This paper is a synthesis of results from five separate studies examining how recent structural and philosophical changes in women’s intercollegiate sport programs may have altered the sport experience of female athletes. Based on both questionnaire and interview data, it was apparent that athletes participating in sport programs characterized by the greatest change (e.g., post-Title IX programs, programs of the 1980s, product-oriented sport models, and Division I programs of recent years) shared somewhat common experiences — with the presence of conflict being one of the most pervasive themes. Four types of conflict were identified: (a) value alienation, (b) role strain, (c) role conflict, and (d) exploitation. Each of these types of conflict is discussed and examples to substantiate the presence of each form of conflict are presented. Based upon the findings, it is suggested that the changing context and emphases of college sport may have exposed female athletes to different sets of circumstances, expectations, and experiences, thus altering the nature of the sport experience and bringing into question the educational legitimacy of college sport.
Elaine M. Blinde and Susan L. Greendorfer
Elizabeth A. Daniels
Past research has shown that teen girls consume media that frequently contains objectified images of women. Little is known about whether these girls are also exposed to empowering images, such as women playing sports. The current study evaluated the prevalence of these images in five popular magazines aimed at teen girls. Of the 620 photographs examined, only 7% showed women engaged in physical activity or sport. The majority of these images showed women in fitness activities that emphasize shape and muscle tone, rather than in sport activities that emphasize instrumentality. Results demonstrate that women athletes are largely invisible in mainstream magazines for teen girls.
From a theoretical perspective, I analyze the claim that women’s athletic performances are negatively affected by their menstrual cycles. To demonstrate the perpetuation of the belief that menstruation is a mythical debilitating bodily function for women and sport participation, an overview of Elizabeth Spelman, Simone De Beauvoir, and Iris Marion Young’s philosophical framing of somatophobia and menstruation is outlined. Analysis of specific examples of elite female athletes who have addressed menstruation in connection to their sporting performance are also discussed to emphasize how menstruation is linked to the frailty myth. I offer an analysis of the scientific literature on hormonal swings of the menstrual cycle and, the effects on sport performance to show that research is equivocal. Finally, a brief examination of feminine hygiene marking campaigns takes place to further emphasize the argument how the frailty myth is closely linked to women athletes and menstruation and how change can be created.
J.A. Carter, Erynn Casanova and David J. Maume
Media guides are constructed by sports organizations as a means for providing information about their organization to mass media professionals. Research on sports-themed mass media has already shown that women are covered less than men, and that the focus on women athletes is disproportionately on their personal lives and physical appearance, but is this true of materials provided to and used by mass media professionals, or more specifically, media guides? This research examines the textual content of 637 athlete profiles in the 2008 U.S. Olympic Media Guide using quantitative content analyses. Findings show significant differences in the size and content of the athlete profiles of women and men, with women athletes’ profiles being longer and containing more personal information than those of men.
Les guides des médias sont élaborés par les organisations sportives afin de fournir de l’information à propos de leur organisation aux professionnels des médias. Les recherches sur les médias ayant pour thème le sport ont déjà montré que les femmes sont moins présentes que les hommes et que le focus sur les athlètes femmes est de façon disproportionnée sur leur vie personnelle et leur apparence physique, mais est-ce vrai du matériel fourni et utilisé par les professionnels des médias, ou plus spécifiquement, des guides des médias ? Cette étude examine le contenu textuel des profils de 637 athlètes dans le guide des médias de l’équipe américaine olympique de 2008 et utilise des analyses de contenu quantitatives. Les résultats révèlent des différences significatives dans la taille et le contenu des profils d’athlètes des femmes et des hommes, les profils des athlètes femmes étant plus longs et contenant plus d’information personnelle que ceux des hommes.
Tracy Everbach and Jenny Mumah
This study analyzed the reactions of college women athletes to mass media images of nude and scantily clad professional female athletes. The study focused on interviews of 18- to 22-year-old female athletes about the pressure on women to pose for sexualized photographs. Using a feminist framework, the study found that some of the college athletes rejected socially constructed concepts of femininity, others criticized the professional athletes for posing, and others accepted socially constructed standards of beauty. This research suggests that young women athletes are conflicted by the images of femininity presented by mass media and react in complex ways to them.
Pat Williams, Dana Pennett O’Neil, Anneliese Goslin and Darlene Kluka
Hilary Mathesen and Kay Flatten
This research was to assess changes in Great Britain (GB) in the percent coverage of women’s sports in six national and Sunday newspapers (Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Express, Mail and Mirror) between 1984 and 1994. Measurements were taken of all sports articles on the front pages, editorial pages and sports pages for the period 1st-14th July in both years. Data were categorized into male only, female only and mixed articles per day, square centimetres per day and photos per day. There was a decrease in percentage coverage of women’s sport coverage (articles per day down 5.2%; cm2 per day down 5.2%; photos per day down 7.1%) while the overall coverage of sport increased. During the time period the portion of GB Olympians who were women increased by 7% and there was a 3% increase in proportion of sports participants in the general population who were women. An adjustment index is presented which uses population figures and sport participation figures to calculate the proportion of sport participants who are female. This index was used to assess fairness in reporting sport.
In 2002, Ty Votaw, then commissioner of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), introduced a marketing plan called the Five Points of Celebrity, which included performance, approachability, passion and joy, appearance, and relevance. Votaw endorsed the Five Points of Celebrity as a way for women golfers to succeed in a competitive sports and entertainment marketplace. Rhetorical criticism of the Five Points of Celebrity using the framework of gender as performance reveals the underlying homophobic notions of the plan. First, Votaw presents the plan as a way to cater to what fans in a sports and entertainment marketplace desire. Second, the plan supports athletes’ displaying femininity to compensate for displaying traditionally masculine characteristics while participating in sport. Third, presentation of femininity emerges as a concomitant presentation of heterosexuality to subvert the “image problem” of LPGA of athletes being perceived as lesbians.
Karen H. Weiller and Catriona T. Higgs
The increase of women workers in industry during World War II coincided with an increase in sport participation and competition. From 1943 to 1954, the All American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL) allowed talented women athletes a chance to play professional baseball. The purpose of this study was to examine the nature of women’s professional baseball and its connection with the social, cultural, and economic roles for women in society. An open-ended questionnaire allowed former players to respond to the social and cultural forces that impacted on women in society and sport during this era. The players of the AAGPBL were respected and admired professional women athletes in a male-dominated sport.