As most of you know this blog is primarily about the lack of coverage of women’s tennis in the mainstream media. However, recently, I have been seeing quite a number of articles being written about women’s sports in general and about the paucity of coverage that mainstream media allows.
This article appeared today on twitter. It was the second article in as many days that looked at the issue of media coverage of women’s sports. Both articles dealt with the University of Connecticut’s women’s basketball team’s historic achievement of 89 straight wins. This achievement surpassed that of the University of Connecticut’s men’s basketball team’s 88 straight games.
I shook my head when I read the article as for the past year I have been bemoaning the lack of coverage of women’s tennis. While I did not get much feedback from the mainstream media, or indeed of many tennis fans, I had to raise my eyebrows now because finally some in the media are waking up to the fact that women’s sports is getting short shrift in the media.
One of the problems with the media’s portrayal of women’s sports, and indeed women’s tennis, is the way in which commentators convey the message to viewers. Consider for example the narrative that is written about Nadal and Federer. If Nadal is injured or he has had a very convincing win, he is lauded as being exceptional in his sport, talented, a fighter. Even if he double faults on match points, it is mostly stated that he was going big on a second serve which is why he missed. When Nadal loses a tennis match, the media attributes the loss fairly or unfairly to injury or tiredness because of the long season etc.
However, put Dinara Safina, a former No. 1 on the women’s side who has been sidelined since the Australian Open this year with a bad back (matter of fact it was a disc in her back that has gone terribly awry), she double faults, and what you get in the commentary booth is her lack of technique, lack of mental toughness, inability to actually hold serve, or taken over by the occassion.
Women in sports are being compared to men. I cannot recall watching a football match and seeing Tony Romo fail to throw the football in a way that his receivers can make a play, I have never heard the commentators talk about his lack of mental toughness, but if there was a woman who has had the seasons that Tony Romo has had in the past few years, people would have been calling for her to go and that she is not fit to lead the team.
The double standards that exists in our world have permeated all of sport for the longest time. Men are given endorsements despite their dismal performances. Women are given endorsements not because of their achievements on the court, but whether they are able to sell the product or not. Female athletes are glossed up and shown to be sex kittens, rather than athletes.
Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong in women who are athletes showing that they are not only feminine but tough as nails, but apart from Serena Williams, I cannot recall any of the current female players in the WTA being portrayed as kick ass, tough or other attribute that they actually have to display on court in order to win a match.
The clothes that are being made for today’s athletes leave little to the imagination. Perhaps the way to raise interest in women’s sports like basketball, softball etc is to have the women play in itty bitty pieces of clothing and air it just before the latest outdoor fishing competition or poker game and maybe that will generate interest.
Also, it may behove those female athletes who insist on being photographed in full stripper mode, put their foot down and insist that while they realise that wielding a racquet with a fierce look may not sell the latest handbag or shoes, perhaps at some point, some enterprising photographer could perhaps take a chance and try. You never know, you may be surprised at the results.
After Serena Williams won the Australian Open in 2007, Nike launched a http://www.nike.com/nikewomen/us/v2/media/downloads/wallpapers/serena_1.jpg campaign that said everything fans of this great player already knew.