Thursday, May 8, 2008

Women in Sports and the Lack of Media Attention

After reading about this via feministing the other day, some of my friends and I got to talking about female athletes and their lack of media attention. We decided to try to name 10 famous female and male athletes. The only rule was that all four of us had to have heard of them. Two of us were Americans and the other two were international (from Jamica and Spain), so, basically, the women had to be internationally known.
Here's what we came up with:

For the women:
1. Venus Williams
2. Serena Williams
3. Michelle Kwan
4. Mia Hamm
5. Lisa Leslie
6. Michelle Wie
And that was it.

For the men:
1. Michael Jordan
2. David Beckham
3. Magic Johnson
4. Tiger Woods
5. Dennis Rodhman
6. Andre Agassi
7. Muhammad Ali
8. Shaquille O'Neal
9. Pele
10. Babe Ruth

Now, the women's list took about 7 minutes before we gave up, while we had the men's list finished within two minutes. Why haven't we heard of more women athletes? My other American friend and I were able to come up with ten women that both of us knew, but that my international friends didn't, meaning that this is an international media problem. Why aren't women's sports being more recongized in the international media? Women's sports are just as exciting as men's, but they get far less attention. Why?

(Here's an
awesome women's sports story, at least.)

29 comments:

dutch said...

because quite frankly, women's sports are BORING.

charles said...

women in sports get less attention because the women that play in most women's sports are really men. i mean look at some of them! it's rediculous!

Amelia said...

You and I talked, at the radio station, about how most of the women who were well-known athletes had some sort of scandal attached to them (like Tonya Harding, or Brandi Chastain, who took her shirt off after scoring the winning goal in the 1998 Women's World Cup).

That's interesting, but I think it's also rather typical of well-known women of all kinds in the media: the media seems to love recording and lavishing on the attention for women who had downfalls or scandals. Lame.

And Dutch, I think ALL sports are equally boring if you're not playing them/have a great attachment to them.

And Charles, what you just said was "rediculous."

Lindsay said...

In the United States, men's sports have been funded for a heck of a lot longer than women's. My mom ran on her high school's first cross-country team... She thought nothing of it at the time, but it's kinda cool anyway. That was in the late 70's so I'm not sure how long it took for Title IX to kick in up in rural Wisconsin.

Kate said...

Just an additional comment: I googled "female athletes" for a pictures, and the first several hits were athletes were women in bikins or athletes in "sexy" poses. Ugh.

all american girl said...

I have to disagree with you, Amelia. I find most men's sports very entertaining. It's the women's sports that bore me to death, which is an issue because I am a sports announcer. It's not their fault, men's sports just move at a faster pace and are altogether more interesting to watch. For example, compare men's basketball to women's basketball. If you were to take a poll, I'm sure you'd find that men's basketball is prefered because it moves at a faster pace than women's basketball. Football and baseball are also widely popular in America... and they are both mens' sports. This is because they are just more entertaining and interesting to watch than figure skating and softball.

Amelia said...

Okay, so perhaps people in general think that men's sports are more interesting that women's sports because they are "faster paced." I have nothing to prove otherwise, although you provided no real data to prove your thesis.

But on your point that Football and baseball are also widely popular in America... and they are both mens' sports, I would like to point out that the reason for that could very easily be the fact that football and baseball have a much longer (and male-dominated) history than women's sports, which did not become even possible until the 1970s with Title IX.

Men's sports have been around longer, so people have had more time to form allegiances and have had the opportunity to have the "love of the game" become embedded in society.

So women's sports have a lot to contend with if it comes down to "popularity." Especially when women athletes have to deal with the assumption, one that I often heard as a high school soccer player (3 years starting varsity), that "Girls aren't tough and they don't want to get dirty!" Guys used to tell me that that was why they didn't want to come watch my team play, when that was not true at all. My team was just as physical as the boys we competed with, and we could keep up with them, but this prejudice against women's athlete's was hard to shake.

And with beliefs like that, who is going to want to watch women's sports?

all american girl said...

I don't need "data" to support what is common knowledge... at least common knowledge of those I know and have talked to. Ask around, I'm sure you'll get the same conclusion.

Amelia said...

Yes, actually, data would be helpful in convincing people of your point because what you call "common knowledge" could very well be subjective.

You said it was common knowledge at least common knowledge of those I know and have talked to, and the people you "know and have talked to" may be all very similar to each other. I could easily, perhaps, come up with a group of people that I know and talk to, and get opposite conclusions from you. That is why researchers always strive to use broad and representative population samples. Which the people that you "know and talk to" would not be.

So does that mean that my other points were convincing to you? You said nothing on them, AAG.

all american girl said...

Ameila-

I'm sorry, but no, your other points were not convincing to me. I had a limited amount of time to post last time, so that was the only one I got to. I will address the rest now.

