The Amateur Athletic
Foundations 1989 study, "Gender Stereotyping in Televised Sports,"
received national attention in both the popular media and scholarly publications. The
study has become required reading in several college and university courses. And, hundreds
of copies of the report have been requested by and distributed to national television
This new study is intended to measure what, if any,
progress has been made in
the four years following the original report. Its findings are both encouraging and
On the positive side, broadcasts of national events such as
the NCAA Womens Basketball Tournament and the U.S. Open Tennis Championship
communicate a significantly higher level of respect for women and their accomplishments as
athletes. The demeaning practice of referring to adults as "girls" has virtually
ended. Announcers, in general, portray women athletes in more positive terms. Production
values of womens sport events have improved. At the local level, the
"humorous" sexual objectification of women has become less frequent.
Unfortunately, problems remain. The percentage of
womens sports coverage on the 11:00 p.m. local sports news remains unchanged from
1989. Announcers covering national sports events still display ambivalence about
womens athleticism. Production values, while improved, continue to lag behind those
in mens sports coverage. In a variety of ways, local and national broadcasts
continue to send the message that womens sports are less worthy than mens.
We have made considerable progress in four years.
Broadcasters, particularly those at the national level, are to be commended for the
changes that have occurred. More progress needs to be made in the next four years.
Inequities still exist. As I wrote in 1989, these inequities are unfair. They are wrong
and they must be changed.
Anita L. DeFrantz
Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles
I. SUMMARY OF FINDINGS
A. Televised Late-Night Sports News
* Womens sports were underreported and underrepresented in the six weeks of 11:00
p.m. television sports news on three network affiliates sampled in the study. Mens
sports received 94% of the air time, womens sports 5%, and gender neutral topics 1%.
These proportions were almost identical to those found in the 1989 study.
* The near-invisibility of women athletes on televised
sports news was exacerbated by an almost total absence of interviews with women athletes
or coaches. On the 126 newscasts examined, there were 137 interviews with men
athletes or coaches, and only 4 interviews with women athletes or coaches.
* When the news devoted substantial time to a report on
womens sports, too often the focus was on a gag feature (nuns playing celebrity
volleyball), a relatively unknown, marginal sport (sport parachuting) or a scandal in
womens sports (a runner accused of cheating in a marathon). In-depth coverage of
established womens sports such as golf, tennis, running, and basketball was almost
* Compared with the 1989 study, which criticized the use of
female spectators as sexual objects of male news commentators humor, the 1993 study
found far less humorous sexual objectification of women. Moreover, men were used in such
comical roles with about the same frequency that women were used.
* Over the six week period, three quarters of the small
number of stories about womens sports that did occur appeared on expanded-format
Sunday sports reports. All three stations combined aired only one womens story on a
Monday, no stories on a Tuesday and one on a Wednesday.
* The number of mens stories that included video
clips was far greater than the number of womens stories with moving footage, 545
compared to 45. However, the percentage of stories accompanied by video was nearly
identical for men and women, 83% versus 80%.
B. Technical Production of Womens and Mens
* There were notable improvements in the quality of
production, camera work, editing and sound in the 1993 womens games, compared with
the 1989 study. Still, the production quality of the womens games tended to be of
uneven quality, and overall, still lagged behind that of the mens games.
* We noted a dramatic improvement, compared with 1989, in
the quality of slow-motion instant replays and the technical coverage of womens free
throws. Though still lagging behind the coverage of 1993 mens games in quality and
quantity, this improvement indicates a rise in the production values of the womens
games since 1989 (e.g., more cameras being used).
* Pregame shows, halftime shows, and postgame shows were
consistently longer, and of higher quality in the mens games. Moreover, the halftime
shows of the womens games were continually used to build audience interest in the
upcoming mens games, rather than focusing on strategies, statistics, or human
interest stories related to the womens games.
C. Verbal Commentary on Womens and Mens
Basketball and Tennis
* Women basketball and tennis players often were called
"girls," in 1989, while men were never referred to as "boys." The 1993
study found that this form of verbal infantilization of women athletes has all but
* In tennis commentary, women athletes were called by their
first names less frequently than in 1989, a decline from 52.7% to 31.5% of the time. Men,
in 1993, were referred to only by their first names 12% of the time.
