Name: Mitchell Hart
Student Number: 08323739
Tutor: Michelle Newcomb

How Equitable is the playing field when it comes to Women in sport?
Because I am a woman, I must make unusual efforts to succeed. If I fail, no one will say, "She doesn't have what it takes." They will say, "Women don't have what it takes." ~Clare Boothe Luce


The above are two separate covers of the popular American magazine, Sports Illustrated. The one on the left, Depicts Lance Armstrong in a powerful, imposing position stating he is “ready to win his 6th Tour de France and he’s angry… BRING IT ON.” The second, the one on the right, shows Ana Ivanovic half naked holding her breasts with the title reading “Beauties of Sport.” These covers portray two very different representations of two very serious athletes.

Public Health Issue
The inequality between the sexes when it come to sport is quite disturbing, you don’t have to look very far to see the huge difference in representations between male and female athletes. The media, has perhaps the largest influence on how society views and thinks about female athletes compared to male athletes. With minimal air time, lack of funding or major sponsors and next to no general backing from the public female sports and athletes are pushed to the side to make way for the male sports and ‘champions’ of these sports.
Literature Review
The sporting arena has traditionally always been seen as a place for Men, with Female sports and athletes often being pushed to the side or ridiculed for being too masculine. A survey conducted in New Zealand found that 76% of women aged 12 to 18 reported that they had received some form of discrimination about their sporting prowess due to their sex (Boock, 2008). Boock, also writes that he believes men tend to ogle rather than judge on sporting talent alone. This attitude that women that play sport are either too masculine or are just ‘sex symbols’ is perhaps most noticeable in the media with sporting magazines and programs. Often devoting time to male athletes and sports or female athletes in bikinis.

The General perception is that more males watch and follow sports than do females and therefore, in order to reach the target audience of males, sporting shows and sporting magazines need to show the most popular sports and aesthetically pleasing females. This is in the hope that they keep the stereotypical heterosexual male sports fan interested. According to Lumpkin, 2009, when reporting on females, the media often highlighted their physical attractiveness, sometimes using negative descriptors when commenting on their athletic abilities. Particularly in magazines, female athletes are depicted in inactive poses emphasising their body, whereas male athletes are portrayed in a strong, powerful, athletic manner.

Emphasising what the mass media believes to be ‘attractive’ or ‘beautiful;’ places unrealistic expectations of one’s self when it comes to body image. Everyone seems to want to emulate their favorite sports star when they see them sprawled across the pages of a magazine. A Study conducted by Baur (1989, as cited in Klomsten, Skaalvic & Espnes, 2004) concluded that girls and women concentrate, to a large extent on sports that further an aesthetic presentation of the body to conform to prevailing ideals of beauty. Some of these sports include, dancing and figure skating, both of which are individual sports. Which again, tend to be a focus of the media when it comes to female sports. The picture below depicts a Woman who is made up of many ‘ideal’ body parts from many different women. It is out to portray the way in which the media makes women feel they have to look to conform to the ‘norms’ of society and be considered ‘beautiful’. By only showing the thin, ‘good looking’ female athletes and models in sporting magazines this is a prime example of the affect the mass media can have in influencing culturally accepted forms of ‘beauty.’


One of the major problems outside the media that female athletes and women wanting to play sport face is that it is traditionally a male dominated area. Sporting teams have traditionally been established, coached, managed and reported on by males (Lumpkin, 2009). This makes it very challenging for females to get a great sense of belonging in the sporting world as majority of female team sports are still dominated by male coaches (Lumpkin, 2009).