But on your point that Football and baseball are also widely popular in America... and they are both mens' sports, I would like to point out that the reason for that could very easily be the fact that football and baseball have a much longer (and male-dominated) history than women's sports, which did not become even possible until the 1970s with Title IX.
Football and baseball will always be male dominated. I'm sorry. I love playing football, don't get me wrong, but I recognize that it is a not a sport that any normal (not possessing super-human strength and abilities or being heavily addicted to steroids) woman could ever play professionally. Title IX in and of itself was not something that I agree with, I'm sorry. Softball... completely a waste of time. It is an easy version of baseball... why not just make it the Women's T-ball league? Men always and forever will dominate sports.

Men's sports have been around longer, so people have had more time to form allegiances and have had the opportunity to have the "love of the game" become embedded in society.
This is probably one of the only things I will ever agree with you on. Yes. Since they have been around for a longer period of time, people are more set in their ways when they root for one team over another.

So women's sports have a lot to contend with if it comes down to "popularity."
Popularity? Sure. Men's sports always have been more popular. And I bet they will continue to be unless women's mud wrestling is made a national sport.

Especially when women athletes have to deal with the assumption, one that I often heard as a high school soccer player (3 years starting varsity), that "Girls aren't tough and they don't want to get dirty!" Guys used to tell me that that was why they didn't want to come watch my team play, when that was not true at all. My team was just as physical as the boys we competed with, and we could keep up with them, but this prejudice against women's athlete's was hard to shake.
That is an age old prejudice. I saw it when I played backyard football. Men are more physically able to do certain sports than women are. And men are more likely to get down and dirty while playing them. That doesnt mean that there aren't women out there who are tougher than the guys, it just means that it is a stereotype that is associated with women's sports... and it definately doesn't help that women's sports are slower paced and not as violent/aggression-laced.

And with beliefs like that, who is going to want to watch women's sports?
No one.

You said it was common knowledge at least common knowledge of those I know and have talked to, and the people you "know and have talked to" may be all very similar to each other. I could easily, perhaps, come up with a group of people that I know and talk to, and get opposite conclusions from you. That is why researchers always strive to use broad and representative population samples. Which the people that you "know and talk to" would not be.
I know a diverse group of people. Incredibly diverse. Allow me to rephrase... if you or I were to survey a random (selected at random in a city, lets say... Chicago... on a weekend... every fifth person to walk by) group of people and ask them which sports are faster paced, men or women... I can almost garuentee that at least 85-90% of people will say men's sports are faster paced.

Lindsay said...

Title IX in and of itself was not something that I agree with, I'm sorry.

Why don't you agree with Title IX?

Amelia said...

AAG - I really feel the need to respond to you because so much of what you have said is based on your own assumptions, and those seem, for whatever reason, rather prejudiced against women athletes.

Football and baseball will always be male dominated...I recognize that it is a not a sport that any normal (not possessing super-human strength and abilities or being heavily addicted to steroids) woman could ever play professionally.

Wow. That was full of a bunch of sexism and stereotypes, like: The always weak woman and the common steroid addicted male athlete. Both of these are generalizations/stereotypes. Not effective in argument.

Softball... completely a waste of time. It is an easy version of baseball... why not just make it the Women's T-ball league?

This is your opinion and it entails your belief that men's sports are "harder" than women's sports, which is not necessarily true because differences can make things difficult to compare.

Men always and forever will dominate sports.

I don't know about that. There was definitely a time when it would have been unthinkable for women to engage in sports at all, even though it has become much more common today.

Popularity? Sure. Men's sports always have been more popular. And I bet they will continue to be unless women's mud wrestling is made a national sport.

I don't even know what to say about that.

And I am done trying to convince you.

Kacie said...

You forgot Anna Kornakova (sp?) who, interestingly enough, has not done as well as Venus and Serena, but made more dollars in endorsements, because she's hot.

all american girl said...

Lindsay -
I do not agree with Title IX because it creates sports that are basically easy versions of the male sports (softball, powderpuff football)... and I honestly believe if you can't play with the boys, you shouldn't play at all.

Amelia-
based on your own assumptions, and those seem, for whatever reason, rather prejudiced against women athletes.
Aren't people's opinions typically based on their assumptions?

Wow. That was full of a bunch of sexism and stereotypes, like: The always weak woman and the common steroid addicted male athlete. Both of these are generalizations/stereotypes. Not effective in argument.
I do not believe I said that all women are weak, nor did I say that all men are addicted to stereotypes. Please do not put words in my mouth. Thank you.

