Sexualisation of women in sport

Pictured: Women are sometimes sexualised in sports. (Source: Sangudo via flickr.)

By Emilia Jansson

Apparently we live in a society where women and male are treated exactly the same. With the Huffington Post calling it the ‘decade of the women’, and with an increase in the backlash against feminism it is clear that many people believe we live in an equal world. This is also prominent in sports with the president of the International Olympic Committee claiming that the Olympics 2012 was a “major boost for gender equality” and ESPN suggesting that 2015 was the year of the women. Yet statistics show this is not the reality.

The International Sports Survey reviewed 80 newspapers from 22 countries and found that 85% of the sports coverage worldwide was male sports. Moreover, women athletes only receive 7% of all sports coverage in the UK with only 2% of national newspaper sports coverage dedicated to women’s sports!

The statistics are staggering and show that there is definitely inequality within sports. Yet, somehow it does not seem to be an issue that receives a lot of attention. This has to change.

In order to receive more attention from the press more female sports have started “sexing up the sport”. The female sport that received the most coverage at the London Olympics was beach volleyball. The females all wore bikinis as their outfit whilst their male counterparts wore tank tops and knee-length shorts. It may be argued that volleyball is a very exciting sport and that is why it got so much attention by the press and the public, although Boris Johnson wrote an editorial where he attributed the success of the sport to the “semi-naked women glistening like wet otters”. Johnson is now the current British foreign secretary. It is a shame that women have to sexualise themselves in order to be taken somewhat seriously as athletes and receive the amount of the press coverage that they actually deserve.

Thankfully there have been attempts to improve the situation for females in sports over the years. I am sure many may have heard that they ‘throw like a girl’ / ‘run like a girl’ etc when they’ve failed at a sport. The term ‘like a girl’ creates negative stigma against females, as if having a vagina suddenly makes you incapable of being good at a sport. However, Always used an advertisement to reclaim the term in an attempt to empower women. Obviously Always were trying to sell a product as well but the advertisements reached an audience of over 70 million views online and therefore it can be seen as a success in attempting to tackle the negative stereotypes of girls in sports.

There is no doubt that gender equality has improved over the last decades, but if we really want a truly equal world there must be significant improvements in the area of sports. Female sports must start to be taken seriously and more investment should be put into showcasing female talent. Female athletes should not have to sexualise themselves to receive the professional attention that they deserve. Instead, let them inspire young girls to become strong, independent and hard-working, without having to wear bikinis.

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