Public Release:  Sexist Olympic coverage

University of Alberta

Pirkko Markula says when it comes to the Olympics, media coverage rarely gives women equal treatment.

Markula, a professor of socio-cultural studies of sport and leisure in the University of Alberta's Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation, says that instead of focusing on sporting achievements, media coverage often focuses on women's appearance and the shape of their bodies. She says it will be interesting to see how women are perceived during the upcoming Vancouver Olympics as women are fully dressed during the winter games.

Markula contributed to a new book called Olympic Women and the Media: International Perspectives. It discusses the results compiled by a team of researchers who analyzed international newspaper coverage before and during the Olympic games in Athens in 2004.

In media coverage of athletes before the Olympics, female athletes received five per cent of the coverage, whereas male athletes got most of the attention with 87.6 per cent of the coverage. During the Olympics, females received 25.2 per cent of media coverage, where male coverage was at 40.2 per cent.

An example provided in Markula's book is about Chinese gold-medalist diver Guo Jingling, who was publicized for her appearance rather than her skill. The Chinese media described her as the "Beautiful Goddess of the Springboard," while also calling her "ordinary" and "shy" and fabricating a romantic involvement with a male diver.

Markula hopes the information provided in this book will bring attention to the fact that women typically get little sport coverage. She says the Olympics should be a time to celebrate the achievements of both men and women.

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