Female Athletes

Breanne Chilton-Eddy

5 March 2015

Female Athletes

Pop culture has shaped how people think of their own identities in many ways. The social stigma that comes with being a female athlete can cause stresses in the social aspects of their lives. Due to how the media portrays female athletes in magazines, films and T.V. they are often over-sexualized.

Male athletes have always been glorified and noticed purely on their abilities while the common female athlete faces social stigma because of their athletic prowess. Men and women’s sports differ because of the way they are seen in the media. Female athletes are shown in a particular way in all types of pop culture: television, film and magazines.

The stigmatization of the female athlete in popular media has been shown in many films while I was growing up. I have noticed that they are the main focus in the film and are trying to prove their athletic capabilities or are seen as endangering the feminine image.

In the movie, She’s the Man the girls’ soccer team gets cut so the main character Viola tries to go out for the boy’s soccer team. She isn’t aloud to try out because the coach and the team think she and all girls are incapable of competing with the boys. Viola heads over to her brothers elite boarding school, while he is away and disguises herself as him to play for the boy’s team. She’s the Man gives a good representation of how society views females in attempt to playing sports. Society expects females to be athletically incompetent and if a female shows athletic prowess it is considered to be one of many stereotypical traits of lesbians.

The best athletes are often labeled as lesbians because they don’t protect their femininity. I think it’s interesting how society thinks that if a woman has an athletic body type and athletic capability this makes them masculine or manly. It proves that there is stigma attached to being a female athlete. Females are expected to do things that don’t endanger their femininity like cheerleading or dance. I believe there is a stigma in being successful at your sport; successful women can be intimidating especially if they were to endanger a man’s masculinity.

Unfortunately, the social stigma of being possibly perceived as a “lesbian” can cause stresses in the social aspects of a female athletes life. These athletes feel the need to appear more feminine in order to mask their masculinity. For example, being really strong is considered to be masculine so women will attempt to avoid these negative stereotypes by trying to prevent an increase in muscle mass so they don’t appear to big. This can affect them negatively because it puts them at risk for injury.

Sports Illustrated is a well-known sports magazine that is read around the country. This past year Little Leauger, Mo’ne Davis was on the front page, she was just thirteen. She was featured mainly because of her age and the circumstance but it is outrageous that this young girl got more media attention then most famous female athletes. When it comes to media exposure, men definitely take center stage especially in magazines like Sports Illustrated. When men are featured they are portrayed solely on their athletic capabilities. When a male athlete is featured on the cover they are seen in uniform or other athletic clothing, but if a female athlete is shown on the cover if at all, they are hyper‐sexualized when posing. For example, just last year a soccer player for the US National team, Alex Morgan was featured in the magazine posing in a swimsuit. If you were just to look at the photos you wouldn’t realize she was a successful female athlete, you would probably assume she was a swimsuit model instead. The majority of readers are male and the best way to draw male attention is to sexualize the sport or athlete; publicity and advertising does this. This brings new audiences and creates a popular representation of what that sport or athlete represents which influences other people and creates a new stigma or status to uphold.

The outcomes of portraying female athletes like this are negative. It can decrease their self-esteem. Athletes will either try and fit or steer away from these stereotypes. This kind of portrayal can discredit from their work because they are appreciated for other attributes like looks and appearance. Instead of being focused on being an athlete there is this competition with other female athletes that is not sports related, you become compared or contrasted based on irrelevant statistics like looks.

Sexualizing women’s sports doesn’t necessarily seem to be going away in popular culture but only growing, because of this women’s athletics are more popular than they have ever been. In general more females are playing sports. This is becoming a new avenue for females in attempt for an equal opportunity.

There are other sides to this debate, including the perspective that our society over-sexualizes male athletes, quite a bit. Such as the H&M commercial featuring David Beckham running around in his underwear. In this commercial, the film maker ensures that the viewer notices him in his underwear first, but then they also show his incredible athleticism while he swims through pools, jumps over cars and fences.



Works Cited


“Alex Morgan 2014 Swimsuit: Guana Island.” SI.com. N.p., 2014. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. http://www.si.com/swimsuit-2014/photos/2015/01/19/alex-morgan-2014-swimsuit-guana-island>.

Calzo, Jerel. “Gender Nonconformity and Athletic Self-Esteem.” Research Gate. The Society of Behavioral Medicine, 18 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <http%3A%2F%2Fwww.researchgate.net%2Fpublication%2F259353199_Physical_Activity_Disparities_in_Heterosexual_and_Sexual_Minority_Youth_Ages_12-22_Years_Old_Roles_of_Childhood_Gender_Nonconformity_and_Athletic_Self-Esteem>.

“David Beckham Bodywear Underwear for H&M Commercial.” YouTube. Ed. Marc 6Atlan. YouTube, 6 Feb. 2013. Web. 07 Mar. 2015. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPcjTefW_Ao&gt;.

Paloian, Andrea. “The Female/Athlete Paradox: Managing Traditional Views of Masculinity and Femininity – Applied Psychology OPUS – NYU Steinhardt.” The Female/Athlete Paradox: Managing Traditional Views of Masculinity and Femininity – Applied Psychology OPUS – NYU Steinhardt. N.p., 2015. Web. 20 Mar. 2015. <http://steinhardt.nyu.edu/opus/issues/2012/fall/female&gt;.

She’s the Man. Dir. Andy Fickman. Perf. Amanda Bynes. Youtube She’s the Man. N.p., 3 Oct. 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2015. <(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StziRu2t85Q)>.


3 thoughts on “Female Athletes

  1. I really enjoyed your paper. As a female athlete, I find a lot of your points true. Especially when i got into high school, I found that we needed to have shorter shorts and looked cuter while at practice or we would get teased. I like the way your paper is going. Keep it up and good luck.

  2. I enjoyed your paper a lot. I am not an athlete or female, but I found that your paper had a lot going for it and kept me interested the whole way through. Your writing style was very smooth and I liked the incorporation and reference to She’s the Man. My wife is always watching that movie. You also brought up a lot of points that I wouldn’t have really thought of before hand, especially some of the stigmas that go along with being a female athlete.

    Great job and good look!

  3. Breanne, i enjoyed reading your paper, i felt like you have a great arrangement here about female athletes. We connect to an extent, and both of our identities correlate in some instances. Furthermore, your tone in your paper matched your argument and that stuck out to me. Great job writing, and a even better job arguing for your identity.

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