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Posted on August 17th, 2012, by

The contemporary media produce a profound impact on the formation of an individual’s identity. In this respect, it is important to underline the impact of the media on the body image in males. In fact, media contribute to the formation of specific view on males and females which differ consistently. As for the formation of a masculine image, sport media are particularly significant because, on the one hand, they promote disparity between males and females (Sports, Media and Stereotypes, 2005), while, on the other hand, sport media contribute to the formation of an ideal male image, which adolescents take as an example to follow. In such a context, the media coverage of sport events can be crucial because sport is traditionally associated with male domain and it is from media sport coverage adolescents learn models of behavior and images of ideal masculinity.

The current representation of men and women heavily relies on the existing traditions and attitudes of society at large and media in particular to men and women. The difference in representation of men and women becomes particularly obvious in sport coverage by media. It proves beyond a doubt that the traditional attitudes to men and women in sports vary dramatically. At the same time, the disparity of men and women in sports results from the historical development of sports. Originally, males started practicing sports and they totally dominated sports, while the participation of women in sports was rather exceptional and exclusive than conventional. In this respect, it should be said that media coverage of sport events traditionally formed a typical masculine image (Vincent, 2005).

Moreover, it is possible to estimate that media representation of men in sports became the ideal representation of masculinity, which affected the formation of identity of males, especially in adolescence.

In the course of the development of media coverage of sports, the dominance of men persisted. In this respect, the transition of amateur sports into professional sports also brought consistent advantages to men, while women had a few opportunities for practicing sports professionally, because they could not afford their living if they concentrated solely on practicing sport. In fact, even nowadays such a popular and relatively favorable sport for women as tennis reveals a consistent disparity in wages of men and women who play tennis professionally. This is rather an outcome of historical development of sports which perfectly illustrates traditional attitudes to women as inferior compared to men in the domain of sports.

The traditional view of men and women in sport implies the low participation of women in sports as activities more suitable for men rather than women. Moreover, a number of gender-related biases and stereotypes persist and imply the inability of women to practice sport on the high level. At any rate, women are believed being unable to perform as well as men do. Moreover, the traditional view of women in sports lays on the ground that women should focus on different fields than sports. To put it more precisely, sports, being predominantly male activities, are unsuitable for women who should rather focus on their households, families and upbringing of their children.

Obviously, such views are extremely biased and prejudiced, but, nevertheless, they used to be and, to a significant extent, still persist in the modern society. At any rate, the amount of men practicing various sport activities consistently outweighs the amount of women. Moreover, there is a distinction between male sports, such as hockey or football, and female sports, such as figure skating. In such a context, it is quite natural that historically mass media tended to the underrepresentation of women in sports and this problem persists till the present epoch.

However, in this regard, it is necessary to understand the huge impact of the media on the masses since the impact of traditional biases and gender-related stereotypes was mutual. In other words, it was not only media, which were affected by stereotypes and biases of the male-dominated culture, but it was also the society which was influenced by media consistently and the way mass media represented men and women in sports affected not only the position of men and women in sports but also affected their social status and the gender formation.

As a result, media coverage of sport events contributes to the formation of an image of basic masculine standards. To put it more precisely, the media promote athletic image of a male, which adolescents believe to be an ideal sample of masculinity. At the same time, it should be said that often media coverage of sport events which form adolescents’ perception of masculinity are accompanied by violence and aggression, which adolescents extrapolate on their real life (Messner, et al, 1999). Moreover, media devote the majority of their time to coverage of male athletes and generally valorize and revere them for their athletic powers and judge sporting events by masculine standards (Vincent, 2005).

The media representation of men and women in sports affects dramatically the public perception of men and women in sports. In such a context, the current situation is particularly disturbing because the modern mass media tend to underrepresentation of women in sports, while the existing representation does not always contributes to the formation of a positive image of women practicing various sports activities. In contrast, media emphasize qualities which are perceived by the audience as purely masculine, such as physical power, athletic body image, aggression, etc. Therefore, it is quite natural that adolescents perceive the male images created by media, especially media covering sport events, as ideals which they attempt to reach in the real life.

In this respect, it is important to underline the fact that the target audience group of the modern media covering sport events is predominantly male audience. Consequently, to maintain the interests of the target audience group, the mass media needs to supply the product which leads to the maximum customer satisfaction of the audience. As a result, the modern mass media tend to focus on sport events involving men, while the activities and professional work of male sportsmen is always in the focus of the leading sport media (Sports, Media and Stereotypes, 2005).

In stark contrast, the interests of the female audience are hardly taken into consideration because this part of the audience does not affect consistently the popularity of media covering sport events. At the same time, the efforts of the modern mass media to involve the female audience are mainly focused on the increasing coverage of sport events which are traditionally defined as female sports. In such a way, the modern media make little efforts to enlarge the number of sports involving women and the female audience, but, instead, mass media can only increase the amount of time dedicated to female sports.

