Women's Sport and Spectacle: Gendered Television Coverage and the Olympic Games

By Gina Daddario | Go to book overview

Rarely on a male-centered sports program would we witness such dialogue as an African-American female reflecting on her struggle with her racial self-identity, as Gwen Torrence did in her profile on growing up in the projects of Decatur, Georgia. And, rarely on a male-centered sports program would we be privy to a male swimmer's self-doubt, as we were when Mike Barrowman exorcised his competitive demons by reading excerpts from his personal diary.

According to Mary Ellen Brown in her most recent book, Soap Operas and Women's Talk ( 1994), if a new genre can make use of a genre tradition that is already popular with the audience in question, then it has a higher probability of success. Olympic sports programming appears to be making use of the traditional sports genre and soap opera genre, both popular with their respective audiences, to appeal to a less gender-exclusive audience. The case study in this chapter suggests that the viewing experiences of audiences for televised sport and soap operas need not be gender exclusive, as the adoption of feminine narrative techniques can facilitate a more gender-equal audience because female viewers are encouraged to find a sense of place in sports spectatorship.


NOTES

A version of this chapter originally appeared in ( 1997) Sociology of Sport Journal 14(2), 103-120, as "Gendered sport programming: 1992 summer Olympic coverage and the feminine narrative form."

1
Feminine or sex-appropriate sports refer to those sports that females have been socialized to participate in and that depict participants in aesthetically pleasing motions and poses, emphasizing the erotic physicality rather than the strength of the female body. These sports do not require bodily contact, conflict, or face-to-face opposition. Many contemporary sports critics have written on sex-appropriate sports, beginning with Methany. Methany E., Connotations of Movement in Sport and Dance(Dubuque, IA: W. C. Brown, 1965).
2
As a point of comparison, a popular first-run situation comedy ranking among the top five highest rated programs, such as Friends or Seinfeld during the 1995-1996 television season, will generally accrue about a 20-25 percent rating in any given week.

-104-

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