This essay aims to explore the reasons behind the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media. It is important in this essay to consider not just why this lack of coverage exists, but what evidence or previous research has been conducted to support these claims and with evaluation and analysis of this previous research, how much validity lies within these claims.
This essay uses a variety of different texts from several authors and a few include Birell and Cole, Anne Flintoff and Beccy Watson’s work with Sheila Scraton who has been predominantly used within this essay simply because whilst she is a contemporary author she regularly looks back and cites traditional research providing a great balance of different sources. From these authors there are several preliminary reasons constructed to explain the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media and these are hegemonic features and traditions, gender role socialisations and the lack of interest within female sports itself.
The evidence or previous research used to support the claims made are of both an old and contemporary nature, extracted from a variety of different texts. As well as simply using these texts to support the reasons suggested within this essay, they will be both evaluated and analysed to decide whether they are appropriate to draw any conclusions from to identify the leading contribution to the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media.
The first issue to be debated in this essay is the influence of hegemonic masculinity and tradition on the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media. An ideal way to start is to use a bit of previous used within Sheila Scraton and Beccy Watson’s Sport, Leisure Identities & Gendered Spaces; ” Women whose performances potentially challenge the hegemonic values that women are the ” weaker” sex are trivialised, marginalised and sexualised in an attempt to diffuse any threat to male power and privilege” (Denver 1994).
It could be argued from this that many males could indeed trivialise women’s sport in order to protect their masculinity; however this may be more specific to the traditional values held by an older community of males. A great contemporary example of this within the media would be the Andy Gray and Richard Keys incident of January 2011 where during the Liverpool vs. Wolverhampton Wanderers game, female assistant referee Sian Massey was victim to an onslaught of sexist remarks by the Pundits.
Both men were caught exchanging derogatory language such as ” What do women know about the offside rule? or ” Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her. ” Scraton and Flintoff go on to say that ” Both the electronic and print media generally marginalise and trivialise women’s sporting achievement” (Scraton & Flintoff 2002) which arguably is the view of many feminist writers within the UK. If we look at the variety of different sources just used; the first by Denver 1994 (extracted from Sheila Scraton & Beccy Watson’s: Sport, Leisure Identities & Gendered Spaces) it is possible to criticise this text for being out dated as it is nearly 20 years old and not as temporary as some would have liked.
The issue of validity may then be brought into question. Fortunately, within Scraton & Flintoff’s work they reinforce Denver’s claim with “ Physical Education within schools still offer different activities that are gender defined, and teaching can provide dominant gender ideologies” (Scraton & Flintoff 2002) Scraton & Flintoff emphasise in this point that whilst there has been progression in bridging the gap between gender and sport in schools, many schools and other institutions still continue to show dominant patriarchy through their teaching by socialising children into tradition roles.
This approach in schools can often lead to a continued circle of problems such as trying to increase the number of female sports participants; not only are they discouraged from sport to begin with but they can also experience trouble with their own self-confidence due to the weak support networks surrounding themselves within schools and other institutions. Gill Clarke & Barbara Humberstone support this point in their book “ Researching Women & Sport, Self-Confidence and Self-Esteem” by saying “ Women and girls can grow in confidence with appropriate sporting experiences” (Fasting 1994).
Expanding off Fasting’s claim, it can be said that if these continued problems are encountered for girls in schools then their personal experiences will lead to a negative outlook on sports participation. Looking at the above sources and texts, whilst it is possible that one or two are slightly out dated it is visible that the authors have used them in the correct context; they are also supported with more contemporary texts within this essay itself allowing a stronger argument for them being valid.
Moreover, the contribution that patriarchy makes towards the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media is relatively large; if the media or any other social institutions are constantly upheld with traditional patriarchal values then it prevents any leeway or entry for females into decision-making positions and thus no changes are made. “ Women in sport are still not in decision-making positions, although some small inroads have been made onto committee structures. (Talbot 2001) The next issue to be discussed within this essay will be the contribution of gender role socialisations towards the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media. It is usually sensible to decipher quite what is meant by gender role socialisations to begin with; gender role socialisations are often defined as the process of learning the social norms, values and in general the everyday expectations of an individual within society.
Many traditional feminists such as Rakow believe there is a difference between sex and gender; she states “ I define sex as a culturally constructed biological difference and gender as an ongoing cultural process that constructs differences between men and women” (Rakow 1992). In a nutshell she states that whilst sex is the biological difference between men and women, gender is the way in which we are socialised and it is this that allows us to differ. When analysing this study, whilst it is a slightly out dated and not used in a sporting context it provides one possible definition of both sex and gender.
