In a nation where women make up nearly half of all sports, one would think that women’s sports would receive the same amount of coverage by the media. Yet in reality, they only receive about two to four percent of such coverage.
When women are given attention by the media, their athleticism is taken out of context. Reporters tend to ask questions regarding their physical attributes or their personal lives, not their skilled performances.
#CoverTheAthlete brings awareness to this issue with a video. The questions given to women athletes are tweaked to their male counterparts and include in their baffled reactions.
It starts off with Canadian ice hockey player Sidney Crosby being asked, “You [are] getting a lot of fans here. A lot of them are female, and they want to know: If you could date anyone in the world, who would you date?”
Throughout the video, the athletes range from Michael Phelps being asked about his love life to England soccer player Wayne Rooney “having to compensate” for small success in his athletic career because he does not have looks like David Beckham.
The last reaction came from NBA superstar Russell Westbrook, when he was asked to give a reporter a “twirl and tell [him] about his outfit.” At the end, Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard is given this question in real life.
The video poses the question, “Male sports coverage would never sound like this. How come female coverage does?”
The online campaign’s mission is to point out how, “sexist commentary, inappropriate interview questions, and articles focused on physical appearance not only trivializes a woman’s accomplishments, but also sends a message that her value is based on her looks, not her ability [and that] it is too much commonplace.”
By centering their attention on the looks of female athletes, the media fulfills an objectified perception of women. In magazines like the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue, women are often barely clothed on the covers and pose in a provocative manner.
In a study titled, “It’s Dude Time!” it noted the discernible disparity in ESPN’s SportsCenter commentary between men’s sports and those for women.
With men’s sports, the anchors of the show “consistently [deployed] vocal inflections, high-volume excitement, and evocative descriptors” in a “colorful” manner, but with women’s sports, they displayed their lack of enthusiasm by describing it in a “matter-of-fact” style.
The way female athletes are covered and the media falling short on women’s sports coverage sends a negative message to younger girls. These factors emphasize that not only do their looks overshadow their athletic abilities and aspirations, but that the sports world has little room for women.
But not all aspects of sports media coverage take female athleticism out of the equation. In the Tucker Center’s documentary titled “Media Coverage and Female Athletes,” this coverage has been reconciled by the WNBA’s most recent commercials and marketing campaigns, where they “portray female competence on court, in action at the most elite levels of competition.”
Nevertheless, #CoverTheAthlete encourages everyone to demand from their local news stations and major news networks “media coverage that focuses on the athlete,” which can bring sexist reporting to an end.