* The 1989 study found that tennis commentators tended to
downplay womens athletic successes and to speak ambivalently about womens
strength and power.
The 1993 study revealed that although some gender
asymmetries persist, commentators express greater respect for women athletes
abilities and less ambivalence about their strengths.
* Basketball commentators explanations of
womens and mens successes and failures still reflected gender asymmetries.
While commentators in the womens games consistently attributed errors in play to
individual women (e.g., "She missed the shot."), commentators in the mens
games remained silent in the face of male athletes errors, or tended to attribute a
players error to the superior play of his opponent, or to forces outside of his
* Gender was verbally, visually and graphically marked
(e.g., "Womens National Championship") an average of 110 times a game in
womens basketball, nearly double the rate of gender marking in the 1989 womens
games. By contrast, gender was almost never mentioned in mens basketball games,
which would be referred to, for instance, as "the National Championship."
II. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS IMPLIED BY FINDINGS
* Televised sports news should provide more coverage of
existing womens sports, and the vast majority of this expanded coverage should be
devoted to respectful, in-depth reporting on serious, established womens sports.
* Producers and commentators of televised sports news
should make a serious effort to include coverage of womens sports in every
broadcast--not just as an occasional feature on Sunday night.
* Television news stories on womens athletic events
should include interviews with women athletes and coaches in roughly the same proportion
as stories about men athletes are accompanied by interviews.
* Announcers should consciously adopt a standard usage of
first and last names and it should be applied equally to men and women athletes of all
races. The recent dramatic shift away from calling women athletes "girls" may
serve as a positive example of this kind of conscious linguistic shift.
* When gender marking is necessary for clarity, it should
be done in ways that are symmetrical and equivalent for womens and mens
events. If announcers use phrases such as "womens game" and
"womens national championship," then they also should refer to gender when
discussing mens sport (e.g., "mens NCAA Final," "smartest
player in mens tennis," etc.). The same symmetry should apply to the use of
* Commentators should consciously adopt a standard and
gender symmetrical way of describing women athletes and men athletes successes
* The practice of using womens events to promote
mens events while ignoring womens events during mens competition should
cease. If one event must be used to build an audience for another event, it should be done
* Television networks should continue their movement toward
equal quality of coverage of womens athletic events. The amount of resources and the
production quality should be equivalent in the coverage of mens and womens
* Television networks should commit themselves to more
equal coverage of womens events such as college basketball. Regular season games
should be aired regularly.
III. DESCRIPTION OF STUDY: SAMPLE AND METHOD
The study addressed both quantitative and qualitative
aspects of televised coverage of womens and mens sports. As with the 1989
study, the major questions concerned the quality of actual coverage of womens versus
mens athletic events. Therefore, we examined televised sports programs in which
mens and womens coverage could be analyzed comparatively.
First, we studied 3 two-week segments (a total of six
weeks) of late-night televised sports news coverage on each of three local Los Angeles
network affiliates. Second, we examined the "Final Four" of the womens and
mens 1993 NCAA basketball tournaments. And third, we analyzed the womens and
mens singles, womens and mens doubles, and mixed doubles matches of the
1993 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament.
Televised Sports News
The 1989 study focused on a six-week segment (July 2-August
15) of sports news broadcast on the 11:00 p.m. edition of a single station, KNBC in Los
Angeles. In the 1993 study, we studied the same time period, but expanded our sample to
three Los Angeles network affiliates: KNBC (Channel 4) KCBS (Channel 2), and KABC (Channel
7). In addition, we chose to improve the reliability of our data by sampling local
television news from three different seasons. Thus, we examined two-week segments of news
in the following time periods: March 15-28, 1993; July 12-25, 1993; November 8-20, 1993.
Amounts of airtime devoted to mens versus womens sports were measured. In
addition to the quantitative measures, we analyzed the quality of coverage in terms of
visuals and verbal commentary.
