The media has the power to dictate the way that a woman will be acknowledged. Female athletes are generally recognized when their stereotypical roles and body are being used in pleasing ways. Often, women are accepted by the public for their athleticism when the sport is more feminine than those women who participate in more masculine sports.
Female athletes are underrepresented by the media. Significantly more headlines can be found to be related to the performance of male athletes and significantly more photographs can be found published of male athletes. Newspaper coverage of female athletes can be found to emphasize their femininity (George, Hartley, & Paris, 2001) not their athletic ability. Women’s athletic achievements are often considered less newsworthy by both the press and television companies. At times the media appears to be giving the audience the impression that women’s sports are less competitive, exciting, and interesting than men’s sports. Reporters are the gatekeepers of information and they have the power to portray female athletes more positively.
Endorsement deals for athletes are also dominated by male athletes and female athletes are often portrayed for their beauty. Male athletes are also obtaining the high paying endorsement deals and monopolizing the media exposure in the marketing area of product endorsement (Veltri & Long, 1998 ). However, corporate America can not ignore the fact that there is room in the marketplace for the female athlete.
Society tells us that boys are the athletic ones and girls are beautiful. However, more and more women are making a living for athletic ability, most of the time because they are a beautiful athlete. Women athletes have made huge strides since Title IX but there is still room for improvement. The media coverage of female athletes needs to change for all the young girls who look up to these female athletes as role models and the mass media needs to take a more active role and cover male and female sports equally. However, many do not see this changing. USA Today columnist and part-time ESPN Commentator Christine Brennan believes there is a different underlying reason behind the network’s (ESPN) coverage decisions and does not expect things to change anytime soon (Williamson, 2003). She said simply, “It’s a boy’s club. They don’t care.”
I believe Christine Brennan is correct and that media coverage of female athletes is not going to change anytime soon. Sports are a boys club and the majority of viewers are male. This makes it hard for networks to change the content of their programs, for endoresers to chose female athetles over male athletes and for photographers to change the way they photograph female athletes. Young women can continue to make stride and push the issue that female athletes are important and worth the coverage.