An Illusory Image suggests newspaper coverage for women’s sport in the sports section is roughly around 10.7 per cent. Also, only 2 per cent of TV coverage was for women's sport, almost exclusively non-commercial networks have carried this out. Within the ABC, 44% of sport time is devoted to women’s sport (Phillips, 1996).

Recent research has suggested that women’s sport is currently entrenched in a cycle. This cycle was described in an inquiry into women’s sport by the Australian government, which found that there is lower standard of funding towards women’s sport, leading to poor infrastructure and overall low levels of interest from the general public. (Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, 2006). It has also been suggested that the low level of interest in women’s sport results in low media and sponsorship coverage of women’s sport. For example, consider Australian soccer where Sydney Football Club holds the highest attendance for women’s soccer. In the grand final of the 2010-2011 Women’s season, there were 1872 spectators. When we compare this with the recent A-League men’s grand final, where the attendance figure was 50,168, it is easy to see how these figures lead to lower sponsorship levels in Women’s sport. So it is fair to assume that notwithstanding several high profile exceptions such as Samantha Stosur winning Wimbledon, women’s sport receives less exposure than an equivalent men’s sport.

A number of researchers have outlined the need for positive female role models within a developing girls life. Role models can be pertinent, particularly for adolescent girls since this time is the prime period in which exploring one’s identity and development occurs. It has even been suggested that the presence of strong visible female role models makes young women more likely to express an intention to engage in the activity to which their role model participates in (Campbell, 2006). A study by Vesico in 2005 found that only a small percentage of high school girls (8.4%) in high schools in Sydney have a sports person as their role model (Vescio, 2005). Given this low figure, the question then arises; where are girls obtaining their role models? Research has suggested that these girls were choosing their role models from their family members or celebrities in the wider public (Tiggemann, 2006).

A report by the Australian governments Sports Commission has suggested that in order for women to appear on the news, they need to win. By comparison, males will get reported regardless of success (Australian Sports Commission, 2010). An example of this is professional women’s golf, where at the current time we have two players in the top 20, but they have relatively little or no media attention. Whereas in the men’s circuit, they will broadcast on the news most events regardless of where people placed. With report findings and real life examples such as this, it is understandable why these girls from the Sydney high schools had such low percentages for their sporting role models. How are women meant to become role models if there are not readily appearing on the news and TV channels? The research report by the Australian Sports Commission has made it even more pertinent to investigate such an issue, as it is important for girls to play sport and stay physically active.

The mass media pervades the everyday lives of people via TV, movies, the internet and magazines. A study by Tiggermann (2006) analysed the portrayal of women's magazines and television, a clear preference for young, tall, and extremely thin women was evident in this media. With such highly valued qualities it is not surprising that girls are taking their role models from celebrities who are frequently within the media, potentially leading to a decrease in physical activity. Several studies conclude that more often then not come to the conclusion that striving for thinness can often make it less attainable to achieve a healthy body size (Daniels, 2009).

One methodological issue raised from this type of study design is that it often confuses thinness with attractiveness. This is because they often show women who are both thin and seen as attractive, or alternatively they will show women who are of a larger nature and seen as unattractive. This can make it hard to find a relationship between just thinness withholding the variable of attractiveness (Howard, 2004).

Evidence within younger women and this issue makes it easier to believe that professional sports women of today have to sexualize their own sports in order to gain media attention. With frequent pictures appearing in Sports Illustrated and other magazines, people become more accustomed to seeing women taking off clothes and sexualizing sports. The question then has to be asked - does this sexualisation impede on how the sport is perceived?

The media has a large impact in the way girls and boys behave. More importantly the media can be influential in what children try to aspire to (Strasburger, 2010). When girls grow up watching TV where there is not a vast amount of women’s sport shown, why would they want to model the behaviors of sports people when they cannot overly relate to them? By contrast, boys often grow up watching their favourite sports and their favourite sports stars performing. They can feel easily excited by the hype surrounding the sport and want to participate in this sport. We can then expect the low figures in participation of sport by girls and women to stay the same and even decrease if there is no media attention given to women.

Social and Cultural Analysis

As can be witnessed in the literature that is presented above, the current sociological and cultural norms that are presented play a large role in determining what type of sports are shown on TV. Changes in society such as women’s rights due to feminism and Title 1X from the US, have led to an increase in women’s sport being aired in the media. Title 1X is a piece of legislation that has affected all western societies; it prohibits any sexual discrimination towards women’s sports in schools. It has been used to promote equality in education by making sure that women receive equal resources and funding. In contrast, there have been some minimal increases in media attention, but theses still pale in comparison when compared with their male counterparts. An example of this is on Fox Sports News where male sports figures dominate the headlines regardless of their success.

The coverage of female athletes and women’s sports is still not improving at the same rate that participation is. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 66% of women perform some form of physical activity, but as mentioned in the literature, only 9% of news broadcasting time is devoted to women. Why such a difference? Potentially this can come down to what sports have been deemed socially and culturally acceptable.

The effect of this issue is not just seen in Australia but in any country where both men and women play sport. Historically, men have had the advantage when it comes to which sport is played on TV or discussed in the sports section of Newspapers. As more and more girls now participate in sports, certain sports have been deemed more sociably acceptable to participate in. Traditionally these have been sports such as tennis, gymnastics and swimming. These were considered socially acceptable because they were, on the whole, all individual and lacked the physicality of team sports. Men’s sports on the other hand are dominated by team-oriented sports such as football and cricket, and are about control and power. As well as the issue of physical power in sports such as tennis, girls are now competing against each other when it comes to beauty. By competing against each other, they can gain that extra media time by being talked about on TV.

