Sexism has tainted every aspect of the sports industry and continues to do so even today. In a seemingly progressive society, we remain decades behind where we should be. Women are continuously viewed as lesser than men, and this trend in sports is something that needs to be addressed and worked on.
From a local perspective, I see a distinct lack of coverage in female teams, whereas male teams are in every aspect of media imaginable. The University of New Mexico has more womens’ sports teams than mens’, so why am I only hearing about the mens’ teams? In addition, for a university that has historically better womens’ teams (just take a look at women’s versus men’s basketball if you want an example), I’d like to see more representation in the area that actually wins.
Yet, when there actually is coverage of female sports, how that coverage is done is an issue, as discussed in the article “Separating the Men from the Girls: The Gendered Language of Televised Sports.” This article discusses and analyzes the difference in commentating for men and women and, needless to say, there is a clear divide; gendered terms often pervade the womens’ world whereas men are still lifted up to be the “real” athletes. We’re living in 2021, right? It doesn’t feel like it.
Women in sports are impacted by perception off the field as well. According to a study by Laurence Etling and Raymond Young in their article “Sexism and the Authoritativeness of Female Sportscasters,” both men and women found that a man’s voice was more authoritative than a woman’s when sportscasting. Along the same lines, dress also comes into play. Let’s not forget last year when Dan McNeil, a longtime radio host in Chicago, compared ESPN’s broadcaster Maria Taylor’s outfit to one that would be seen on Adult Video News, whose annual award show is often described as “the Oscars of porn” according to the Washington Post.
“Too often, women are subjected to this type of commentary,” ESPN said in a statement to the Washington Post. “Women in sports deserve respect for their abilities and intellect, not judgment regarding their appearance.”
This statement comes despite the history of women being mistreated at ESPN; reports of harassment and hostility have come from many different women that work at the outlet.
For a female athlete, we see just as much sexism when looking at attire. When the Norwegian women’s beach handball team attempted to wear less-revealing clothing during a game (men wear shorts and tank tops whereas women are forced to wear tight bikini bottoms), they were fined a total of 1,500 euros ($1,700). This came even after the team’s petition to allow their athletes to play in the clothing they train in. Why are we policing what these women wear? From what I recall, sports is about the game, not the players’ femininity.
"They define how the public see you," Olympic gold medalist Anna Watkins told BBC. "I think often it's an unintentional thing but in some ways that's more concerning as it shows an unconscious bias ... Men aren't immune from comments about their physique, such as when wearing tight trunks, but women get it more and it's more important because of the history of inequality."
Going even further in the commentating world, there is still blatant disrespect shown for female athletes. According to WTVA News, commentators will more often refer to a woman by “girl” than a man by “boy.”
"I mean, if you just flipped it, and you thought about a commentator talking about (a male athlete as a) boy … it's comical,” Janet Fink, an expert in female athlete marketing, told WTVA News.
This, of course, comes when the commentators can’t even remember the names of female athletes, regardless of their skill level. It’s time to stop comparing female athletes’ accomplishments to male athletes’, like the comparison of Katie Ledecky as being the female Michael Phelps.
For a modern and civilized society, we’re very behind the times. It’s time to take a long, hard look at the history of sexism that still stains sports and actually get something done about it. But first, we need to start the conversation on the issue; long-term solutions won’t come until after a society-wide acknowledgment of the problem.
Megan Gleason is the Editor-in-Chief of the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @fabflutist2716