- July 31, 2012
- Posted by: essay
- Category: Sample essay papers
Traditionally, society viewed sport as a masculine domain, where men could compete and demonstrate such traditional masculine characteristics and qualities as strength, rivalry, leadership, boldness, etc. In such a situation, men turned to be in a privileged position compared to women in sport. In the course of the development of sports and evolution of sports contributed to the huge disparity between men and women in sport. Women were and still remain in a disadvantageous position compared to men because the number of women practicing sports on both professional and amateur levels is consistently lower compared to men. Moreover, the existence of male sports raises almost unsurpassable barriers on the way of women to entering sports, especially on the professional level.
In this respect, the role of the modern media can hardly be underestimated. The modern mass media tend to create a positive image of sports but their representation of men and women in sports is unjust, if not to say discriminatory, which may be partially explained by the traditional orientation of mass media on the predominantly male audience.
As a result, the problem of discrimination and underrepresentation of women in sports persist and media apparently play a significant role in the gender disparity which exists not only in sports but in media as well.
Traditional attitudes to men and women in sports
The current representation of men and women in sports heavily relies on the existing traditions and attitudes of society at large and media in particular to men and women in sports. 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.
The nature of sport implies the competition which the society strongly associates with a purely male characteristic, which is unsuitable or unconventional for females. At the same time, it is necessary to take into consideration the fact that the active development of sports in its present form in the western society dates back to the late 19th century. In the course of the 20th century, sports have become extremely popular and today millions of people are interested in sports (Cohen, 1993). They are either involved in practicing sport or regularly watch various sport events on television.
However, in the course of the development 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 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 (Cohen, 1993). 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.
The current media representation of men and women in sports
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.
First of all, 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.
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 (Koivula, 1999). 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 (Creedon, 1994). 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 (Calvert & Huston, 1987). 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. 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 (Creedon, 1994). 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. 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.
The effects of media representation on men and women
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 thatÂ 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 (Creedon, 1994). 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 (Koivula, 1999) 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” (Cohen, 1993, p.113). 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.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the mass media representation of men and women in sports varies dramatically. The media representation of men and women is affected consistently by the existing biases and gender-related stereotypes. At the same time, mass media contribute consistently to the maintenance of these biases and stereotypes because media perform the function of the gender construction in the modern society. Naturally, it is not only media that affects the process of gender construction, but the coverage of sport events by media supplies the audience with simple and clear models of behavior and the focus of media on male sports and men in sports results in the formation of a clear, masculine model of behavior, while women and female model of behavior is ignored. Moreover, often mass media tend to haughty and almost scornful representation of women in sports, especially if women are practicing traditionally male sports. As a result, women are depicted as outsiders affecting dramatically their gender construction and may lead to the low self-esteem and other negative psychological effects.