Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

From the early female football pioneers to the female face of e-sports — Chapter 4 Part 1

Posted on 9 March 2019 by Megan Dymmock-Morgan

This is fourth in a multi-part series on women in sport. Chapter 1 explored the early days of the Olympic movement, Chapter 2 grapples with the struggles of sexual identity and Chapter 3 looks at the influence of the media on gender views.

Chapter 4: Sexualisation of Women’s Sport (part 1 of 2)

Imagine making it to the pinnacle of your sporting career only to be criticised for the clothes you’re wearing.

Sports such as aquatics, beach volleyball and surfing are at the top for being scrutinised, but there are plenty of other sports that face sexualisation. Is the success of women’s sport down to the media sexualising their sports?

Former England rugby captain, Catherine Spencer, told the Guardian: “It’s frustrating that there are only two categories for women’s sport — you’re either a sexy sport, or not a sexy sport. It’s very black and white.

“If it’s not a sexy sport you don’t necessarily get the media coverage. And if it is a sexy sport you possibly get the wrong media coverage. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

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In the 2012 London Olympic Games, the airtime for the American women’s sports was 46.3% and of that, 60% of airtime was dedicated to events considered feminine such as gymnastics, swimming and diving.

Within that airtime, 97% of those spectators would only watch sports where a bathing suit was worn. Despite surfing being introduced to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, viewers hoping for more bikini-clad competitors will be disappointed.

The women participating will be wearing wetsuits, which gives little opportunity for the media to sexualise the sport.

But it’s not just the media. Forums online are discussing the attractiveness of sports for girls. On the popular forum ‘The Student Room,’ for example, discussions surrounding which sports are the most attractive are shocking.

In 2016, the American website ‘EliteSingles’ conducted a survey for their British counterpart. Their aim was to find out which athlete and which sport was rated the most attractive. Jenna Randall — Team GB synchronised swimmer — was voted the most attractive female athlete.

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Following this, the results of the top sexiest female sports were tennis (17%), beach volleyball (11%) and gymnastics (10%).

Chapter 1: History of women’s sports

Chapter 2: The ‘lesbian stereotype’ in sport

Chapter 3: The media’s influence on gender views in sport

Featured photograph/Flickr/Republic of Korea