Women in sports Essay
Women in sports
With this theoretical standpoint, we can now begin to better understand the representation of women in sports. Firstly, it is important to mention that no single force, other than the mass media of modern times, has been so effective at the selective representation of reality. Fink and Kensicki (2002) maintain that the media acts as the power structure behind the way the public not only perceives reality, but also which portions of events are important or not. In this sense, the media work at “constructing feminism,” through the over usage of female athletes as marketing tools for a patriarchal focused audience.
Kane and Greendorfer (1994) go on to state: “The mass media have been used as one means of resisting ideological change, as media practices, production, content and messages continue to perpetuate notions of sexual difference, gender difference, and gender hierarchy. The media have transformed the meanings of women’s physicality—women becoming active agents with and of their own bodies and women using their bodies in skilled, physical activity to commodification, sexuality and femininity. ” (p. 40)
The success of female athletes in international events during the 1990’s sparked new hope among proponents for gender quality within the sports arena. Unfortunately, studies have shown that coverage of female athletes is usually based on a comparison to men, or on information that is irrelevant to the actual sport itself, including personal information. Female athletes were portrayed by the media in roles of hyper-femininity, up playing their physical and social attributes, while downplaying their actually sporting merit.
Blinder et al. (1991) conceptualized this inequality in sports as a “system of social practices based on two symbolic assumptions”—first, that the human body serves as a tool of power and second, that “the social construction of the human body is gendered” (p. 109). In this sense, we can see how sports have provided an excellent arena for the further oppression and use of power over women. We can also see how this paradigm further empathizes the “ideological hegemony of male superiority. ” (Fink and Kensicki 2002) A recent article By Kristen Allbritton discusses the subject, stating that:
“Women have been, more and more, entering spheres that were primarily men’s spheres,” said Margaret Duncan of the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, nearly 40 percent of all sports spectators are currently women, although they spend more time watching men’s sports events than women’s. Women in the athletic world can be role models for young girls participating in sports. However, said Duncan, “It’s probably not very healthy for girls to be sexualized, and for them to grow up thinking their value lies in their attractiveness.
” This sexualization has been characteristic of magazine coverage for many years, and it will not change overnight, but sociologists and women’s sports foundations are working to raise awareness of it and, in time, to produce change. ” (pg . 1) Sports magazines directed towards women have worked to actually further the construction of femininity within women’s sports. An analysis of Sports Illustrated for Women found that women were still portrayed in more passive roles, emphasizing articles on non-sports related material, and focusing on sexually suggestive female attributes.
Simply put, women’s sports, even in women-focused media outlets, still work with ambivalence to further entrench the patriarchal hegemony and the creation of women in a role that consistently trivialize the experience of women in the sports arena. And yet, despite the success of female athletes in the sporting arena, both in the professional and non-professional realm, little gains have been made for these women in regard to how they are depicted within the media.
More and more we can see bow female athletes, much like female singer-songwriters, are becoming trivialized as nothing more than the latest sex symbols for the tabloids. Mulvey, in “The Male Gaze,” supports this idea, seeing the male gaze as the undercurrent of all female portraits, whether we are speaking of cinema, television, women’s sports news or any other visual representation. This is yet another metaphor for the deeply steeped male hegemony that is prevalent in the portrayal of women.
University/College: University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 18 May 2017
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