An interpretive analysis of mass circulation magazine articles on leading male and female professional tennis players indicates that both groups are treated in terms of a “debunking motif” which reveals their imperfections and character flaws. The flaws identified among the women are closely associated with stereotypically feminine gender roles, while the flaws observed among the men are associated with stereotypically masculine gender roles. Thus, the articles reinforce the concept of professional sport as a male preserve, while suggesting an underlying traditionally feminine gender role for the female athletes. It is argued that this construction of the female athlete role derives from the commercial sponsorship of professional tennis.
The author wishes to acknowledge the help of the Southwestern University library staff in acquiring materials used in the study, as well as the helpful comments made by Russell Curtis and Jay J. Coakley on an earlier version of the paper.
Direct all correspondence to: Dan C. Hilliard, Department of Sociology, Southwestern University, Georgetown, TX 78626.