‘Institutionalised’ sexist coverage of female sport undermines achievements, says Manchester academic

In the aftermath of the misogynistic comments made by Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore, a book claims media coverage of female sport is ‘institutionally sexist’.

Limited coverage and ‘glamorous’ photo shoots are examples of the type of attention that undermines and devalues women’s sport.

The soon-to-be-published book, based on interviews with female footballers and cricketers, has been compiled by Dr Carrie Dunn, Lecturer in Information and Communications at Manchester Metropolitan University.

Despite some female athletes achieving wide spread recognition Dr Dunn argues that more attention does not necessarily equate to a better quality of coverage on a par with men’s sport.

“Increased media profiles give sportswomen opportunities to be role models that have never been available before and that they didn’t have themselves when they were growing up,” she said.

“But on the other hand, many of the media requests that female footballers get are to do ‘glamorous’ photo shoots.

“They do them because something is better than nothing, but they do get annoyed because they feel it undermines their sporting achievement.”

Cricket has been one of the leading mainstream sports that has given the women’s game more prominence thanks to greater media coverage and the ECB recently awarding 18 fulltime central contracts to female players

But despite the sport taking steps in the right direction there are recent examples of sexism that suggest there is still a long way to go before it is eradicated.

In a recent TV interview two female players were asked about the cricket for two minutes before the presenter brought up some old modelling photos which really embarrassed one of them.

The internet offers women’s sport a platform for further exposure but Dr Dunn believes that outlets are currently neglecting to cover it.

“The general feeling is that there is overkill in men’s sport but the problem with multimedia coverage is that there are no page limits. Those news outlets could also cover women’s sport online, but they simply don’t,” she added.

Though websites or newspapers may be sending people to cover more sport, some argue that there may well be issues with the attitudes of those in the press box as well.

During the Women’s Ashes series there were only four people in the press box at times as opposed to around 40 for the men’s match, and sometimes journalists who were supposed to be covering the women’s game would just turn up when it had nearly finished and write their copy to avoid watching the whole thing.

Dr Dunn identifies that the root of the problem lies in the fact that historically women’s sport has not been valued as highly as men’s and despite the move towards equality in society, sport still lags behind.

“It’s easy to say it’s because of the oppression of women – but it is! Football is awful for it,” she stated.

The group Women in Football, a network of women working in and around football, reported in March that over 66% of women working in the sport have experienced sexism.

Though there are steps being taken such as employing female players as community coaches, there were numerous examples that highlighted the issue of sexism in sport.

“Football has a highly active misogynistic wing. It’s getting better but slowly. Other sports have profoundly improved,” one respondent said.

“I experienced direct sexist and derogatory comments, and intimidation. I didn’t report it as I was scared, I was told I would never work in the game again,” another recounted.

Main image courtesy of ISNTV via YouTube, with thanks.

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