Start respecting female athletes
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Start respecting female athletes
Serena Williams waves to spectators at the Australian Open. Serena Williams waves to spectators at the Australian Open. Serena Williams waves to spectators at the Australian Open. Serena Williams waves to spectators at the Australian Open.

Becca Langys, Courier Staff

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Within the world of sports media, the way that female and male athletes are portrayed and discussed are not as equal as society would ideally like it to be, and nobody seems to be talking about it. In mass media, female athletes are noticeably treated in a more objectified, derogatory fashion than their male counterparts. Sexism is still an issue in the world of sports, and it is greatly due to the way that the media portrays professional female athletes.

Women in sports are often objectified and treated with less respect than their male counterparts. Let’s take tennis star Serena Williams as an example. This past winter, Serena Williams added another win to her long list of victories when she beat out her older sister, Venus, in the Australian Open Tournament. Not only did she win, but she also broke the record for the highest amount of Grand Slam victories won by a single player.Williams is breaking records left and right and constantly winning matches, yet when she revealed to the world that she is pregnant, that was all the media could talk about.

Williams is the most highly esteemed female tennis player in history, and she only made the front cover of many news outlets when she told the world that she had a baby on the way.

Of course, the excitement about a famous athlete having a baby is justifiable, but when it causes people to question the accomplishments of the athlete, it becomes an issue. When Serena announced her pregnancy, after people did the math and realized that she was pregnant when she won the Australian Open Tournament, many people began to question if whether her pregnancy could be considered a form of cheating. An article was published in the New York Times several days after the announcement that analyzed the effects that pregnancy can have on the body. This article opened up a discussion within the media that questioned the fairness of Serena’s win.

Imagine winning the Australian Open and breaking a world record just to have your credibility questioned because you have a baby on the way. The way that the media reacted to Serena’s pregnancy is the perfect example of how female athletes tend to be objectified in the news. Arguably the most famous female tennis player gets pregnant and all of a sudden her pregnancy outshines the very reason that she is famous. 

Another huge sports media issue is the over-sexualization of female athletes. If you scroll through the website for Sports Illustrated, you will often find that there are minimal stories covering professional female athletes, and any stories found are generally not centered around the sport that the female athlete plays. The most popular part of Sports Illustrated that features a large group of female athletes are the Swimwear Issues that they release each year. People often automatically associate female athletes with the quality of their bodies, and this can be partly blamed on Sports Illustrated for their Swimwear Issues.

The bigger problem with the Swimwear Issue is not necessarily the models that appear in the issue, but the overall message that the issue sends to society. When female athletes pose for these photos, it suggests inferiority and places this stigma onto all female athletes. It causes society to value the bodies of these women more than their actual athletic abilities. Male athletes can pose for semi-nude photo shoots and are seen as legends, and when women do it, they are devalued and seen as objects rather than athletes. Thus, the sexualization of female athletes is a very prominent problem within the world of sports media.

Sexism is one of the biggest issues in professional sports and the way the media portrays female athletes continues to fuel the fire. In today’s society, professional female athletes fall victim to the habits of the media in which they objectify and over-sexualize many female athletes. These female athletes are portrayed to society in an overall derogatory fashion that makes them seem to be of lesser value than their male counterparts. Even the highest esteemed female athletes cannot escape the effects that the mass media has on professional female athletes. Sexism will continue to be a large issue for female athletes and there is simply nothing that they can do about it. It is a problem that continues to be ignored by a large chunk of the athletic community, and no respite will be found for these female athletes until mass media outlets change their habits when covering professional female sports.

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