Female representation in media problematic

by Kari Barnick

barnickka@mnstate.edu

Female athletes have had a recent burst of attention in the media lately because of trending athletes like Ronda Rousey, Serena Williams, and the Women’s US soccer team. While that’s great and long overdue, it’s not enough and here’s why.  Females are still under paid, underrepresented and over sexualized and it’s no different in athletics. The highest paid male athlete, boxer Floyd Mayweather, comes in with a whopping $300 million while the highest paid female athlete, tennis player Maria Sharapova, comes in at $29.7 million according to Forbes Magazine. Mayweather then makes ten times as much as his female counterpart.

Now, I don’t think any athletes should be raking in millions upon millions of dollars, but they should be payed equally no matter what. Even the tenth highest paid male athlete, Kobe Bryant, still comes in almost twice as much as Sharapova, making almost $50 million. The question left to ask is why are female athletes being underrepresented?

A couple days ago, I stumbled upon the answer when I asked the tough question to a paper of why males dominated the sports section. The answers boiled down to male sports sell more copies. Readers are interested in male dominated sports and the media follows the money. Unfortunately, this is a disheartening truth that couldn’t be truer. So what options are left? Does the media change to publishing equal representation anyway or continue to publish whatever sells best? Do we as the consumers change the demand or sit silent in injustice? It’s a never ending power struggle of consumerism and the media competing with what’s justice.

As I was researching this, I again stumbled upon something interesting that seemed to fuel the difference in demands for male and female athletes. When searching “top female athletes” and “top male athletes” five of the female articles were instead on rating their hotness compared to males who had two posts rating hotness. This leads me to believe that there is, in fact, a different demand for female athletes than male athletes. It appears that viewers/consumers are more concerned about the attractiveness of female athletes than their actual skill and talent. I wonder though, is this the consumers fault or the media’s for always hyper-sexualizing every little thing. We live and partake in a world where even fast food commercials are hyper-sexualized. Even what’s trending now for female athletes has little to do with their natural abilities, but rather their natural beauty. Articles from body shaming strong, muscular women and the response of that, embracing a less typical feminine build are popping up all over popular media sights. It’s no longer enough to admire and criticize their skill in their chosen sport. Female athletes already have to prove women can excel in sports just the same as men. Now, they have to also defend their body that they’ve rightfully worked hard for and need for their chosen field.

If we’re expecting different demands for females, it’s no wonder they are so underpaid, underrepresented, and over sexualized. Female athletes are nowhere near the same playing field as male athletes and won’t be until something changes whether that starts with equal pay, equal media coverage, or less of a focus on sexuality.  As a feminist and journalist I will not leave females trapped underneath this glass ceiling, will you?

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