Article by: Candice Hodges
When asked who is the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt’s name will undoubtedly come up. However, when asked who is the fastest woman in the world, the room tends to go silent, save for a few die-hard track and field buffs. This raises the question: are male athletes given more recognition for their achievements than females?
Female athletes and the media have a troublesome relationship. It has been observed that female athletes are rarely recognized for their talents, and are more often than not, given media attention for their looks and sexuality. A key example of this is Michelle Jenneke, an Australian hurdler, who is known more for her starting line warm up routine than the numerous medals she has won for her country in the Youth Olympics or the Oceania Youth Championships.
The latest example of mistreatment by the media regards tennis player Eugenie Bouchard, who, after crushing her opponent in the Australian Open, was asked to twirl to show off her outfit. The reporter who asked her to “twirl and tell us about [her] outfit”, had just asked Serena Williams a similar question the day before. Both athletes were taken aback but proceed to twirl, however in later interviews, noted the inherent sexism in the request. “I would be fine with twirling if they asked the guys to flex their muscles or something,” Bouchard noted in an interview. Williams further commented that reporters wouldn’t ask “Roger [Federer] to twirl”.
Many media publications frequently release lists of the “hottest” female athletes, thereby objectifying these women and belittling their achievements in their respective fields. These lists are commonly released by publications, aiming to appeal to the male demographic. This sort of treatment from the media only encourages their audience to limit a woman’s worth to her appearance. Their achievements in their field are thus noted as secondary to the fact that they are “hot”.
This sort of media treatment is not limited to women; male athletes such as Cristiano Ronaldo and David Beckham, along with being extremely talented, are known for their sex-appeal and work as models along with their sports. Their predicament is different however, as they are not shamed for their sensuality and, rather, are praised for being both attractive and talented. Furthermore, after their games, they are not asked to “twirl” to show off their outfits.
The mistreatment of female athletes, although seemingly light-hearted and harmless, has astounding effects on the esteem and perception of women. Female athletes work tirelessly to achieve in their respective sports, and the belittlement of their achievements as well as emphasis on their appearance further reinforce stereotypes and double standards.