Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Framing the Winter Olympic Games: A Content Analysis of Polish Newspapers Coverage of Female and Male Athletes

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Framing the Winter Olympic Games: A Content Analysis of Polish Newspapers Coverage of Female and Male Athletes

Article excerpt

Introduction

Media coverage of sports events in relation to athletes' gender has been extensively analysed in the Western scholarly literature. The findings have revealed that the media coverage of women's events differs from that of the men's events both in terms of its quantitative and qualitative dimensions. Women's sport is not only under-represented in the media (Billings and Eastman 2002, 2003; Bruce 2013; Kane et al. 2013), but is also shown and described in a way that reproduces gender differences and order in sport (Angelini et al. 2012; Duncan and Messner 2000; Pedersen et el. 2003; Vincent et al. 2003). The marginalization of sportswomen has been observed in the newspapers and other media (Cooky et al. 2010; Crossman et al. 2010; Delorme and Testard 2015).

Recently, Fink (2015) has made a review of the literature and listed the main practices (revealed in the previous studies) used by the sports journalists to maintain a difference between women's and men's sports and to present women as "the other" in the sports field (Cooky at el. 2013: 206; see also: Wensing and Bruce 2003; Bruce 2013). These practices are: (1) "gender marketing" (in the case of women's sports events, the athletes' gender is indicated, whereas in the case of men's events it is not, e.g. The FIFA World Cup and The FIFA Women's World Cup); (2) sportswomen's infantalization (naming female athletes by their first names or as "girls" or "ladies" and emphasizing their childlike qualities), (3) focus on beauty, sex appeal, as well as (heterosexual) familial roles; (4) more frequent media coverage of so-called feminine sports; (5) questioning of the femininity and heterosexuality of female athletes practicing "masculine" sports; (6) devaluation of female ath- letes' achievements; (7) explication of both successes and failures by their emotions. The researchers have revealed also an ambivalence in the media coverage of women's sport- which refers to messages whose content has contradictory statements and images of the individual person (Duncan and Hasbrook 1988; Poniatowski and Hardin 2012; Eagleman 2015). In the case of sportswomen, this is illustrated by the news which on the one hand pays attention to their sports skills and good results and, on the other, describes non-sports issues, emphasizes their femininity and undermines their actual sports achievements.

The majority of the previous studies concluded that female athletes were underrepresented in the media coverage. However, some researchers stress that while in everyday coverage sportswomen are marginalized, women's sport becomes more visible during the Olympic Games, though mainly if the women win or are expected to win medals (Billings and Eastman 2002; Vincent et al. 2002; Wensing and Bruce 2003; Bruce and Scott-Chapman 2010; Delorme, 2014). Therefore the Olympic Games can be seen as a "path-breaking event" for the newspaper media coverage of women's sport (Capranica et al. 2005: 214).

There is a number of studies on Olympic Games, though more on the Summer Games (e.g., Billings and Eastman 2002; Billings et al. 2010; Tuggle et al. 2007) than the Winter Games (e.g., Billings and Eastman 2003; Billings et al. 2008; Daddario 1994; Vincent and Crossman 2012). The very limited Polish studies that have examined the issue of sports media coverage with reference to the athletes' gender in Poland have revealed that female sport is marginalized in the everyday media coverage-both on television and in the press- which can be mainly explained by the dominance of male soccer (Jakubowska 2013, 2015; Kluczynska 2011; Kramarczyk et al. 2013). However, there is not, to the best of the author's knowledge, any Polish research on the media coverage of the Olympic Games. Therefore, the focus on the Polish press coverage of the Winter Games should be interesting for Polish readers, but also for international readers, regarding that the Winter Games, as mentioned above, have been less often analysed so far and there is significantly "less information about media coverage on non-English speaking countries" (Markula et al. …

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