The Media’s Portrayal of Gender Differences Within Athletes


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When you think of sports, what is the first thing that comes to mind? Maybe your favorite sports team, or maybe, you think of the sport you’re most interested in. Now, when it comes to sports televised or portrayed most throughout the media, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The misconstrued media coverage done throughout popular culture is one of the reasons why there are gender differences within sports(Pexton, 2011). Media’s coverage on female sports compared to male’s sports differs tremendously, and is in my opinion one of the leading causes as to why female sports are not as highly ranked or watched. Throughout this project, I have come to recognize the different levels of inequality when it comes to comparing the media coverage done in male sports, to female sports. Typically in sports, men are known to be seen as more inferior when compared to women, considering they are most likely referenced to being strong, fast, technical, and/or entertaining. On the other hand, women are more commonly known to be slow, boring, not as good as men, and/or weak in athletics. Why are men and women being compared to each other negatively? Why is their passion for the game and their popularity being compared and segregated by how the media chooses to portray them? These are questions that people have been asking for quite some time now, and with all of the progress our world has with equality, it is obvious that we still have work to do.


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What Needs to be Recognized

Over the years, women have been a huge part of societies growth and are finally being recognized. Women are working outside of home, they are becoming socially acceptable in the work field and in higher positions, and are contributing to making our world better. If people are comfortable with women being in the working field now, then why are there still issues with women being involved in sports? I believe that the media has poorly portrayed women’s talents within sports coverage, and has focused more on men’s coverage instead. Women have been made fun of, stereotyped, and have had their image portrayed in a negative way. Due to the way media has portrayed them, if at all, women are held at a disadvantage (Pexton, 2011). Eric Vilain, from the New York Times, states that “when men are more talented than others, it is an expression of the beauty of sports”…“but when women out-compete others, suspicions about eligibility and arguments for a level playing field often arise” (Vilain, 2012).

Women are constantly being judged or mistreated due to their lack of ability to do what men can do based off of biology. Some researchers have come up with their idea to social solutions, such as giving females testosterone, or not segregating sexes in sports(Vilain, 2012). This is their way of creating equality, but why do women need to be changed in order to fit in? Women shouldn’t have to fight for equality by blending in. Women are seen to be less likely to do the things men can do, and this means less media coverage exposing their successes and performances (Vilain, 2012). I find it interesting, that an idea that popped up to some sports officials was to give testosterone to women for an increase in their athletic ability. I find it strange they are thinking in the direction of changing women, rather than changing the idea of women within sports. You shouldn’t have to give drugs to someone to make them equal; society should just accept that with proper exposure, like what men receive and are exposed to. If that is done instead, then women will see the right kind of attention and support that is necessary.

Featured below: Becky Sauerbrunn, Ali Krieger and Hope Solo being interviewed on The Daily Show


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Inequality Between Genders

These pictures above represent an interview featured on The Daily Show, and provides information as to how women are treated differently when compared to men. Becky Sauerbrunn, Ali Krieger and Hope Solo are three USWNT (U.S. Women’s National Team) players who are trying to help Hasan Minhaj, the interviewer, understand why the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s soccer team should be paid the same as males in the game of soccer. You can see how vast the differences are between how people think of male athletes, compared to women in this interview. Male athletes are given more sympathy, more support, are seen as higher individuals, and “can do no wrong”. But, even when a women’s team has a better record than a men’s team, men are still the ones being talked about. It’s not all about publicity, either. Women are constantly fighting for a face or name they can create for themselves to the public, but even with that disadvantage, they aren’t even being paid enough or close to what males are being paid professionally to be able to compare with men (Pexton, 2011).

