While female participation is steadily growing in sports such as soccer and basketball, a noticeable gap between female and male sport coverage still exists (Hardin & Greer, 2009). In addition to the lack of female sports coverage, the representations and portrayals of athletes differ dramatically based on gender; reinforcing gender typing for sports and skill.
Our research explored the differences in female and male representations on North American magazine covers. To investigate this research question, a review and analysis of 3 major magazines was conducted: Sports Illustrated, SportsNet Magazine and ESPN Magazine. 238 total magazine covers were analyzed, ranging from as early as January 2013 to November 2014. Each issue was documented based on criteria, which would be used to determine how these magazines feature their athletes and whether or not they feature both female and male individuals. The four categories were: sexualized, action shot, photo shoot and other.
The results show that females were featured on fewer magazines than males with only 23 of the 238 magazines highlighting a female athlete on their cover. Females were sexualized in the majority of their shots (57%) and were only shown in action shots on 3 of the 23 covers (13%). The results support that female athletes are highly underrepresented on sports magazine covers and are either sexualized or portrayed in fashions that minimize their athletic accomplishments when they are featured.
Certain question stood out to us as we completed this study. The first one was, when thinking of your personal gender identity what is your input on the opposite sex? When you see a picture of an athlete, do you find yourself looking at all the bad things within the photograph/article or just happy that the athlete is getting exposure for themselves and their sport? When you see a more sexualized photograph do you find yourself being drawn to this article because of the pose? It may help if you think about the sex that you as an individual is interested in, are you attracted to the picture because said athletes is posing in a more sexual manner or are you appalled?
Secondly, we asked ourselves when looking at your specific sport(s) of interest; do you find yourself being happy for your sport(s), due to the exposure or upset due to the large amount of sexualization? Maybe just so the sport may be able to get more attention from readers. Some may find it harder to enjoy an article about their sport(s) of choice because of the sexualized picture that is promoting the article. Some may see these pictures and advertisements as a positive boost for certain sports because of the “new found interest” in the sport. Others may see it as a negative publicity for the sport due to non-related picture.
Our final questions, turned into more of a conversation between Meagan and I, we started to discuss ways that we could improve of enhance coverage for each sport? Are we able to get more female writer working for these magazines, or maybe include more women on sporting panels for both women and men sport. There is also the argument that maybe magazines and advertising companies should even the playing field when it comes to sexualization’s; if these companies and organizations would not take aggressively sexualized picture of a man, why do it for women?
All of these arguments can be taken into consideration and everyone will have their own point of view. We just ask for everyone to think twice when reading an article or looking at pictures before passing a judgment, as we should do with the majority of subject in today’s society. We also want to stress the point, as we did in class that magazines that target gender specific markets may have different standards.
When taking into consideration Women and Men’s Health magazine there may be a different portrayal of sexualization. The vocabulary and the poses tend to be the issue rather than the lack of clothing and commercialization. These issue can be explore in much greater detail, but is still an interesting subject to keep in mind.
Meagan Ferguson & Erika Ermen
Hardin, M., & Greer, J. D. (2009). The Influence of Gender-role Socialization, Media Use and Sports Participation on Perceptions of Gender-Appropriate Sports. Journal of Sport Behaviour, 32(2), 207-226. https://login.proxy.hil.unb.ca/login url=http://search.proquest.com.proxy.hil.unb.ca/docview/215875384?accountid=1461
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