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.
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.