We compared and analyzed televised coverage of the Final
Four of the 1993 womens and mens NCAA basketball tournaments that appeared on
CBS. As was the case in 1989, we chose the Final Four for comparative analysis, rather
than regular season games, because there were relatively few womens regular season
games actually broadcast on national television. Final Four coverage amounted to three
womens games and three mens games, including introductions, pregame, halftime
and postgames shows. Types and levels of technical production as well as visual and verbal
framing of the contests and the athletes were examined.
Coverage of the U.S. Open Tennis Tournament on September
6,7,8,10,11, and 12, 1993 on CBS and USA networks was analyzed. Televised coverage on
these days consisted of four womens singles matches (one fourth-round match, one
quarterfinal, one semifinal, and the final), one womens doubles match (the final),
four mens singles matches (a quarterfinal, two semifinals, and the final), one
mens doubles match (the final), and a segment of the rain-postponed mixed doubles
final. Womens singles and doubles matches spanned a total of 8 hours, 6 minutes, or
486 minutes of televised time, while mens matches ran a total of 11 hours, 53
minutes, or 713 minutes of televised time. The televised segment of the mixed doubles
final was 31 minutes long.
The research design and methods of data collection and
analysis (both quantitative and qualitative) were identical to those of the 1989 study.
In Stage 1 of the research, the Amateur Athletic Foundation
taped all of the sports news segments, the NCAA basketball games, and the U.S. Open Tennis
In Stage 2, a research assistant (Jensen) viewed all of the
tapes and compiled a written preliminary analysis.
In Stage 3, one investigator (Duncan) independently viewed
all of the tapes and added her written analysis to that of the research assistant.
In Stage 4, two investigators (Duncan and Messner) analyzed
the data using both sets of written descriptions of the tapes, and by viewing portions of
the tapes once again.
In Stage 5, one investigator (Messner) wrote up the
IV. DESCRIPTION AND ANALYSIS OF FINDINGS
A. Six Weeks of Televised Sports News on Three Network
1. Quantitative Description
We noted, in the 1989 study, that female athletes rarely
received coverage on the televised sports news. The 1993 study reveals virtually no change
in the quantity of coverage of womens sports and women athletes over the four-year
time period, as indicated in Table 1.
Percentage of Sports News, by Sex
(1989 and 1993 Compared)
Of the 126 newscasts we
examined on the three stations, 88 (70% of the total) contained no coverage of
womens sports whatsoever. In fact, womens sports rarely appeared on television
newscasts on weekdays. All three stations combined aired a single womens sports
story on a Monday, no stories on a Tuesday, and one story on a Wednesday. As weekends
approached, womens sports fared slightly better. The three stations aired seven
stories on womens sports on Thursday and six on the Friday broadcasts. By far, the
bulk of stories on womens sports appeared on expanded-format Sunday sports
newscasts. Of the 39.2 total minutes of womens sports coverage in the sample, 29
minutes (74% of the total) appeared on Sunday. We identified no significant differences
among the three stations studied: the quantity of coverage that each of the three stations
devoted to womens and to mens sports was virtually identical, as indicated in
Total Minutes of Sports News
(Including previews during regular news)
||Three Station Totals
The sheer number of stories on
mens sports far eclipsed the number of womens stories, but there were also
differences in the ways the stories were presented. As Table 3 indicates, stories on
womens sports were far less likely to be accompanied by an interview with a woman
athlete or coach than were stories on mens sports. On the other hand, the proportion
of stories on womens sports that were accompanied by visual footage was nearly
identical to that of men. This is an improvement over the 1989 study, which found that
most womens events were reported only verbally, without visuals.
Total Number of Stories, Visuals and
(Three stations combined)
||# of stories
Dividing the sample into three
separate two-week time periods (March 15-28, July 12-25, and November 8-20) allowed us to
sample variations in coverage of womens sports by season. Of the total 39.2 minutes
of coverage of womens sports, 22 occurred in the March sample, 13.8 occurred in the
July sample, and only 3.4 in November. Channel 2s entire coverage of womens
sports in the two-week November sample consisted of a single, 4-second long story on the
female winner of the New York Marathon (the male winner and runner-up received 23 seconds
of coverage). See Appendix A a list of womens sports that occurred during these
three time periods.