Globalization naturally occurs over time, and within the field of sports, it has involved a process of striving for an increased corporate profit, and trying to achieve what is most popular within the global media’s audience. Such is the power of global television that sporting events are now being made more audience friendly (Stevenson, 2002). An example of this is in grand slam tennis, where in more recent times there has been pressure to reduce the game from five sets to three so that it is more television friendly.

Reflection and analysis

After undertaking this literature review and understanding a little bit more about the social and cultural changes over time, it has surprised me at how common the sexualization of sport is within our society. This picture seems to represent where women’s sport has been heading and where it is heading in the future. Sport is now evolving into something that is extremely marketable, and it is all about who can achieve the most amount of profit. With an outfit such as the one shown at the beginning of this paper, Venus Williams is gaining media attention based on sensationalism.

This outfit had varying types of media attention, and I remember watching a story about it on Channel Nine News. They did not mention the game played, just what Ms Williams was wearing. This picture is a particularly good artifact because it depicts the sexualization of sport. It can be argued that Venus has specifically designed her dress so that she can gain this type of attention. After much review of the literature, I have realized that this is a valuable artifact to analyze, as it illustrates a sports person trying to exploit her body to gain the attention of the media.

As a result of this assessment I have come to learn that our culture and society need to focus more on the actual sport being played, and not what the participants are wearing, or not wearing. It was disturbing for me to discover that this type of media attention (SEX) may be needed in order to attain the attention of the younger viewers. As mentioned above, role models are extremely important in an adolescents’ life. Without a positive role model, young girls may not strive for their best or aim to participate in physical activity, particularly team sports. With the figures from the Sydney High School, it makes it harder to imagine this trend of low physical activity improving, as only 8.4% of girls said a sporting person was their role model.


My Discussion (Reflection Task)

Page: Girls and women in Sport
"This is a very interesting wiki and you made some good points about younger girls in sport. I particularly agree with the point you made about 'mannish' sports. I can see how they would be a deterrent for younger girls who are interested in these sports. I can also see how the cultural pressures that are placed on sports impact how willing younger girls are to participate in a sport that is seen as male dominated."

Page: Running Like a Girl - Women in Sport
" This was a very interesting wiki. I thought the term that you used “sex sells” was very appropriate for where sports is heading. The fact that, in order for women to attain media exposure they are having to wear reveling and sometimes inappropriate clothing. I also thought that the example of volleyball was a very appropriate example. This is because when I looked up beach volleyball in Google images the first picture that was shown was women dancing on the beach in bikinis. I found it quite interesting that sports is so focused on sponsorship and because of this it is no longer good enough to be excellent at your chosen sport, you have to be attractive in order to gain media attention. This also brings up conflict when it comes to whether this type of exposure is good for the younger audience. Role models are important for guiding girls to success. However is a role model who sexualizes their body in order to gain media attention something that we want younger girls witnessing?"

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2009). Feature Article 3: Women in Sport. Retrieved from

Australian sports commission, (2010) New report reveals poor coverage of women in sport. Australian govrnment.

Campbell, D. E (2006). "See Jane run: Women politicians as role models for adolescents". The Journal of politics , 68 (2), p. 233. DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2508.2006.00402.x

Daniels, E A (2011). "Athlete or Sex Symbol: What Boys Think of Media Representations of Female Athletes". Sex roles, 65 (7), p. 566. DOI 10.1007/s11199-011-9959-7

Daniels, E A (01/01/2009). "Sex Objects, Athletes, and Sexy Athletes: How Media Representations of Women Athletes Can Impact Adolescent Girls and College Women". Journal of adolescent research , 24 (4), p. 399 DOI: 10.1177/0743558409336748

Environment, Communications, Information Technology and the Arts References Committee, (2006). Women in sport and recreation in Australia, Canberra, ACT. The Senate, Commonwealth of Australia 2006.

Federal Sport and Recreation Minister Kate Ellis,Department of Sport and Recreation, Government of WA (2010) Retrieved from the department of Sports and Recreation Website.

Howard, S (2004). "Thin-ideal internalization and social comparison tendency as moderators of media models' impact on women's body - Focused anxiety". Journal of social and clinical psychology, 23 (6), p. 768. Retrieved from http://gateway­.library­.qut­.edu­.au/login­?url=http://proquest­.umi­.com­.ezp01­.library­.qut­.edu­.au/pqdweb­?did=780801201­&Fmt=7­&clientId=14394­&RQT=309­&VName=PQD

National Heart Foundation. (2008), Record of proceedings (Hansard). Retrieved from

Phillips, M (1996) An Illusory Image: A Report on the Media Coverage and Portrayal of Women's Sport in Australia, Australian Sports Commission, Canberra.

Stevenson, D(2002). "Women, Sport, and Globalization". Journal of sport and social issues, 26(2), p.209. DOI: 10.1177/0193723502262006

Strasburger, V(2010). "Health effects of media on children and adolescents". Pediatrics (Evanston), 125(4), p.756. doi: 10.1542/peds.2009-2563

Tanner, W. (2011) Marginalization and Trivialization of Female Athletes and Women’s Sports through Commentator Discourse, A Study of ESPN’s SportsCenter. A Capstone Project: 2011 Retrieved from

Tiggemann, M (2006). "The role of media exposure in adolescent girls' body dissatisfaction and drive for thinness: Prospective results". Journal of social and clinical psychology , 25 (5), p. 523. Retrieved from
The cost of physical activity: October 2008. (2008) Medibank Private Limited. Docklands, Vic.

Vescio, J. Wilde, K,. Janice J. Crosswhite (2005). "Profiling Sport Role Models to Enhance Initiatives for Adolescent Girls in Physical Education and Sport". European physical education review, 11 (2), p. 153. doi: 10.1177/1356336X05052894