This is your opinion and it entails your belief that men's sports are "harder" than women's sports, which is not necessarily true because differences can make things difficult to compare.
The differences exist in order to make the game easier! It's fact. Baseball = small ball, Softball = giant ball... seriously... it's hard to miss. Baseball = overhand pitching, Softball = underhand pitching... (here's some stereotyping) because a lot of young girls are not properly taught how to throw over hand (thus the saying "you throw like a girl")

I don't know about that. There was definitely a time when it would have been unthinkable for women to engage in sports at all, even though it has become much more common today.
If you are among those who consider cheerleading a sport (which it has become officially recognized as one by IHSA), then no. Women have been in sports for quite some time now.

"Popularity? Sure. Men's sports always have been more popular. And I bet they will continue to be unless women's mud wrestling is made a national sport."
I don't even know what to say about that.

Honestly, it would truely increase ratings of women's sports.

Jezabel said...

I have to agree with AAG... men's sports are more interesting to watch. They are faster paced and altogether more interesting. If they weren't, then I highly doubt that 97.5 million (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/news/story?id=3229763) people would have tuned in to Superbowl XLII.

Lindsay said...

If they weren't, then I highly doubt that 97.5 million (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/playoffs07/news/story?id=3229763) people would have tuned in to Superbowl XLII.

I don't think you can say 97.5 million people watched because men's sports are inherently more fast paced and exciting. There's the advertising, the fact the Patriots were undefeated, the legacy of the game itself, the hyping of the championship, and on and on. There's nothing specific about the fact that only men are playing that makes it that "more fastpaced," in your opinion.

I do not agree with Title IX because it creates sports that are basically easy versions of the male sports (softball, powderpuff football)... and I honestly believe if you can't play with the boys, you shouldn't play at all.

How about it makes sure that all sports programs receive fair funding? You listed sports you think are cheap knock-offs of "men's sports." That's your opinion, but that doesn't mean funding them is any less valid. Likewise, what about track, cross country, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and the many other sports that women play that aren't "easy version of male sports," as you put it.

Title IX is important and the fact that people don't consider it as such is disappointing. You'd think over 30 years after it was passed, we wouldn't need to debate its importance anymore.

Amelia said...

I do not believe I said that all women are weak, nor did I say that all men are addicted to stereotypes. Please do not put words in my mouth. Thank you.

You are correct, AAG, perhaps I did put words in your mouth. I should have said that it seemed as if you were listing off your belief in these stereotypes. Which could have been a misconception, but that's how it came off to me.

all american girl said...

Lindsay -

How about it makes sure that all sports programs receive fair funding? You listed sports you think are cheap knock-offs of "men's sports." That's your opinion, but that doesn't mean funding them is any less valid. Likewise, what about track, cross country, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, and the many other sports that women play that aren't "easy version of male sports," as you put it.
Okay, I may have overgeneralized. Those sports you listed are not "easier"... they are just slower.

JPR said...

I'm surprised nobody mentioned Milka Duno or Danica Patrick. Then again, auto racing isn't really a sport... it just requires massive amounts of endurance, concentration, strategy, and competition. Good post though. Maybe something that would be interesting would be to go back 50 years and take a look at a similar list.

Amelia said...

That really would be interesting, JPR. I have never heard of Milka Duno, but I have heard of Danica (I don't follow racing at all). Thanks for bringing them up.

Lindsay said...

Danice Patrick is the first woman to win an auto race, within the past few weeks. It's pretty sweet.

Okay, I may have overgeneralized. Those sports you listed are not "easier"... they are just slower.

Are you kidding me? All of those sports take lots of physical effort, practice and conditioning. My friend is a lacrosse player (MVP for collegiate women's lacrosse in MN last year, woot woot) and I don't know how many times I've seen giant bruises on all over her arms and legs. The women that play these sports are badass and to say that the sports in general are "slower" is ridiculous. Besides, soccer is one of the most exhausting activities one can engage in, apart from mass genocide (any Dogma fans?).

Amelia said...

I always wanted to try lacrosse...

And I can attest to the fact that women's soccer is not "slow." I played a midfield position for most of my high school career, and it was my job to run to help the defense when the ball was on our side of the field, and then run and try to help get the ball to the forwards so they could score (and sometimes score myself) when the ball was on the opponents' side of the field.

And I would also like to mention something I have noticed from my own experience with both playing and watching both men's and women's soccer: when you are watching the game from the sideline, it looks a lot slower than it actually feels on the field, no matter if it's men or women playing. And it is very hard to get a good idea of how hard the players must exert themselves if you are sitting and watching them.

Just some thoughts.

(The Korean) Andrew said...

My initial assumption would be that combat themed sports garner more attention thus more money thus are funded better. It just so happens that it is easier for our society to accept men as combative and physically competitive. Not women.

Also the standard of beauty in our society associates muscle with dominance; hence masculinity. This society does not like dominant women.