2. Qualitative Description
We noted, in addition to the obvious quantitative underrepresentation of womens
sports, three prevalent themes in terms of the quality of coverage of womens sports
and women athletes: (a) lack of in-depth coverage of serious womens athletic events;
(b) the silencing of women athletes voices, due to lack of interviews with women
athletes or coaches; and (c) less sexual objectification of non-athlete women than in the
(a) lack of in-depth coverage of serious womens
Unfortunately, the statistics on the underreporting of womens athletic events (see
Tables 1,2, and 3) tend to understate the extent to which serious womens athletic
events such as golf, distance running, tennis or basketball were either ignored or quickly
glossed over in the nightly reports. Instead, when a choice was made to focus on a
womens event or a female athlete (usually on a Sunday broadcast), it was often a gag
feature or a story on a marginal, but visually entertaining sport. For example, on the
March 28 Sunday night Channel 7 sports news, 1 minute, 19 seconds were spent covering nuns
playing with bikini-clad women in a celebrity volleyball game. The footage included
smirking comments by broadcaster Rick Lozano ("meet 75-year-old Sister Matilda
Gerber...") and comical shots of the nuns making various bloopers, with the
"Chariots of Fire" theme song playing in the background.
The same broadcast featured a 2-minute, 19-second piece on
a female "sky gymnast" or "aerial freestylist," who performed a
variety of stunts after jumping from a plane. Athletes in this relatively unknown sport
obviously possess superior athletic skills and courage, but the broadcasters (Lozano and
Todd Donoho) undercut the womans athleticism with sarcastic remarks.
In the remainder of the show, Channel 7 managed to squeeze
in 8 seconds of womens tennis (with verbal coverage only), 6-second of womens
basketball (with verbal coverage only) and 13 seconds of womens golf (with verbal
coverage and a video clip). Thus, of 4 minutes and 5 seconds of coverage of womens
sports, 3 minutes and 38 seconds consisted of snide, condescending coverage of a gag
feature and of a relatively unknown sport. Twenty-seven seconds were shared by
womens golf, tennis and basketball.
Channel 7 was not the only station to focus more on
marginal womens sports and/or "trashsports" than on serious, established
womens athletic events. Channel 2 also spent 3 minutes and 36 seconds on March 21
featuring the same "aerial gymnast." And, Channel 4, on its November 14 Sunday
report, devoted 2 minutes and 35 seconds to a woman performing trick billiards shots. The
only other mention of womens sports in that nights report consisted of a
six-second report on the woman winner of the New York Marathon.
Another instance where a choice was made to devote more air
time to a story on a womens athletic event was in the case of a scandal. In the San
Francisco Marathon, the third place runner was accused of not running the entire course.
Channel 4 spent 48 seconds on this story on July 22. Broadcaster Fred Roggin humorously
stated, "Nobodys been able to contact [accused runner] Candy Dodge, but if
shes out there watching, call us, we want to hear your side of the story." At
that point, as the popular 1960s song "Call Me" played in the background,
large letters superimposed over a track filled the screen and flashed for 15 seconds,
"CALL US." Apparently there was not sufficient time left in the broadcast for
Roggin to mention the name of the woman who won the race.
(b) the silencing of women athletes voices: One
area of improvement in televised sports news since the 1989 study, as noted above, was an
increase in the proportion of womens stories that were accompanied by visual
footage. Stories on women athletes, on the other hand, were far less likely than those on
men athletes to be accompanied by interviews with athletes or coaches. A typical example
of how this was played out occurred on the March 27 broadcast on Channel 4. The report
opened with a 2-minute, lo-second story on the mens NCAA basketball tournament
games, complete with action video clips from the games, discussions of the statistical
performances of the star players, an interview with Indiana mens coach Bobby Knight,
and mention of the upcoming tournament semifinal match-up. This dramatic, in-depth
coverage was followed immediately by this report: "In the womens tournament,
Iowa beat Tennessee, 72-56; Ohio State beat Virginia 75-73." The report, which ran
for eight seconds, was accompanied by no footage or interviews. It conveyed none of the
excitement of the games (the Ohio State vs. Virginia game was a cliff-hanger) and did not
mention the upcoming tournament semifinal match-ups.