But one of the biggest problems that occur within a society that strives for equal gender rights is that both genders are socialised in different ways. A classic example is the use of colours in gender socialisation; in a contemporary UK society it is not uncommon to find young boys dressed in darker, “ masculine” colours such as blue compared to young girls with their “ feminised” pink. One study that supports this claim is Batman vs. Bratz (2011) where it was indeed found that whilst boys chose traditional “ masculine” colours, their female counterparts preferred their own traditional “ feminine” colours.
Whilst it is possible to criticise this study for not being based around sport itself, it is contemporary, provides a simple explanation allowing progression onto the next point. Another important analysis to make on this study is that this is quantitative information; quick, easy information to obtain and provides results with figures. “ Physical Education in schools still offer different activities that are gender defined, and teaching can provide dominant gender ideologies” (Scraton & Flintoff 2002).
Looking back at this study used earlier in this essay, this can be used well again when looking at the contribution of gender role socialisations to the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media. It can be seen here that Scraton & Flintoff emphasise the difficulties in schools when it comes to the learning options given to both genders; it is often common knowledge that whilst boys are encouraged into physical activity, girls are led into the more traditional female roles of domestics e. g. food technology.
Should this way of teaching continue within schools, many children will be socialised into thinking that these tradition stereotypes are correct and the problems that currently exist with gender equality are most likely to continue. Once again, the use of Scraton & Flintoff’s text is perfect, as not only is it contemporary but also provides a great base for many different conclusions to be drawn from. My final issue to be discussed is how much the lack of interest within female sports itself contributes to the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media.
Using this issue at the end of this essay works very efficiently as both the previous issues smoothly lead on to present. Both patriarchy and gender role socialisations have a huge effect on the lack of interest in female sports; old, out dated and patriarchal values towards sport often put females off participating whilst socialising a gender to believe these values prevents any change occurring. But if an audience, women or girls aren’t interested in sports what does this mean?
It can lead to a lack of investment for a start; for example, Michael Chang (last on the list for Top 10 male endorsers in sport) receives an estimated $9. 5 million in endorsements whilst Monica Seles (top female endorser in sports) received $6. 5 million (Bernstein & Blain 2003. ). From this, we can see that male sports have an extravagant amount more invested into it each year compared to its female counterpart. Without the investment available to help female sports expand, no change can occur. The above source is useful as it provides quantitative data, allowing comparisons to be drawn easily.
As well as this, it is also contemporary increasing its validity. There are many other reasons as to why there is such a little interest in female sports starting from the image and stereotypes given to female athletes. If we look to the Olympics, whilst we can see from London 2012 that images have begun to change slightly for female athletes there I still a way to go. Looking back to the 1992 Olympics; “ Media coverage of female athletes at the 1992 games focused on gymnasts – little pixies who were shown in graceful, aesthetic motion. (Creedon 1994).
These images of the gymnasts were very feminised and applicable, mainly, to traditional femininity, contradicting the change occurring in female sports at the time. Not every female athlete desires to be seen as extremely feminine and this may, in turn put many females off participating in sport. Of course, all in all if there is little interest in female sports to begin with then it is unlikely to progress in coverage; if a story is not newsworthy then the media will not print it.
Whilst the text used in this example is a little out dated again, it allows comparisons to be made between the “ the old and the new”. Using my own knowledge there are two theories within the media; first is the Hypodermic Needle theory which suggest the media inject ideas into a passive audiences head whilst on the other hand is Uses & Gratifications theory suggesting that the audience has a set of needs that the media aims to fulfil; the audience will then be active and decipher this news for themselves.
Within the media of sports, audiences look for the information they desire and then decide to interpret this information for themselves. Tabloid newspapers such as “ The Sun” will often miss out coverage of female sports and given the chance that big sporting occasions do occur e. g. FIFA Women’s World Cup, many people would say that more often than not “ Both the electronic and print media generally marginalise and trivialise sporting women’s achievements” (Scraton & Flintoff 2002). Sheila Scraton’s text has been used once again here as it is a great contemporary example.
Using all the information provided in this essay, it can be seen that there are many different contributing factors for the lack of coverage of female sport participants in UK media. However, based upon this essay being a literature review, it has to be said whilst all three of the issues discussed in this essay are strong contributing factors it is mainly Patriarchy that has the supporting literature and different sources provided here and therefore we must point to Patriarchy being the leading cause for the lack of coverage of female sports participants in the UK media.
There are a few things that may be reconsidered should this essay be repeated again such as using a wider variety of sources e. g. journal articles or even possibly recommended and trusted websites. All in all, the sources used within this essay are solid and are provided by widely recognised feminist writers e. g. Sheila Scraton.