Monday, February 12, 2007

Female athletes as sex objects--business as usual

Sheila G. Miller of the Herald News, has written a thoughtful article about the trap of being a female athlete who needs to be marketed as "sexy" or "pretty" rather than as just a good athlete. Female athletes receive only 6% of television sports coverage and 8% of print coverage, so there is a lot of pressure to get noticed in other ways in order to get endorsements and ad campaigns and in order for sports leagues to sell tickets.

But it isn't just about needing to get noticed. Female athletes still have to prove that they are "feminine," and that pressure is probably even greater than the pressure to get noticed so they can make money for themselves and their sports.

Maria Sharapova, who has exploited the "sexy girl" market better than any other sportswoman in recent years, was asked a couple of years ago whether the WTA was selling sex. "I don't care what they're selling," she replied. Sharapova, with her stylish looks and relative sophistication, doesn't have to care. And she has a right to make money any way she wants to, but every time she pulls a camera out of the leg of her shorts and tells us to "make every shot a Power Shot," she makes it that much harder for female athletes to be taken seriously.

I do realize that some famous male athletes have been featured in underwear campaigns, but they didn't need to show their bodies to get respect--they were already famous. And the millions of Web searches that are done about them are not about nudity or briefs, but about athletic achievement.


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