When women athletes were interviewed, the quality of the
interviews was usually uneven and ambivalent--sometimes even condescending. An example of
the latter was a March 21 Channel 2 live studio interview with college basketball star
Lisa Leslie. The first comment that interviewer Jim Hill made had nothing to do with
Leslies performance or womens basketball at all; instead, he turned to the
topic of the mens game: "I know youre a big mens basketball fan;
you didnt get a chance to see the Bruins. I saw when the guys walked off you told
them congratulations, which was very nice of you." Later in the same interview, after
Hill brought the discussion back to womens basketball, he declared, "And
youve also seen yourself, Lisa, mature, not only as a lady, but as a basketball
player on the court, taking more of a role of leadership."
These two interview fragments illustrate two tendencies in
the way women athletes are commonly interviewed and reported on. First, even during the
rare focus on a woman athlete, priority somehow is given to mens sports as the
standard. And second, sportscasters seem rarely able to talk to women athletes or discuss
their skills without referring to their femaleness.
We did note some moments of good, positive reporting on
womens sports, but these moments were few, far between, and usually very brief. One
example that stands out as a very positive piece of sports journalism was the July 18 live
interview conducted by Jim Hill on Channel 2 with tennis star Zina Garrison. The in-depth
interview lasted 3 minutes and 40 seconds and was devoid of the overt condescension or
subtle ambivalence that often plagues interviews with women athletes.
(c) less sexual objectification of non-athlete women: We
reported in the 1989 study, that in addition to the relative invisibility of women
athletes on the sports news, there was a clear pattern of women in non-athletic roles
generously sprinkled throughout the broadcasts either as comical objects of the
newscasters joke, or as sexual objects (e.g., a bikini-clad woman in the stands of a
baseball game). In the 1993 study, we saw far less sexual objectification of non-athlete
women in the broadcasts and a more equal use of women and men as comical objects of the
B. Technical Production of Womens and Mens
There were some identifiable improvements since 1989 in the quality of production and
presentation of the play-by-play action in the womens games. However, the production
quality in the mens games was still demonstrably higher than in the womens
games, particularly in the pregame, halftime, and postgame shows.
1. Visual and Aural Framing of the Contests
As in the 1989 study, the visuals and the sound in the three mens 1993 contests were
consistently of the highest quality. The camera angles and the editing of visuals were
technically sophisticated. Graphics were sophisticated, stylish, and frequent. The
commentators were "high profile," experienced, and skillful. The sound was
clear. Throughout the games, the shot clock and the game clock appeared on screen
frequently and appropriately. We noted in the 1989 study that by contrast, the three
womens contests were characterized by poor sound quality, periodic mistakes in
editing, generally less skillful and colorful commentary, far less frequent appearance of
game and shot clocks on screen, and the use of fewer camera angles. Graphics were used
less frequently, and occasionally incorrectly. In the 1993 study, we identified some
notable improvements in the visual and aural framing of the womens games, but the
production quality of the womens games tended to be of uneven quality, and overall,
still lagged behind that of the mens games.
(a) pregame framing of the contests: Verbal and
cinematic clarity combined with some form of either emotional, intellectual, or narrative
development are key elements in the creation of an opening sequence capable of instigating
maintaining audience participation. Camera operators should choose well composed, focused,
and ideally evocative shots. The editors must combine the shots in a meaningful,
continuously evolving fashion, choosing bits of interviews which add excitement,
poignancy, or information. Just as in the 1989 study, the openings for the mens 1993
games, offered a model for this. The openings for the womens 1993 games, though
better than the 1989 openings, failed to measure up to the mens.
PREGAME SHOWS FOR MENS GAMES: Hip, entertaining, and
using many of the filmic conventions of contemporary music videos, the opening segment of
the Mens Final Four gets the contest off to a great start. A catchy Paul Simon song
provides both the music and theme for the opening. The song, with chorus lyrics,
"Im on my way, I dont know where Im goin...see you, me and
Julio down by the schoolyard," accompanies black and white footage of two teenage
boys playing a game of HORSE in an urban schoolyard. Each player goads the other to try
increasingly difficult shots, made famous by their heroes in college basketball--"do
my man Billy McCaffreys move; now a Darrin Hancock reverse shot."
