Women and the World Cup

The 2010 World Cup in upon us and with it a host of things to keep a critical eye upon. I’ve written before that women are rarely perceived to sports fans or knowledgeable about “real”  (i.e., men’s professional) sports, even though both are true.

I’m keeping my eye on how female fans of the World Cup are being included, erased and portrayed in the media. I have two contrasting examples to share.

1. The first is a page on Deadspin dedicated to “sexy world cup fans” (i.e., scantily clad women). The narrative accompanying the photos suggests the featured attractive women in attendance could not possibly be real fans, but planted there as marketing ploys. I’m not naive enough to believe this doesn’t happen, but the text is offensive. The author insinuates that women would not attend a World Cup game possibly because they enjoy and know the game, but were paid to attend. You would never see pictures of sexy male fans and text that implied they were planted…would you?

2. The second is a Portuguese ad that suggests women do enjoy and know soccer. It is a nice contrast to how female fans are usually portrayed. As Jezebel.com points out, this ad is in nice contrast to the 2010 Super Bowl ads that insinuate that women ruin the lives of men.

If you have anything to share along these lines, please comment here or send it my way!

You Don’t Often See This!: Sexualized Male Athletes

Vanity Fair layout of World Cup players

Today a student (thanks A.N.!) sent me a link to a Vanity Fair piece on the upcoming men’s soccer 2010 World Cup being held in South Africa this summer. The title of the story, The World Cup’s Stars Wear Their Flags—And Little Else—For Annie Leibovitz pretty much summarizes the piece.

I’ve written often about how media routinely sexualizes female athletes, rather than focus on their athletic abilities and achievements.  This Vanity Fair piece and June issue  is a rare example of the same pattern for male athletes. The argument is not that male athletes are never sexualized. The main point is that female athletes are disproportionately sexualized in the media (female athletes only receive 6-8% of all sport media coverage ) compared to male athletes. The other point is that when female athletes are sexualized it often undermines perceptions of their athletic abilities, while when male athletes are sexualized it rarely leads to the perception their athletic achievements are questionable. What do you think?