The term “Hegemonic Masculinity” was coined by Raewyn Connell in 1987 and was first constructed at the same time with the idea of “Emphasized Femininity” to stress the differences between masculinity and femininity in a society characterized with patriarchal gender order (Connell, and Messerschmidt, 2005). Perceived femininity highlights the traits that females should possess as well as males. Males who do not express the masculine features are excluded from social circles. Women are viewed as weak, sexual objects and are wanted to reveal such traits. Before 1800, the participation of women in sports was very minimal because they were not given a chance to (Ford, 2016). Despite the fact that the number of women has increased over time, women have not been recognized in the field of sports. The media plays an essential role in shaping the perceptions and attitudes of people. In games, the media has contributed to developing the concept of hegemonic masculinity. The media presents the male athletes in sports as the norm while female sports appear as secondary. The press has underrepresented women in athletics. In case they are portrayed, more emphasis is made on their physical appearance instead of their athletic skills. The purpose of this essay is to show how the media such as broadcast media, sports magazines and radio has been used to emphasize hegemonic masculinity by portraying the physical appearances of women as either sexual or weak.
The media plays a vital role in revealing gender differences through television and magazines. Over time, the number of competent women in sports has increased. Although women can be good role models, the ways that the media depicts them is not positive (Trolan, 2013). Women appear less in front covers of sports magazines compared to men. When considered, women appear on magazine covers as sex objects, and their athletic skills not revealed. Men, on the other hand, are portrayed to show their tenacity and skills. The ESPN magazine, for instance, uses men mostly in covers, and when women appear, they are sexualized. An example is when ESPN featured a female athlete, Candace Parker. She was wearing a sexy white dress on her pregnancy, and the cover title emphasized more on her pregnancy and never on her skill. The title of the magazine was, “How big can Candace Parker get?”FIG A. Even inside the magazines featuring women, the sexuality of women is usually the topic of discussion. In the ESPN magazine featuring Parker, the first page talked about her beauty and flawless skin (Glock, 2011:6).
Stories about sporting events of males have overpopulated both print and visual media. A certain research funded by the Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles (AAF), the results revealed that 92% of the time on air discussed male sports while 5% only was spent on talking about women sports. 3% of the time on air was used to examine gender issues (Clark, 2011). When the topic of discussion was women, they are ridiculed many times because of their physique. Most times, Serena Williams has been termed as an “ape and gorilla” because of her muscular physical appearance and being a black woman. Serena and her sister were once termed as “the Williams brothers” by a leader of tennis from Russia. A sports columnist also said that he did not like her body because she wasn’t attractive (Kendall, 2015). According to John Harris and Ben Clayton, media coverage portrayed them as ” “heterosexual failures” by not applying these feminine characteristics to them, and instead negatively highlighting the existence of “mannishness” ” (2002:410). It is a clear depiction of emphasized femininity where women are expected to be beautiful. Marion Jones, who was a famous female athlete talked about winning the five gold medals before the Sidney Olympic Games. After the Olympics games, the athlete who was mostly covered by the media was the American athlete Amy Acuff despite not talking about the gold medals. She is a part-time model, slender, blonde and a high jumper. Her looks are unlike those of Marion Jones who is more masculine and robust (Lamoureux, 2012).
Most sporting advertisements are geared towards men while women are portrayed in a biased manner. Such events include the 2012 Super Bowl commercials, which presented one of the versions of hegemonic masculinity (Mayeda, 2012). An H;M advertisement featuring David Beckham, who is a very famous athlete depicted him as a powerful man with muscles. A look at FIAT advert in the Super Bowl commercial uncovers a woman portrayed as a sex object. A comparison was made between the woman and the car and emphasis made on her female physique. It shows how women are sexualized in sports as a concept of hegemonic masculinity. The advert stress that women are sexual objects made to be admired by men (Mayeda, 2012).
Another example where commercials stress on hegemonic masculinity is the “Butt is Big” Nike controversial campaign FIG B. The campaign is geared towards acceptance of body by women. Although Nike is a company dealing with athletic wear, they emphasize on the female body doing feminine things. The female body is portrayed as an object to be viewed by others. They ignore the fact the shape of a woman could be used to advertise their athletic clothing by depicting women as having large muscles instead of women as sexy (Hudson, 2010; Savoy, n.d). This issue shows that it is acceptable for women to be portrayed as sexual in sports despite their sporty skills. If men appeared in the commercial, they would have been presented as more athletic and aggressive.
Social media has become an important communication tool nowadays. It has been as well used to reveal emphasized femininity. There is less emphasis on the skills of women in sports. Instead, their femininity regarding attractiveness and their roles as women is stressed. The same is not seen during the presentation of men in games. They don’t appear as breadwinners. Instead, the portrayal of men is that of energetic individuals. In one example, the England Football Association tweeted that, “Our #Lionesses go back to being mothers, partners, and daughters today, but they have taken on another title-heroes.” Because of the competitiveness of the team, there is an expectation that their abilities would be emphasized. On the contrary, they portrayed a biased way of thinking. It is unimaginable how a great organization such as this would describe the team as caregivers which seems marginalized. Print media like magazines also portray women to be sexual as opposed to men especially in magazines like ESPN: baseball player Bryce Harper and tennis player Paula Ormaechea perfectly showcase the discrepancy in the representation between male and female athletes in print media FIG C and D. Consequently, the female body becomes a locus of conflicting power dynamics. Men appear to be wearing their athletics clothing while women feature wearing clothing that reveals most of their body parts (Strautmen, n.d).
In Connell’s model of hegemonic masculinity, men are expected to show some traits such as violence and power over women (Jewkes, Morrell, Hearn and Blackbeard, 2015). It is acceptable when the press shows men as heroes through revealing traits like hardness and great power. The male athletes who act according to the perceived traits are viewed as champions. That is why violence in sports is not seen as an issue of concern. Apart from the press, sports managers encourage this. The team leaders encourage violent behavior among teams as a way of attracting more viewers (Miedzian, 1992).
Gender biases in games is a vice that cannot be ignored and remains to be a controversial issue (Calson, 2017). Women are not given the same consideration as men regarding sports scholarship funding. The seriousness accorded to the male games is contrary to that of women in sports, thus creating a glaring imbalance between men and women. According to Women’ Sports Foundation, males receive an excess of $179 million to sponsor their sports in comparison to what women are offered (Casselbury, 2017:8). Colleges also set aside very little money such as 24% to be used in women sports (Casselbury, 2017:9).
However, the norm of presenting women as sexual objects seems to be changing with time. In a certain article, the gym used to be divided by gender. It means that some games at the gym were known to be for men and others for women. A good example is the Treadmill classes which were specifically for women while men focused on lifting weights (Hinsliff, 2018). Females stayed away from the “male activities” such as lifting weights because of the fear that they were not capable of handling them. Sports magazines would feature males on cover page revealing the rippled torsos and women as showing their beauty and bodies (Hinsliff, 2018). Today, things seem to have changed and women are venturing into activities that used to be for males in the past.
In conclusion, it is surprising how women are still portrayed by the media despite their expertise and skills in sports. Although more and more women are entering the sporting field at all levels from high school, college and professional, their underrepresentation is a big challenge and a hindrance to their growth in sports. Women have proven to be same as men and even better in games and deserve to be presented for their skills and not as sex objects. It is a call for the media to change this discrimination and portray women for who they are. They need to focus on their sports skills and critique them just like they critique men on the basis of sports, and avoid stereotyped comments.