Exciting NCAA clips are intercut with slow-motion footage
of the schoolyard game, filmed in such a way as to make the teenage boys moves
appear professional, and at times superhuman. Sound effects like the sound of a rocket
emanating from a flying basketball and the excited commentary of professional announcers
played over the playground HORSE game add to the drama. The last fantasy basketball shot
of the HORSE game works as a transition to the main event taking the audience and the ball
"off the building, down Bourbon street, and across the river" to the Louisiana
An opening of this quality easily captures and maintains
the interest of the audience. In mythologizing college players, and fostering the dreams
of boys and young men playing schoolyard pick-up games, the opening further increases
interest in the upcoming games and in mens basketball in general. Next, the tone
changes with a super wide angle aerial zoom-out from the Superdome, a cut to a closer shot
of the dome, a dissolve to a wide, high angle shot from the dome interior, then to a
courtside shot, shots of spectators, and finally to announcer Pat OBrien whose voice
we have heard speaking with excitement about sell-out crowds. The stylistic change keeps
our attention from straying.
The contest is set up with commentary--laced with words
that feel as though they must be capitalized--which lends an epic dimension to the event:
"Each [team] banged their way through two games in four cities. Theyve all
gathered in the Crescent City for what is clearly a Basketball Classic called the Final
Four. What a show this Final Four will be--three #1 seeds, and one #2. Elite Teams."
Pat OBrien then talks briefly about stars in both of the semifinal games and shows
footage from a breakfast interview held earlier with one of them, Eric Montross. Lesley
Visser follows from the floor with an update on injured players and descriptions of
particular match-ups. More excitement is then created with archival footage from earlier
championship games--famous game ending shots by players wearing #23 cut to music,
dissolves to contemporary footage of this years #23, Rex Walters. Will we see the
same quality of play from one of this years stars? Interviews and footage shot in
the apartment of the "odd couple," Kansas stars Rex Walters and Adonis Jordan,
follow this introduction, allowing us access to their private lives.
Finally, Georgetown mens coach John Thompson joins
OBrien and James Brown for an intricate game analysis illustrated with an electronic
chalkboard--enhancing the sense of elaborate strategizing and a look ahead to the second
semifinal game. A five-point graphic and verbal game analysis precedes each of the
mens games as well.
The pregame show for the mens championship game was
perhaps even more dramatic. The 40-minute show, entitled "Prelude to a
Championship," underlined the momentous nature of the upcoming game. The segment
included numerous interviews with members of both teams, sophisticated and entertaining
graphics, various statistics on the players and the team, and more interviews and expert
commentary on what it would take for each team to win the game.
PREGAME SHOWS FOR THE WOMENS GAMES: Although more
coherent than the introduction to the 1989 womens games, the introduction to the
1993 semifinal womens games seemed to express a lingering ambivalence regarding
women athletes. The theme of the womens opening was not a schoolyard game of HORSE
(with a direct relationship to a sporting event), but instead, a concept pulled from the
television show "Designing Women." Our players too are "women with designs,
designs on a national championship." A clip from the shows title sequence
begins the opening program with the image of a red rose. A series of dissolves between
images of individual players and images of flowers, backed up by the slow paced
"Georgia On My Mind," gets the show off to a sentimental, sappy start.
Commentary about the upcoming games is intercut with clips
from the television show acting as transitions. For example, a shot of players arriving at
the station is followed by a character from the show excitedly exclaiming "Its
hootenanny time!" The theme music from the show playing under the clips is bland. The
sequence ends with a character from the show exclaiming, "We made it!," followed
by an uneven zoom to reveal the stadium interior.
