#CoverTheAthlete Shines the Spotlight on Sexism in Women’s Sports Reporting

I meant to blog about this last week and then, well, I’m not sure how the week got away from me but it did.  #CoverTheAthlete is an initiative that is supposed to draw attention to the disparity between men’s sports reporting and women’s sports reporting.

Remember when tennis star Eugenie Bouchard was asked to twirl in a post-game interview at the Australian Open after she smoked her Dutch opponent in straight sets? Later, after talking about her win, Bouchard addressed the twirl:

“It was very unexpected,” said Bouchard, who is known for a steely determination, drive and ambition that propelled her from relative obscurity to stardom last year. She reached the semifinals at last year’s Australian and French Opens and the final at Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian to appear in a Grand Slam final.

“I don’t know, an old guy asking you to twirl. It was funny,” she said.

She was awfully gracious about it! Imagine asking Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic to twirl or show off their outfit.

The year before, an interviewer asked her who her ideal date would be.

The #CoverTheAthlete campaign has released a video that turns the tables. The YouTube video:

… splices together reaction shots from male athletes with questions that female athletes have actually been asked by interviewers.

The video kicks off with a clip showing Crosby answering media questions. A voiceover asks: “You’re getting a lot of fans here, a lot of them are female and they want to know: If you could date anyone in the world, who would you date?”

Sidney Crosby’s shocked expression says it all.

It’s a great video and an all-too-important message.  It really is a good question: “Male sports coverage would never sound like this. How come female coverage does?”

Here’s the video:

It seems kind of obvious that the way women athletes are treated by news media is inappropriate and undermining of their athletic achievements. But the message hasn’t made its way into the heads of mainstream sports reporters.

Do you think a campaign like this can have a positive impact, or is the default approach to women in sports just a reflection of entrenched views about women more generally, not likely to change anytime soon? On a more cynical day, that’s what I think. But there is no question that #CoverTheAthlete is doing important work that needs to be done.

Do you notice the difference in the way sports reporters engage with the women as opposed to the men? Is it worse in some sports than in others? Do you call this stuff out when you see it?

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