New Report on Gender in Televised Sports

Two colleagues, Mike Messner (USC) and Cheryl Cooky (Purdue), just finished the latest installment of a longitudinal study GENDER IN TELEVISED SPORTS: NEWS AND HIGHLIGHTS SHOWS, 1989-2009. The report can downloaded for free here.

The results are depressing in regards to coverage of female athletes and given the results, you would think we are still watching sports on the TV pictured here.

Here are some highlights of the report:

  • Of the three network affiliates sampled in the study, men’s sports received 96.3% of the airtime, women’s sports 1.6%, and gender neutral topics 2.1%. This is a precipitous decline in the coverage of women’s sports since 2004, when 6.3% of the airtime was devoted to women’s sports, and the lowest proportion ever recorded in this study.
  • 100% of the SportsCenter programs and 100% of the sports news shows in the sample led with a men’s sports story.
  • Good news? Past studies observed that women athletes (and women spectators) were frequently portrayed in demeaning ways—as sexual objects, or as the brunt of commentators’ sarcastic humor in stories on marginal pseudo‐sports. There was far less of this sort of sexist humor about women in 2009, though this may in part reflect that women in any form were increasingly absent from the broadcasts.

With female sport participation at record levels, these results are confounding… but for those who study gender and sports, probably not surprising. I encourage you to read the report and see the graphs for yourself.

2 Replies to “New Report on Gender in Televised Sports”

  1. My boyfriend and I are having severe relationship problems b/c he is often watching sports such as football, baseball, racecar racing, etc. in which there is that constant objectification of women. I tell him I want the t.v. off b/c I can stand to see these constant images. He says he won’t give up sports for me. Is there anyway a guy can watch sports these days w/out being subjected to sexual imagery of women?


    1. Kelly,
      You raise a great point and I’m not sure I can answer your question. Research would seem to indicate that the answer would be “no”…it is hard not to watch TV (let alone sports) and not see objectification of women. -nml


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