Iowa womens coach Vivian Stringer had recently lost
her husband to a heart attack and a fair amount of attention was given to the many
"heartaches this season" which make "Vivian Stringers team the
sentimental choice." Next, announcer Mary Carillo built up some excitement outside of
the stadium as she spoke about the record breaking sell-out crowds: "You know
youve really arrived as a big time sport when, for the first time, tickets are being
scalped outside your event. Thats whats been happening here outside the Omni
Arena all morning...The Omni seats 16,000 for the Womens Final Four, and its
been sold out for over a week...Another first ever for the Womens Final Four, a Las
Vegas betting line on the game--boy, all the sport needs now is a couple of juicy
scandals, some dope testing, point shaving, and itll be just as big as the guys!
Well, hopefully itll never get that big."
The rest of the pregame show consisted of an interview with
one of the coaches. Pregame discussion of strategies was hampered by the lack of an expert
commentator. Whereas all of the mens games included at least one pregame expert
commentator, such as Georgetown mens coach John Thompson, the first womens
semifinal game had no expert commentator, though the subsequent two games did.
The pregame show for the womens championship game
consisted entirely of a 1-minute, 35-second-long montage of highlight footage from earlier
games, edited to a medium tempo song with the following lyrics-- "You better run or
you hide, now you slip, now you slide, you say you will but you wont, you really do
or you dont"--repeated several times. Compared with the 40 minute "Prelude
to a Championship" that preceded the mens game, this very brief, less
extravagant prelude to the womens national championship game may suggest to viewers
that it is a trivial event, not worthy of much buildup or preparation.
(b) halftime shows: There was a striking difference
in the quality of the mens and womens halftime shows. The halftime shows of
the womens games constantly cut back and forth between discussion and analysis of
the womens game and discussion and pregame hype of the upcoming mens games.
For instance, the halftime show of the womens semifinal game between Ohio State and
Iowa begins with a brief interview with Marsha Sharp, womens coach of the victorious
Texas Tech team, followed quickly by a "peek at the scene" [of the mens
games] in New Orleans, where, we are told, "a modern day battle" will soon be
fought. This "peek" includes seven clips from interviews with male players in
which they tell us what it means to them to have made it to the Final Four. We then return
to the womens game, where Marsha Sharp and Tara Vandeveer, the coach of the Stanford
womens team, offer their predictions concerning the outcome of the mens games.
Overall, this halftime show allotted about two-thirds of
its time to a discussion of the mens game, players, and teams. By contrast the
mens halftime shows concentrated almost entirely on the mens games, including
statistical overviews of the first half, graphic shot charts, and expert discussions of
strategy and tactics for the upcoming second half. During the halftime shows of the
mens semifinal games, there was a single mention of the womens games:
"The women had their national semifinal games."
The same gender-based differences occurred in the halftime
shows of the championship games, where considerable time was spent during the womens
halftime show interviewing the two coaches of the mens teams. There was no analogous
set of interviews with the coaches of the womens teams during the mens
(c) postgame shows: The postgame shows of the
womens and mens championship games also showed contrasts in the production
values of the two games. The mens game ends with dramatic camera cuts back and forth
between celebrating, victorious players, and weeping female cheerleaders. Next, we see the
ritual championship net-cutting with the announcers voice-over intoning that the
net-cutting "has to be one of the defining moments of a young mans life."
The importance and drama of the moment is further underlined by interviews with some of
the winning players and an interview with the losing mens coach, Steve Fisher. The
mens championship postgame show spanned 21 minutes and 23 seconds.
By contrast, as the womens game ended, the cameras
cut back and forth between the celebrating winning team, to lingering close-ups of the
tear-streaked faces of the losing players. And although announcer Tim Ryan stated
positively that the game was "a dandy," and "all that a championship game
should be," there were no postgame interviews on the floor or in the locker room, and
no coverage of the net-cutting. The postgame wrap-up for the womens national
championship game took only 2 minutes, 25 seconds, and that included a 9-second-long plug
for the upcoming mens championship game and pregame show.
2. Production Values Within the Contests
In contrast to the continued large gap in the quality of the visual and aural framing of
womens and mens contests, we noted a dramatic closing of the gap in terms of
the quality of production within the contests. Overall, production values of the three
1993 womens contests were lower than those of mens, but they were considerably
improved when compared with the 1989 study.
