By The Collegiate Staff
Women athletes only receive 4% of all media attention despite having about 40% of the participation in sports. They are not given the same coverage as men, and are often subjected to comments on their appearance, femininity, and sexuality rather than their performance and athletic ability.
To remedy this, members of the media need to make sure that they are devoting the same amount of time to women’s sports as they do men’s. Journalists also need to do a better job of covering women’s sports without talking about their femininity and attractiveness.
There are certain things reporters can do to make sure their coverage is highlighting women sports more. First, they can make a plan to consistently cover women’s sports like they do for men’s sports. Some media outlets will update readers and viewers on everything that is going on in men’s sports, but they will not do the same for women. Media outlets should make a plan to make sure they are covering game recap, injuries, trades, and other sports news for women’s sports like they do with the men’s.
For example, on the ESPN app you can see all the news and stats about a male athlete, but when you try to do the same for a female athlete, there are barely, if any, stats about those players. ESPN should take the time to make sure they have stats for all players and not just male athletes.
Another way to improve is to hire more women journalists. Currently the amount of women sports journalists is very low, and that has an impact on what is reported. According to The 2018 Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) Racial and Gender Report Card, 90 percent of sports editors are male. If you bring in more women journalists, they can help report the stories of more women in sports and produce equitable coverage. It will not solve all of the disparities in coverage, but it will help to start making a change.
Also, the media should focus on athletes’ athletic ability and their stories rather than talking about other things that don’t pertain to them as athletes. Historically, many women athletes have been sexualized or talked about their bodies or attractiveness instead of holding the focus on their athletic achievements. To get away from this, reporters and producers should focus on the backstories of women and their athletic abilities.
An argument often used is that women don’t get enough viewers to be covered. It is true that women don’t get the same amount of views, so media companies will often not show them because they don’t believe they will attract a lot of people. A study has shown that people say they believe that women sports are less exciting, but in the same study, it found that those people don’t even watch women’s sports regularly, and don’t have any prior knowledge and experience with women’s sports. People don’t watch women sports because they have been taught and will automatically assume it is less entertaining without ever watching it.
Sports journalism is so important because it can change that way of thinking. If more effort is put into promoting women’s sports, it will attract more viewers. If more women’s sports are featured on prime-time channels, women will get more exposure, and that can change the way people view women’s sports.
One of the biggest arguments about the subject of women sports receiving more attention is that women sports are less fun to watch. This argument is comical because most people who say this haven’t ever watched women’s sports.
Softball for example is way faster than baseball, and therefore very fun to watch. Some people don’t know that softball is fast and entertaining to watch because they haven’t watched it before, and assume it is less interesting because women play it when in fact it is actually more interesting. That is the fault of the media, and TV channels. They almost never play NCAA softball. The only time they do play it is when the national championship is being played, and they do so without much promotion. TV channels need to promote and play these games because that could draw in a larger audience.
There are many ways fans of sports can help this gap. First, watch women play sports. It is the easiest way people can help them get more recognition and if you can, buy tickets to their games to show support. The more viewers they receive the more they will be represented in the media. You can help by educating yourself on the issues women athletes face, and most of all listen to the experiences of women athletes.
Women athletes have faced many inequalities in sports including wage gap, discrimination, and lack of media attention. Sports journalists and the media companies that hire them can change how people see women’s sports by simply committing to covering their stories. And it is important that a change happens now to finally give these women the attention and respect they deserve.