Sports. Baseball, Basketball, Tennis, Golf; what athletes do you think of when you hear these sports? Barry Bonds, Michael Jordan, Andrew Roddick, and Tiger Woods? Those are just to name a few of the most famous athletes, but as you may notice there are no females listed there. What about Jennie Finch, the world’s best softball pitcher? Or Betty Lenox, MVP on the championship team for the Seattle Stars, or the Williams sisters? What about the greatest golfer of her time, Annika Sorenstam? Many of these women athletes have the skills that men maintain and barely ever get recognized for it. The media is finding it very difficult to support the women athletes because they do not have the sponsors the men have.
When a group of friends are together, how many times have you heard them say “Hey the women’s basketball game is on tonight, let’s watch it!”? It just barely happens. Women who play a team sport are viewed as aggressive and I agree with Kate Rounds when she states in her essay, Why Men Fear Women’s Teams, that men find it intimidating to watch.
Women who are strong, aggressive, sweaty and awesome at their team sport can be intimidating to a man. The sports where women play individually, golf and tennis, originated in Britain where the women wore skirts and make-up, but were treated more like equals. In Britain “the corporate sponsors were hackers themselves, and the fan -even men- could identify with the women” (Rounds, 433). After hearing that statement one has to wonder if the women received the attention first because of their skills or because they were beautiful to look at in their skirts and jewelry?
In the United States the recognition of women athletes is becoming more and more, but only because of their sexual appeal to the public. Even though there are some women who are noticed for their skills and are extremely talented at what they do, I think the media starts to notice them because of their physical features first.
In tennis the Williams sisters, Serena and Venus, are excellent athletes but their marketing force is based on sex. The more the media spotlight is on them, they both started to wear jewelry while competing; gold necklaces, belly button rings, earrings and more. The sisters also started to wear clothing from their new clothing line. It is like they were first found because they were good at tennis for a girl, but if they wanted sponsors their skills were not enough. They had to appeal to the public physically and sexually as well. The sports introduce their popularity by sex. A perfect example is Anna Kournikova.
The media started covering her because she is an attractive, blonde female with large breast, and great legs who runs around the tennis court whacking around a tennis ball at 100mph. She became popular because sex does sell. After the media started to advertise her body, Kournikova posed for Playboy, and in Maximum magazines. She is now making her money from that instead of playing tennis and working at her talent. Everyone knows of her now as the tennis player who poses for Playboy, instead of just a great, beautiful athletic young women who is talented in the game of tennis.
As I was doing research on women athletes, I tried to find a famous player from each televised sport. In Softball, the best pitcher in the league is Jennie Finch. Her team won gold in the 2004 Olympics, and she is known for her strike out windmill pitch. Coming from a person that loves sports, I truly had no idea Finch is as good as she is. I’ve seen her face on SAK advertisements (handbags) but I did not realize that she was part of the Olympic Softball team. The women who are tied into sports are always recognized for their sex first and barely ever for their sport.
After Randy Chasteen won the World Cup in 2000, she was so excited she took off her shirt and was running around the field waving her shirt above her head. What was on the cover of the next Sports Illustrated? Not her winning team, but Chasteen, herself, on her knees just in a sports bra and shorts. After that incident she was asked to be a guest on may talk shows and the first words out of the interviewers mouth was about her shirt incident. Why did you take off your shirt? What does that signify? Did you think before you did it? Everyone wants to get to the sexual questions first and open with that. Then the interviewers will get to the actual strategy of the game and possibly talk about her sport and herself as an athlete. If a man had done the same thing there would not have been as much hype by the media, but because a woman did it everyone has to recognize the fact that it was done and blow everything out of proportion.
Now since some women are becoming more noticed in the athletic area, it is still hard to find out information about them. For the sports fans the one thing that comes to mind in the month of March is March Madness. It is currently going on now and it is a huge time for sponsors to support their teams. At the same time a women’s basketball team Michigan State made it to the final four for the first time and it was a huge accomplishment. The title game is on Tuesday night but no one knows about that. Everyone is concerned for the Championship men’s game on Monday night. Women’s games are mostly never played on the local networks either. If a fan wants to watch their favorite women’s team play an important game they have to turn to ESPN or ESPN2. It is very difficult for fans to keep track of the women’s sports teams if they are unable to watch them on their local television network.
Another topic brought up by Rounds is the fact that women who play in the team sports are stronger and more aggressive than the individual sports. “The United States in general has problems dealing with women athletes and strong, aggressive females. The perception is you have to be more aggressive in team sports than in golf and tennis, which aren’t contact sports. Women athletes are looked at as masculine and get the stigma of being gay” (Rounds, 433). With this twisted image of the female athletes, no wonder why they feel the need to wear make-up when they play, or grow their hair long even though it is easier to wear it short. The media and the people in today’s society are all contributors to this image put upon women athletes.
As the women of today are playing sports and becoming greater athletes the chances of them being recognized for their athletic abilities and natural talent for the sport is very slim. The media is full of sexual intentions and judging a person from only the outside. It is sad how the media only starts to support the women athletes because of the fact that they have tiny waists and great legs, or large breasts. Because they know people will watch them perform if they are attractive.
Women athletes all over the world are struggling to be known for their talents and it is going to take more than one media company like ESPN to make a difference. Local businesses and cities have to start making women’s stadiums and advertisements for women’s sports, anything that will help them become more well known without having to exploit their bodies. Hopefully now that our society is in the 21 century they will start to mature and learn to accept people the way they are instead of creating everything with a sexual appeal. It has taken a long time to get where we are today, but it is still not good enough.