Olympic Media Coverage of Women

The Olympics are generally considered the pinnacle of women’s sporting achievements and the height of media coverage for women in sport. Not only are there increasingly more and more women representing countries all over the world, but women and men’s sport is nearly 50/50 of the televised coverage. Unfortunately, there are still problems that must be considered, specifically, the way women are covered in sport is problematic and fundamentally different to how men are covered by the media. Considering Olympic level coverage is interesting because it allows readers to make one to one comparisons of athletic media coverage.

An article published by Global News regarding the 2016 Rio Olympics considers how female athletes are often referred to in regards to their relationships with men’s or criticized for their appearance while competing in their event. Which is something seen often in coverage of women. Media coverage often attributes the success of female athlete ’s to their husbands or male coaches. Like for example how the Chicago Tribune made a social media post titled ” Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins bronze” the U.S. trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein is in fact married to a Bear’s player but that has little to do with her ability to win an Olympic medal.

Many researchers have demonstrated this phenomenon of distinct coverage based on gender.  For example Andrea Eagleman found that when women are talked about, they often described based on their marital status or their age is a major topic of discussion while the men are described for physical aspects, for example, words like” strong” and “fastest” are used to consider the male participants in the games. Interestingly this article concludes that while it is true that women are covered differently by the media than men, it goes on to point out that it seems that both genders are undermined by their coverage and their sporting accomplishments where diminished by the media. For a male example, men’s accomplishments were often attributed to lucky charms rather than real skill. This article leads the reader to conclude that when it comes to media coverage, there is still much deep-rooted sexism that is and will be a significant hurdle that female athletes will have to face when it comes to achieving equality in sports but it may be by including in the narrative that men are also undermined by media coverage that allows society to come one step closer to gender equality.

Image: Kelsey Serwa by Ryan Pierse/Getty.


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