In my research, I looked for statistics to show the ratings between female and male games on television, and who was ranked more popular and/or entertaining to the public. For one, women are not even close when it comes to media coverage (Harry, 1995). Professional women athletes still have lower coverage even when compared to the media portrayed for college male athletes. Men do bring in more of a crowd when it comes to live games, but how are people supposed to support women if their track record, schedule, game information, etc. isn’t being promoted or published as much as men’s? The media coverage has been a huge factor as to why women sports are not viewed or supported as much as males are. The lack of media coverage in women sports has increased inequality in sports between men and women, and cause women to seem “weaker”, or “slower” than the games played by men (Pexton, 2011). Women seem to be seen as inferior to men, even in sports, and this can drastically change based on how the media portrays women from now on to our society.


Another piece of evidence I found that shows the gender differences between men and women sports is a few clips from the movie, “She’s the Man”. This movie, made in 2006, is about a young female athlete who’s women’s soccer team got cut from her high school. Her school doesn’t allow coed sports, so instead, they choose to take away the women’s team completely while the men still get to keep their title and team record.The main character, Viola, has to disguise herself to look like a boy in order to be accepted onto the male team, only to prove that she can play just as good, if not better, than the boy’s team. This movie shows many stereotypes involving how women are being seen in not only the media, but in real life, too. In this YouTube clip below, you will see four minutes of gender differences being portrayed in this movie.

She’s the Man:


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The main character, along with the general population of women, get stereotyped and made fun of a lot in this movie within athletics. In this film, the men are really trying to dictate women in sports, and telling them if they are allowed to play. Men have complete control in this movie of the situation with the standing of Viola’s team, until she has to literally disguise herself as the opposite gender to later on prove a point. The steps she had to take to, in the end, make things right between men and women sports, was dramatic and executes my point perfectly. Women have to go to the extremes to get noticed, but men just have to participate and the media is all over them. The idea that women cannot do what men can do needs to be stopped. Females growing up have been discouraged and scared to perform in “male dominated” sports due to the stereotypes and the perceived notions that men are better (Admin, 2010). Women have continued to break stereotypes and cultural barriers that have prevented them from participating in “manly” sports (Admin, 2010). Danica Patrick, Germaine de Randamie, and Pamela Reed are only a few of many who have strived to be the best, without the fear of men being better or getting in the way (Admin, 2010). They have even become role models for many younger female athletes, by proving that can compete and succeed in sports that have been dominated by men or are known to be “male sports”. This shows how women have considerably changed how they are viewed in the sporting world, by challenging stereotypes against them, and with proper media coverage to show for it, women can be noticed for their true athletic abilities.


Some would argue that men bring in more fans than women, so obviously that is why they get paid more. Found in an article located on the Women’s Sports Foundation website, after winning the 2015 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. Women’s National Team won 2 million dollars. Germany’s men’s team won a whopping 35 million dollars for winning the 2014 World Cup (Women’s Sports Foundation, 2015). The U.S. men’s team finished in 11th place and collected 9 million dollars, and each men’s team that was eliminated in the first round of the 2014 World Cup got 8 million dollars each. After calculating, that is four times as much as the 2015 women’s championship team(Women’s Sports Foundation, 2015). Some changes within the media is a necessity in getting the popularity, rankings, and support up for when it comes to women’s games. But what else can be done to make sports more equal and less about gender differences?


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What We Can Do to Promote Change

  • Attend women’s sporting events
  • Support companies that advocate for women’s athletics
  • Sign up to coach a girls’ sports team, whether at the recreational or high school level
  • Encourage young women to participate in sports
  • Become an advocate: if you are or know a female athlete that is being discriminated against – advocate for her rights.
  • Encourage television stations and newspapers to cover women’s sports

With these changes in mind, and with the help from the popular culture in our media, inequality within gender differences can be ignored. People should play sports because of the love of the game they are playing, but with problems like low coverage, low support, and unequal financial support, teams are being compared and contrasted within their gender.

