espnW is ESPN, Inc.’s, first entity targeted at female fans and female athletes. espnW portrays female athletes as competent sportswomen and serious competitors as measured by quantitative analysis of photographs and articles on the site. A more critical look at the discourse, however, reveals 2 major themes. First, divergent dialogues are used in espnW articles to reify relations of power and privilege for male athletes. Divergent dialogues appear in articles on espnW in the forms of descriptive language used for female athletes, mention of nonsporting topics that have little or nothing to do with athleticism, and direct references to physical/personality attributes. Second, positioning espnW as “additive content” to ESPN for female fans relies on ideas of natural sexual difference and choice. If the institution of sport is defined by masculinity and partially upheld by traditional sports journalism, women are excluded.
The author is with Communication Studies, Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN.