Magazine article Media Report to Women

Gender Disparity Persists in Olympics Coverage, with Some Gains Apparent

Magazine article Media Report to Women

Gender Disparity Persists in Olympics Coverage, with Some Gains Apparent

Article excerpt

Analyses of media coverage of the Olympic games continually show a disproportionate amount of time, and different types of commentary, devoted to male competitors over females. Two scholars in particular have illuminated the ongoing disparity in media treatment of men and women in these prestigious athletic contests and other areas of sports coverage.

The June 2012 issue of Vogue and a recent story in The New York Times style section is one of the few times that a male Olympic athlete - swimmer Ryan Lochte - has been featured less for his athletic ability than his appearance, according to University of North Texas associate professor and MRTW subscriber Tracy Everbach. Everbach has researched media coverage of female athletes since 2005. She previously researched newspaper coverage of the 1908 Summer Olympics, which also were in London.

She notes that the description of Lochte having "twinkling blue eyes," a "dimpled smile" and "sculptured abs" in The New York Times is rare for male athletes, but not for female Olympic athletes, who have traditionally received more attention for sexuality and attractiveness than the male athletes. However, the female athletes also receive much more media coverage during the two weeks that the Olympics are televised than many college or professional female athletes, Everbach says.

"In both the Winter and the Summer Games, women get as much as 50 percent of the coverage. That's partially because sports like ice skating and gymnastics are considered to be more 'female' sports and attract female viewers, and other sports, like swimming, track and field, skiing, ice hockey and basketball, have both male and female teams and events," Everbach says. "Most of the sports coverage outside of the Olympics is of the big four men's sports - football, basketball, baseball and hockey -and most sports media organizations are dominated by men, who plan the coverage according to what men like."

Even sports media outlets that are led by female editors and publishers are heavily dominated by men's sports coverage outside of the Olympics, she says. Everbach compared sports coverage in the Seattle Times and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, which both had female sports editors, to the newspapers' competitors, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and The Dallas Morning News, which both had male sports editors. In that study, which was published in 2008 in the Southwestern Mass Communication Journal, Everbach discovered that sports coverage in the sections edited by women did not differ significantly from the coverage in sections edited by men. "There's still the perception that women's sports are boring and not competitive, which is not true, but the stereotypes have been so driven into people's heads, and sports editors respond to that," she says. …

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