By Rebekah Hibbert, Guest Blogger July 29, 2015
When the US women’s soccer team won the 1999 World Cup I was 14 years old and it changed everything I felt about being an athlete. Sixteen years later and the excitement is reignited. This excitement is different; it’s not just for me, it is for all those young females who now have extraordinary women to look up to. They are center stage not for their outward appearances but for their pure athletic ability.
We deserve more of these moments but it seems that if they aren’t part of a National Championship, World Cup, or Olympics then they are out of sight and out of mind. They are working to convince us that no one cares about female athletic ability. That could not be farther from the truth.
These women take the same amount of time to hone their skills in the off season, sacrifice their bodies during the season, and possess just as much insane athletic ability. The majority of the media still remains more consumed with displaying what that time and sacrifice has made their bodies look like, instead of showcasing the incredible athletes they are.
image via espn.go.com
The issue is not that some of these women display their beautiful bodies or looks; they should if they want to. The problem lies with one simple question: Why is the media so unconcerned with showing both aspects of a female athlete, the beautiful person and the bad ass athlete? Very little focus and media attention on their athletic skills is detrimental to their sports, to those who watch it, and adversely affects the amount of serious coverage it receives.
This continued lack of coverage and respect for female athletics is negatively affecting their ability to not only prosper as an athlete but to be paid fair wage for their skills. Sadder still, is those who are most impacted are suffering because it seems there is a refusal to increase women’s athletic presence. What is this doing to the young women who take part in sports in this country? Nothing good, there is very little reporting on these women as athletes or the battles they endure fighting the integrity of their sport.
adolescents who were shown sexualized pictures of female athletes felt those women were ‘less capable and less athletic’
Young females are not seeing enough of these women participating in their respective sports or working hard to accomplish their goals. Research by E.A Daniels shows that adolescents who were shown sexualized pictures of female athletes felt those women were ‘less capable and less athletic’. How does this thinking affect the female athlete? It gives the message that women are either beautiful and not capable or athletic and capable. This outlook affects the current state of women’s athletics.
We have set them up to appear less adept, making us subconsciously believe that they are not as important, and therefore not as marketable. Research also shows that when an audience is shown a female’s athletic abilities they believe they are ‘capable, strong, and have the ability to break down gender stereotypes’. The women of the 2015 World Cup drove this point home, better than anything I could ever do, they busted the ratings not just for female sports but male sports as well.
To make a change, female athletes have to continue to be there; on the national networks, the covers of magazines, in the nightly sports round up, showing their athletic abilities. We can’t keep saying people don’t care about women’s athletics because we may not be portraying them in a manner to allow people to care.
If we have learned anything from the World Cup it is that when we put female athletic abilities on display, people DO pay attention.
What do you think about the way the media portrays female athletes? Do you think that the ladies' looks are highlighted in place of their abilities? Tell us below!
Rebekah works in Sports Medicine. It is her hope to represent the ‘real’ girl’s daily struggles and triumphs. In her free time you can find her running, lifting weights, reading, writing or trying new restaurants with her husband.
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