Let’s focus more on athleticism, not sex

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jennieintense.jpgI guess boys will really be boys. And girls will always be sex objects – even in sports publications. I guess that’s still the fate of women. Girls, it’s cool that you work hard developing skills, that you sacrifice your body in games, and that you build your strength. But, put on a bikini, honey, and the boys will be more impressed. I guess sports fans really are pigs.

Sure, sex sells. But do we really need it in our sports publications? CBSsportsline.com and Gatorade recently focused on women’s sexuality rather than on their athleticism. To Gatorade’s credit, four of the 10 athletes in its “Every Game Needs A Hero” ad are women — but two are in bikinis and one is in a short skirt. I guess that’s a reflection of the sports themselves where flesh sells. Yet, Gatorade could just as easily have selected Candace Parker, the Vols’ talented junior forward, or world-class softball pitcher Jenny Finch (above), or someone from New Hampshire’s top-ranked women’s college hockey team. Why are beach volleyball players emblematic of sports?

But sports publications continue to slip in features that diminish women. Sports Illustrated, for example, always finds a way to include a hot girl of the week in “The Beat,” a short feature in the magazine’s scorecard section. This week, the editors found a way to sneak in a reference to Ellen Page, the protagonist of the movie Juno (an exceptional movie, by the way) who is about to star in a movie about roller hockey. ESPN’s page 2 crew, at least, focused on both the hottest female and male athletes in a feature from several years ago.

CBSsportsline has the most egregious sexist feature, where readers voted for the College Cheerleader of the Week through the football season based upon a single photo. Unlike at the national cheerleader championships, these young women were not judged on athletic skill. Instead, these cheerleaders were evaluated based upon sex appeal, which is clear when you read comments by readers. Here are a few: “The two finalist blondes are attractive but their looks are a dime a dozen.” … “One of the biggest complaints here is that you can’t see the girls’ entire body so it’s therefore harder to make a judgement.” … “Why didn’t we get another hot/future porn star from UCLA this year?”

Features like these are inappropriate in a sports publication alongside stories that are supposed to address athletic accomplishments. CBS does not have a feature asking readers to vote for the hottest male cheerleader. So what else is featured in the ‘What’s Hot in Sports’ section? The roster for the NBA Slam Dunk competition, something that makes more sense for a sports site.I’d expect features like this in Maxim, Playboy, or, perhaps, GQ. Not here.

Here’s my favorite reader response to the cheerleading tournament: “Great little contest you boys have here. Next thing you know, it’s off to dumpster-diving for discarded issues of Playboy. Ugh.” There’s no need to jump in, though, because SI’s swimsuit issue is due out next week. Sigh.

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2 Responses to “Let’s focus more on athleticism, not sex”

  1. Notes from a Teacher: Mark on Media » Sunday squibs Says:

    […] Let’s focus more on athleticism, not sex. I really wish more sports writers felt this way and that that feeling was reflected in how and what they report. […]

  2. Kyle Says:

    (I’m about 50% serious, 50% devil’s advocating in the following post. It’s a tricky issue and I’m not sure how I feel about it on the whole):

    There are two types of successful women’s sports leagues:

    Women’s sports that are heavily subsidized by outside sources (government, universities, the NBA).

    Women’s sports that make it on their own with a heavy emphasis on sex appeal to attract viewers (beach volleyball, tennis).

    No, I take that back, the LPGA seems to be pretty self-sufficient.

    Women’s sports leagues often aren’t afraid to use sex appeal to sell themselves. Many female athletes certainly don’t have a problem with it. Why should an entertainment source (a magazine, a web site) covering an entertainment industry voluntarily hamstring itself from something that its readers are so thoroughly entertained by?

    Granted, I am perhaps more willing to give a pass because I don’t consider these sources to be a serious journalistic outlet.

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