However, even at this point, the achievements of women in sports and the progress of media in the representation of women in sports are scarce. In fact, today, it is still possible to distinguish male and female sports and mass media maintain such a separation of sport activities. As a result, there are male sports and female sports which target at male and female audiences respectively. In this respect, it is necessary to underline the fact that female sports are in a disadvantageous position compared to male sports. Due to the larger representation of men in sports and due to the larger attention of mass media to male sports and sportsmen, female sports remain unpopular and underrepresented. Such an underrepresentation is not only the result of traditional attitudes to men and women in sport, but it is also determined by economic factors. To put it more precisely, the coverage of sport events involving men is consistently more profitable for mass media because it involves a substantially larger audience and, therefore, profits of mass media from the coverage of these sport events increases substantially. In contrast, the audience of female sports, such as figure skating is consistently lower and does not bring significant profits to mass media from the coverage of sport events involving women (Andresen et al., 2007). In such a situation, mass media are naturally guided by their economic interests and they prefer to focus on the coverage of male sports than female sports.

At this point, the current level of the development of sport franchises plays a very significant role. For instance, NHL teams are not only sport teams but a well-developed and extremely popular sport brands which naturally attract the audience. Consequently, mass media are interested to cover sport events and even the life of NHL stars rather than covering some sport events involving women. In such a way, from an economic point of view, it is more preferable for mass media to cover NHL events than WNBA events, for instance, that put women in a disadvantages position in sports.

However, even if women are represented by media, the way they are represented is not always positive. In fact, mass media tend to represent women and men in a different way, especially, when women are involved in sports which are traditionally defined as male sports. In such a situation, media tend to rather skeptical representation of women.

Women practicing traditionally male sports are, as a rule, depicted as being unable to perform sports on the high, professional level. As a result, they are depicted as inferior to men, with poor professional skills and capabilities. In contrast, men are represented as models which women just attempt to copy in their professional career. It is worth mentioning the fact that men traditionally play the leading role, especially in the male sports that leads to the view of men as an ideal in sport, to which females are compared (Messner, 1999). At this point, the critical representation of women by mass media leads to the negative perception of women’s involvement in sports at large and male sports in particular.

As the role of media has increased consistently in the modern world, their impact on the audience has increased respectively. In such a context, the representation of men and women produces a huge impact on the audience, both male and female. At the same time, the effects of media representation of men and women in sports are different.

Primarily, it is necessary to distinguish the effect of the media on men and women practicing various sport activities and the effect of media on the gender construction of men and women. Obviously, the impact of media on men and women practicing sports can be easily traced in the context of profits and wages of sportsmen. In this respect, it should be said that  the underrepresentation of women practicing sports is one of the major factors contributing to the lower level of wages of women in sports. At this point, it is even possible to speak about the discrimination of women who earn less than men because they are not as popular as men in sports. At the same time, the popularity of a sportsman is defined by the attention of media to the particular sportsman or to the particular team or sport. Naturally, the more is the coverage, the larger is the interest of the audience to the sport and the sportsman and, hence, the larger is the wage and revenues of the sportsman. In such a situation, men earn more than women do in sports.

Another important effect of the representation of men and women by media is the gender construction. In actuality, specialists estimate that the coverage of sport events by mass media fulfills an important social function of the gender construction. To put it more precisely, the coverage of sport events by mass media contribute to the formation of specific models of behavior and construction of specific images related to gender because sport events provide simple models of a real masculine behavior. In this respect, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that boys are more likely to watch sports than women. Consequently, they perceive the message send by mass media covering sport events and, in such a way, they learn basic models of masculine behavior. Girls, in contrast, are less interested in sports and, thus, substantial gender stratification occurs, when boys and girls are distinguished by their interest to and involvement in sport activities (Andresen, et al., 2007).

As a result, media create the body image of a male, which the public get used to perceive as a norm, though, in actuality, professional athletes need to spend a lot of time training to get a perfect, athletic form. However, males, especially adolescents view male images promoted by media as ideal and they attempt to shape their own body in accordance with standards established by media. The latter may be accompanied by serious threats and risks to the health of adolescents because to get a good athletic shape, they need to spend a lot of time training, while excessive training can lead to the exhaustion of their bodies, which is particularly dangerous in the adolescent age, when the body is actively growing. In addition, a male body image created by media often provokes adolescents to take drugs or medicaments which accelerate muscle growth which helps them to reach the desirable male shape. Hence, it is very important to pay attention to the media coverage of male images and sport coverage in particular because it is through media sport coverage adolescents absorbs standards of masculinity, which do not always meet the real life standards.

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