As well as being portrayed as sex symbols by the media, women are also treated differently by large corporations and sponsors. Men get paid, by comparison, up to 140 times more than women in some sports (basketball). (Lea-Ann Schell, 2000). Female Athletes are just as committed and dedicated to their individual sports, putting as much blood, sweat and tears into their profession yet the men are taken far more seriously. In advertising and sponsorship women are still categorised and only advertise the ‘weaker’ more ‘feminine’ sports. A study carried out by (Cuneen & Claussen, 1999) found that women were used to advertise sports such as aerobics, golf tennis and volleyball. Whereas men were used to advertise sports such as football, basketball and baseball, these are typically more masculine sports. The only time both men and women were used was to advertise golf, tennis and track and field. None of these sports require any contact and are seen to be, less masculine in some areas.

The athletes aren’t the only females that are marginalised by the media when it comes to sports. Commentators and media personnel are largely male and females are often ridiculed and jeered when given the role of commentating on a game. Some people even going as far as to say they would ‘prefer it if they called the game naked’. And ‘they should never have been given the chance.’ (Wilson, 2011) There is even a Facebook group ‘Join if you think women football commentators just don’t sound right.’ Again, this is the oppinion of the stereotypical heterosexual male sports fan, referred to by Wilson, 2011, as 'yobbos.'

There is an underlying fear in society that participating in sports will encourage homosexuality or even convert female athletes into lesbians and prevent them from fulfilling their stereotypical domestic and maternal roles (Knight & Giuliano, 2003).Some magazines focusing more on the home lives of female athletes rather than the sporting achievements or upcoming competitions. They instead used pictures of their husbands, boyfriends, and children to try and portray that female athletes adhere to the hegemonic standards of femininity and are clearly heterosexual (Knight & Giuliano, 2003).

The idea that women playing sport automatically makes them a lesbian is absurd. Women have the same rights as men in every aspect of society due to the hard work of feminists in the past. The only place where there is still a huge form of accepted sexism is when there is anything to do with sport involved. This is a rather sad indictment on hat is a very large aspect of, particularly Australian Culture.

Cultural and Social Analysis
As a Society, we encourage specific gender roles for boys and girls from a very young age, with boys being encouraged to do things such as playing with trucks, whereas girls were encouraged to play with dolls. Even parents are more likely to treat male and female infants in ways consistent with how they view the sexes (Klomsten, Skaalvik, & Espnes, 2004). According to (Bray, 1988) the close association of physicality with masculinity but not with femininity has been promoted by glorifying male participation but not female participation in sport. Sexism, and the issue of feminism in sporting teams and codes have been blurred as women with great sporting ability tend to be labelled as masculine or not as feminine, even are going as far to be labelled as lesbians (Lea-Ann Schell, 2000)

With the mass media attempting to sexualise female sports rather than focus solely on sporting ability it’s no wonder the general public struggle to take female athletes seriously. An Article in, 2008, suggests a few ways to improve women’s sport. 1. Hot women. 2. A Ball. 3. Body Paint. The overall attitude behind this article is that women’s sport is not as good to watch as men’s sport as they aren’t as aggressive or skillful. By painting the bare skin of ‘hot’ women and letting them loose to chase after a ball who cares how skillful or aggressive they are, that’s not what people will then be watching. The distinct lack of prominent female figures in sport, both on and of the sporting field means that the opinions and views of women and sport are quite often marginalised, if not completely silenced.

Men, in particular, white men seem to dominate in numbers on the sporting field, in the media, on the board of directors and as owners of sporting teams and franchises, even of female sporting teams. Therefore, it is the opinions of these men that influence female sport rather than the women themselves. Take the Lingerie football League in America, founded by a man named Mitchell Mortaza. The athletes play full contact football wearing nothing but lingerie and helmets. One of the athletes, Jessica Hopkins, wishes Maybe one day, girls won't have to wear lingerie to get people interested (Mosley, 2011). When the athletes wear lingerie to play and not just for photo shoots, there is a few massive problems with how society view female athletes. Another athletes love of the game outways what she thinks about wearing lingerie to play stating, I just appreciate playing football, I don’t care what they put me in(Smith, 2011)

The above picture is a promo for the 2009 Lingerie Footbal League Season. The athletes are in their UNIFORMS… The same ones worn during a game….