Learning Moments

A discussion that I happened to learn from the most, would probably be from week 1 and/or 5, considering we talked a lot about how different ways of media coverage can manipulate the way something is or how it looks. I found it really interesting about how media can turn something that isn’t really a big deal, and make it look like something it’s not. The manipulation done to certain posts and news updates shocked me, and gave me a lot of insight as to how media can portray certain situations and announcements. The media makes people form their own opinions and ideas based off of what they show them, whether that may be the whole story or only part of it. Also, learning about how Wikipedia can decipher between what is real and what isn’t depending on who is viewing or editing the pages, can seem very biased and unreliable information. It makes sense now as to why no one ever wants students to cite Wikipedia, considering the information given isn’t necessarily always factual and can be totally opinion-based. Both of these two discussion posts influenced me the most, and helped me connect to my final blog post. I find that the media could just be bending the facts on women’s sports, or not covering them at all depending on their biased view on how women are compared to men. It’s a possibility, and happens all the time in the world.


After looking over all three of my artifacts and all of the research I have done within this topic, I’ve recognized the true differences people compare genders to when it comes to sports. I find it interesting the different challenges women face compared to men, and it almost seems like things are more handed to men than women. Women are constantly fighting for equality, and me being a young female athlete trying to succeed in college makes this final blog post assignment very personal. The misconstrued media coverage done throughout popular culture is one of the reasons why there are gender differences within sports. Being a female athlete has its advantages and disadvantages, especially when compared to men. Media’s coverage on female sports compared to male’s sports differs tremendously, and is in my opinion one of the leading causes as to why female sports are not as highly ranked or watched. The support and interest is what lacks when people think of women’s sports, and that’s due to the different level of play when compared to men.

Fit young African-American woman Flexing Arm and Back Muscles against a studio background.

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Work Sited

Admin, (June 18, 2010). 20 Female Athletes Who Won in a Man’s Sport. retrieved May 28, 2016, from Sports Management Degree Web Site:

“Gender Testing for Athletes Remains a Tough Call”. The New York Times. By Eric Vilain. Published June 18, 2012.

Noah, T (May 4, 2016). American Soccer’s Gender Wage Gaps. retrieved May 29, 2016, from The Daily Show Web Site:

“Sports Ideology, Attitudes Toward Women, and Anti-Homosexual Attitudes.” By Joseph Harry, Northern Illinois University. Published in 1995.

“Women’s sports coverage lacking”. By Patrick B. Pexton. The Washington Post.

Women’s Sports Foundation, (July 20, 2015). Pay Inequity in Athletics. retrieved May 31, 2016, from Women’s Sports Foundation Web Site:



2 thoughts on “The Media’s Portrayal of Gender Differences Within Athletes

  1. Hi Zoe!
    I really enjoyed reading your blog post at you have some very good points that you have brought up. Being a female athlete, and especially playing soccer you have seen coverage of the women’s national team trying to get recognition about the pay wage. I think that this is a great start to try and make the big problem more noticed. Do you think that this argument is only for soccer, or do you think that the pay wage should be equal in all sports? The women’s national team has proven themselves and has proven to be more popular than the men’s team. They have a lot going in their favor and I believe that if people back them up, this could be a huge breakthrough for women’s sports in general. Popular culture has always portrayed female athletes in a way that women are less than men. I like your reference to “She’s the Man” as it is a little corny and comical, it brings up a bigger point. Females have always been looked at as “not as good” and I understand that males and females are physically different, but to treat them like they have nothing to bring to table is not okay to portray to a mass media.
    Great post!

  2. Hello Zoe!

    I really enjoyed what you had to say about the topic of gender inequality within sports. I agree that the first thing people think about when sports is brought up is men’s sports. This is directly correlated to the amount of exposure society has to men’s sports vs women’s sports. This issue is important because as women become more entitled and empowered in society, it is key that they are represented in the same light as men. I think it would be interesting if you also mentioned other sports like WNBA. Everyone knows that the NBA houses the best basketball players in the world and has the name and reputation for being the most elite playing field. But why isn’t the WNBA the same? How come the WNBA isn’t seen as the most elite women basketball players in the world? And why isn’t it broadcasted like the NBA? These are questions that need to be answered and resolved. It is important that gender inequality is put to an end in which ever forms possible. Overall you had an awesome post!

    Thank you,


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