Frankly I don't like dominant people.

Goose said...

Danice Patrick is the first woman to win an auto race, within the past few weeks. It's pretty sweet.

Wrong wrong wrong! she placed higher than any other woman in Indy history, and she is the first woman to win an auto race in that particular league. nowhere near the first woman to win a race. and she wasn't the first woman to compete at Indy by about 30 years.

Also, I wonder if your original survey was skewed, people who follow sports on a regular basis could probably name a lot more athletes of both genders than people who don't.

to throw this out for the softball is easier discussion, they have 60 foot baselines, baseball has 90. Also, womens hockey does not allow nearly the physical contact mens hockey does.

Another point, there was women's baseball leagues during WWII, if anyone has seen the movie A League of their Own about the Rockford Peaches they know what I am talking about. "There's no crying in baseball!"

Amelia said...

You should also remember, Tyler, that this "survey" was made up of American and international students, and the point, beyond anything else, is that regardless of how much these women follow sports, they still were able to name more men that every member of the group had heard of, than they were able to name women.

to throw this out for the softball is easier discussion, they have 60 foot baselines, baseball has 90. Also, womens hockey does not allow nearly the physical contact mens hockey does.

I don't know if this means it's easier. I mean, think about it. Men and women run track. It's not like in that sport, 100 meters is made shorter for the women competing. I don't know why this trend in changing certain aspects of some sports for men and women came about for some sports but not others (for example, at least at the high school level, men and women soccer players use the same field, play for the same amount of time, etc.).

Goose said...

You should also remember, Tyler, that this "survey" was made up of American and international students, and the point, beyond anything else, is that regardless of how much these women follow sports, they still were able to name more men that every member of the group had heard of, than they were able to name women.

Actually, I would just be really interested in seeing what would happen if you took the same sort of poll with people who regularly watch/read ESPN, SI, FoxSports, and similar. For example, I can name more women not on your list than I can name NBA, NHL, or PGA players not on your list. If a person regularly follows baseball or football or soccer or basketball,or golf they can name quite a few players in that sport, but often only the superstars of any other sports. I think that saying just because they have heard of the a disproportionate amount doesn't mean all that much. Another example, how many of the average Americans, let alone internationally where they have their own set of sports stars and politicians, can name more than two or three US Senators? (McCain, Obama, and Clinton excluded.) This in no way implies that the other 90-something senators are irrelevant.

Goose said...

To go with the above comment, It seems somewhat ethnocentric to say that there is a problem because people from other nations have not heard of many American athletes. I bet they could name many athletes of both genders from their home country you have never heard of. I think a larger poll, perhaps an American control group as well would provide better data. I am just saying your group seems rather small to extrapolate any real conclusions from.

Amelia said...

I was not trying to be ethnocentric at all, and I apologize if I came off as such. I was also not trying to say that the problem was that the group of women discussed did not know American athletes.

The problem was that they couldn't come up with a list of female athletes that they all knew, regardless of the country the athletes were from. And the problem with that could be that because they are from different countries and perhaps follow different sports.

The difference, even within this small group, was that they COULD name 10 male athletes. And I think Kate was merely trying to attribute that to greater media attention for male athletes, even worldwide, which female athletes don't seem to get as much.

It was just supposed to be a discussion-starter. Not conclusive scientific evidence.

RMislander said...

I'm definitely of the opinion that men's sports are more popular because they are more fast paced and physical. For example, dunks are a huge crowd pleaser and a draw to men's b-ball, but not in women's.

In tennis, the strength difference works toward women's advantage in terms of entertainment value, as the game is not service dominated and fans can watch more exciting rallies. By the way, were the Williams sisters the only women that all four of you knew? Sharapova, Henin, Graf, Navratilova, Seles, even Kournikova? The list goes on and on.

Golf is not a speed sport, but then women's golf does not have the otherworldly draw of a Tiger Woods. No more Sorenstam, and Michelle Wie has yet to prove her phenom status, which I don't doubt she'll rise to within 5 years or so.

The whole harder or easier argument doesn't make sense because it's a relative argument. I don't doubt the high level of play in professional women's softball, which is enjoyable to watch (their pitchers are absurdly talented), and it is extremely hard relative to their abilities, just as the MLB is the highest eschelon of play relative to male abilities. It's apples and oranges, both are high skill level games relative to their ability.

As for media attention, men will get more attention because again, fast pace and more physical/strength oriented gameplay is the draw. I enjoy watching NCAA women's ball, tennis, softball, soccer, but you'll never see a woman's basketball player take off from the free throw line to slam down a dunk, or throwing a 70 yard hailmary pass into the endzone for a TD, driving the ball 330 yards, or throwing 100 mph fastballs/knocking out 70 dingers. That's the stuff that gets the media hype.