The Sexist Media Coverage of Female Public Figures

It’s no mystery that men and women in the public eye are looked at each in a different light. When it comes to performance out on the field or the success of a movie, males and females are asked different type of questions. Differences in incomes, fashion choices, relationships and appearance are common topics that are brought up when females are being interviewed by the media. Recently, campaigns like #CoverTheAthlete and #AskHerMore have been created to shed light on this issue.

To get a sense of this problem that female public figures face, let’s take a look at several comments or questions of just female athletes alone:

A media outlet asked Romanian professional tennis player Simona Halep, “As your profile rises, people find out more about you, your breast reduction surgery was three or four years ago. Does that play any part in your success? What about outside the tennis?”

A BBC Commentator said about former French tennis player Marion Bartoli, “I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14: ‘Listen, you’re never going to be a looker, you are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you’re never going to be 5ft 11, you’re never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.’”

Channel 7 asked Canadian professional tennis player, “You’re getting a lot of fans here. A lot of them are male, and they want to know: If you could date anyone in the world of sport, of movies—I’m sorry, they asked me to say this—who would you date?”

A Telegraph columnist said about Serena Williams, “On some women [the catsuit] might look good. Unfortunately, some women aren’t wearing it. On Serena, it only serves to accentuate a superstructure that is already bordering on the digitally enhanced and a rear end that I will attempt to sum up as discreetly as possibly by simply referring to it as ‘formidable’.”

Sports Centre’s comment about the German Women’s Soccer Team, “You see the young ladies all turn their head, they didn’t want to catch one in the grill. They might not have wanted to mess their hair… they might not have wanted to mess their hair… it’s possible.”

An NBC New York headline about the 2012 Summer Olympics Women’s Volleyball Team, “Olympic Beach Volleyball: Great Bodies, Bikinis, and More."

As seen above, women are not being recognized as much for their accomplishments on the field, court, etc. Instead, their lifestyle choices or appearance is the main focus for many media outlets. #CoverTheAthlete was created to bring attention to the way the media covers women in sports. It’s not just athletes. Female celebrities are also targets of such topics. That was why #AskHerMore was created. As a society, we need to shift from this mindset to a more progressive handling of media. We must focus on women’s accomplishments, determination and strength as they compete alongside males. Equality must be achieved. Athletes are people of dedication and agility. We must not downplay female athlete’s abilities. We must raise them in the same light and regard as their male counterparts.