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posted Jan. 24, 2010    Bookmark and Share

Is Olympic Media Coverage Sexist?

Author says media coverage rarely gives women equal treatment

from Univ. of Alberta Public Affairs



Pirkko Markula, a professor of socio-cultural studies of sport and leisure in the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, says that instead of focusing on sporting achievements, media coverage often focuses on women’s appearance and the shape of their bodies. She says it will be interesting to see how women are perceived during the upcoming Vancouver Olympics, given that women are fully dressed during the winter games.

Markula contributed to a new book called Olympic Women and the Media: International Perspectives. It discusses the results compiled by a team of researchers who analyzed international newspaper coverage before and during the Olympic games in Athens in 2004.

In media coverage of athletes before the Olympics, female athletes received five per cent of the coverage, whereas male athletes got most of the attention with 87.6 per cent of the coverage. During the Olympics, females received 25.2 per cent of media coverage, where male coverage was at 40.2 per cent.

An example provided in Markula’s book is about Chinese gold-medalist diver Guo Jingling, who was publicized for her appearance rather than her skill. The Chinese media described her as the “Beautiful Goddess of the Springboard,” while also calling her “ordinary” and “shy” and fabricating a romantic involvement with a male diver.

Markula hopes the information provided in this book will bring attention to the fact that women typically get little sport coverage. She says the Olympics should be a time to celebrate the achievements of both men and women.


Editor's Note: Commercial media coverage is typically planned according to fairly bland marketing formulas which focus on keeping the viewers glued to the channel. But such formulas only operate in the context of wider social expectations. Currently, there is not a prevailing social expectation—neither among most viewers nor among most media producers—that women should receive equal time coverage in each event simply because they participate, but such a consensus might be starting to build, especially as the gender performance gap becomes smaller in many sports. After all, remember the Amazons!

But personally, rather than see sports coverage become yet more formulaic—for instance by a conscious 50/50 male/female coverage—I'd like to see greater Olympic coverage of lesser known sports, including those that women or people from other nationalities may particularly excel in, for example archery. I was frankly bored with the 2008 summer coverage because almost every time I turned on the TV I saw only swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball. Nice to see a bit of those three, but I'd like more variety in general, in addition to gender variety.

—Doug Collins


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Comments (5)

Please keep comments polite and related to the above page.



#1 - J. Thomas - 01/25/2010 - 13:46
I agree with Doug in that a little more variety would be great. Also, I don't expect the coverage between male and female to be exactly 50%, but those numbers are offensive.

#2 - David - 01/30/2010 - 20:38
Any chance you have the numbers on US broadcasts in addition to the international media?
And what was being shown for the 34.6 percent of the time that wasn't spent on either men or women?

#3 - tim - 09/14/2010 - 21:51
Amazing

#4 - cleta - 10/26/2010 - 04:35
Yes I totally agree with the above blog. Equality is the right.gardening organic

#5 - Yusuf - 12/02/2015 - 22:50
I don't understand the conmemt on the comic. Acknowledging problems without actually doing anything about the problem is called lampshading in script writing. It lets you get on with the story without disrupting the flow, but a story is different from real life.

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