I wonder how many people thought of a sports man and how many thought of a sports women?
I’m going to presume you thought of a sports man and that’s probably because that’s what the media promotes the most. For example the August 2016 front cover of Vogue celebrating the upcoming Olympics featured Ashton Eaton (decathlete) and Gigi Hadid (supermodel). I know it’s a fashion magazine and hence the caption title “GOLD-MEDAL FASHION.” However as a fashion magazine for women why didn’t they decide to have Gigi alongside one of the many amazing female Olympic hopefuls? You can read more in Kerry Justich article about it on Yahoo style here.
It’s not just in the US this is happening. Looking back at the 2012 Olympic Games, the UK’s largest print advertising deal was done by Adidas with their “Take the stage” campaign commissioning 17 Metro cover illustrations. There were sports men and women covered, but looking through them it clear to see which one was more prominent. You can see them all here and below is the opening ceremony cover.
I’m probably noticing this more now I’ve been educated by reading Anna Kessel’s amazing book “EAT SWEAT PLAY.” In her own words “For too long society has led us to believe that women and sport don’t mix. While perspiration and ‘fitspiration’ have never been so hot, sport continues to be stubbornly cast as unfeminine.” With Anna’s experience as a sports writer for the Guardian and Observer and the chair and co-founder of Women in Football, she is speaking from a lot of experience.
With my own personal experiences I couldn’t agree with her more that for most women, sport or going to the gym is seen as something you have to do to keep in shape and look good. With women getting admiration for their bodies rather than their skills. Whereas while some male athletes may show off their perfect six packs, I see them getting more admiration for their achievements. This shouldn’t be right should it?! Maybe even more importantly what message is this sending to all the young girls. They should be doing sport because it’s fun and they are enjoying seeing what they can achieve. Not because they want to look good in a tiny dress.
When I think of amazing sports people, one of them is Serena Williams. With all her amazing achievements including now having reached her 22nd grand slam win equaling Steffi Graf’s record, after beating Elena Vesnina 6-2, 6-0 in just 48 minutes at the recent Wimbledon final. However, if a man had served three aces in their final game to win, I’m pretty sure there wouldn’t have been articles saying the match was boring and more about what a dominate champion they were. Which is what Serena is; an amazing and inspiring champion!
That’s also not to mention the ticket price was the same for the women’s final as it was for the men’s final, however the prize money is certainty not! I loved a comment of Serena’s that I read in the Daily Mail, when asked or her thoughts on being regarded as the one of the greatest female athletes of all-time. Williams simply replied: ‘I prefer “one of the greatest athletes of all-time”. You can read more here.
The media industry treats men and women differently, but it also makes it even harder for women by treating them differently to each other too. Serena is another example of this as I learned from Kessel’s book. Here is a excerpt: “In 2014 the greatest active female tennis player Serena Williams (then with eighteen Grand Slam titles) earned half the amount in endorsements of Maria Sharapova (five Grand Slam titles) – $12m to Sharapova’s $23m.” Showing again the media like promoting female sports people when their marketability fits the perception of the ideal female body. Rather than showing that talent comes in all forms of body sizes. Even searching for advertising campaigns it’s clear how the media is trying to position each.
I strongly think the perception of women in sport needs to change as soon as possible. To one where women are celebrated for their achievements and the hard work and dedication they put into those achievements. Rather than just how good they look while doing it!