Women love sport as much, if not more than men do. They love watching, playing and coaching, so why then do women have to be wearing as little clothing as possible to be noticed as athletes. They days of men being superior and controlling what women do are over. So why is it still prevalent in sport?
Artefact Analysis
The way in which these two athletes are portrayed give the readers very different perceptions about them, they evoke very different emotions. Their interpretation of Lance Armstrong is likely to be that he is a man of action and will stop at nothing to get what he wants. Whereas, looking at the Ana Ivanovic cover the public see a tennis player that has a good body. The ultra sexualisation of female athletes seems to negate their sporting ability, with more emphasis being placed on whether or not a female sports person is ‘sexy’ rather than good at their chosen profession. As stated by (Klomsten, Skaalvik, & Espnes, 2004) the media touts the importance of attractiveness in the form of physical features and clothing, and glamorize popular roles models one should emulate. In that same study they found that the images young people see in the media led to increased body dissatisfaction as well as decreased confidence (Klomsten, Skaalvik, & Espnes, 2004). The media has a lot to answer for when it comes to its representation of females, in particular female athletes. They get pushed to the side if they aren’t what the media sees as attractive and glamorised and sexualised to the extreme if they are attractive, regardless of how successful or how good a role model they are.

Boock, R. (2008). Sport: the last bastion of sexism. New Zealand: Sunday Star Times.

Bray, C. (1988). Sport and Social Change: Social Feminist theory. Journal of Physical Education, Sport and Dance , 59 (6), 50-54.

Cuneen, J., & Claussen, C. (1999). Gender Portrayals in Sports-Product Point-of-Purchase Advertising. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal , 8 (2), 73.

Join if you think women football commentators just dont sound right. (2011). Retrieved October 31, 2011, from!/pages/Join-if-you-think-women-football-commentators-just-dont-sound-right/320848948629

Klomsten, A., Skaalvik, E., & Espnes, G. (2004). Physical self concept and Sport: Do Gender Differences Still Exist? Sex Roles , 50 (1/2), 119-126.

Knight, J., & Giuliano, T. (2003). Blood, Sweat and Jeers: The Impact of the Medias Heterosexist Portrayals on Perceptions on Male and Female Athletes. Journal of Sport Behaviour , 26 (3), 272-284.

Lea-Ann Schell, S. R. (2000). Our Sporting Sisters: How male hegemony stratifies women in sport. Women in sport and Physical activity Journal , 9 (1), 15.

Lumpkin, A. (2009). Female Representation in Feature Articles Published by Sports Illustrated in the 1990s. Women in Sport and Physical Activity journal , 18 (2), 38-50.

Mosley, T. (2011, October 20). Lingerie Football League wants to start a Youth League. King 5 News . (2008, july). Retrieved october 29, 2011, from Nox:

Smith, E. (2011, March 28). If NFL Stikes, Lingerie Football will be the only game in town. The Blaze .

Wilson, R. (2011, january 22). Channel 10 Gives in to Yobbos. The Daily Telegraph .

Learning Engagement and Reflection

An Equal Playing Field for Women and Girls.

I enjoyed reading this as it was a similar topic to the one i did from a different angle.I really like how you likened women in sport to black people in sport. I Thought this was a very accurate connection and similarity to the way women are marginalised. As was the part about the treatment of Men who are seen to play traditionally 'feminie' sports and Women who play traditionally 'masculine' sports. Well Done!

Athlete or Sex Symbol?

Whilst reading your Wiki, I was really surprised to learn that female sports only started surpassing sports with animals in them during 1992. This is a really alarming statistic. I agree with your overall vibe that women are too sexualised by the media. I also like the very last sentence in the Personal reflection where you say by willingly objectifying their bodies; female athletes are reinforcing the system of male domination. This is an excellent statement. But as the Matilda’s player says, they have to do something to raise the profile of the sport. I just think it’s sad that it is this. Well written, I enjoyed reading it.