(a) free throws and slow-motion instant replays: In
the 1989 study, we noted that coverage of mens free throws was characterized by a
sophisticated and dramatic narrative structure, including multi-angle camera shots, while
the less dramatic and sophisticated coverage of womens free throws was characterized
by a sometimes awkward transition between only two cameras. In 1993, we noted a marked
improvement in the coverage of womens free throws. This improvement likely reflects
greater investment in the production of the womens games than in 1989 (e.g., more
cameras, etc.). This improvement in technical production of the contest was also reflected
in the use of slow-motion instant replays, as indicated in Table 4, which shows that the
number of replays per womens game nearly doubled from 1989 to 1993. This increase in
slow-motion replays in womens games, however, did not close the gap between the
quantity and quality of the use of replays in womens and mens games. Replays
in mens games more than doubled from 1989 to 1993. Thus, the mens/womens
ratio of replays per game, which was 1.3/1 in 1989 actually opened to 1.5/1 in 1993.
Moreover, replays in womens games were rarely shown from more than one angle (only
6% of the time), while 21% of the replays in mens games were multi-angle.
(b) use of statistics: As indicated in Table 5, the
number of times statistics were used in mens basketball games was almost identical
in 1989 and 1993, but the reporting of statistics in womens games rose dramatically,
actually slightly surpassing the number used in mens games. The increase in
statistics in womens games was both verbal and graphic, indicating a rise in
production values in the womens games over the four year period.
(c) those little extras: Though the table above
clearly indicates improvement in the quality of production of the womens games in
1993, the mens games were characterized by several "extras" that served to
improve and enhance the viewing experience.
* When a male player was introduced, during pregame
introductions, an on-screen graphic showed his name, position, year in school, height and
weight. By contrast, when a woman player was introduced, an on-screen graphic showed only
her name and position. Similarly, when a coach in the mens games was introduced, an
on-screen graphic showed the coachs number of winning seasons and his lifetime
win-loss statistics. When a coach in the womens games was introduced, this
information was not supplied to the viewer.
* In the mens games, after nearly every time-out or
commercial break, there was a statistical graphic or a slow-motion replay. This was not
the case in the womens games.
* Following almost every basket in the mens games,
the score and the game clock were shown, adding excitement and emphasizing the pace of the
game. This was not the case in the womens games.
* During the mens pregame and halftime shows, and at
times throughout the mens games, sophisticated on-screen graphics and expert
commentators frequent use of the telestrator added both pizzazz and important
information about on-court strategies to the viewing experience. These sorts of graphics
and telestrator use were far less frequent in the womens games.
C. Verbal Commentary on Tennis and Basketball
1. Gender Marking
We noted, in the 1989 study, that announcers and on-screen
graphics in womens basketball constantly "gender marked" the womens
game (e.g., "Welcome to the womens national championship game.") and women
athletes (e.g., "She holds the womens record for the most points in a
game."). By contrast, the mens games and the male players were always referred
to verbally and in graphics as the universal norm (e.g., "Welcome to the national
championship game." and "He holds the record for the most points in a
game."). We suggested that this practice tends to make womens events seem
derivative and inferior to mens contests.
As in 1989, we found in the 1993 study that gender marking
in womens tennis was roughly equivalent to that in mens tennis. This parity
likely reflects a need to equally mark "mens" and "womens"
events for the sake of clarity, given the fact that the womens and mens tennis
matches take place in the same venue, and are somewhat overlapping in terms of the timing
and sequence of the matches.
In basketball, where the events are taking place on a
different broadcast, with different announcers, we found dramatic disparities in the
occurrences of gender marking in the womens and mens games, as Table 6
indicates. In womens basketball, verbal gender marking remained constant in 1993,
but graphic gender marking rose dramatically since 1989. Mens basketball was gender
marked four times verbally in 1993, an increase from zero in 1989. But we see this
increase as insignificant. Once again, mens basketball was consistently referred to
as the universal (e.g., "The National Championship Game"), with womens
basketball gender marked constantly (e.g., "The Womens National Championship
Gender Marking, Basketball
(Three men's games, Three women's games)
The tabulations in Table 6
did not include the use of team names (e.g., "The Lady Techsters"), because we
wanted to underline the gender marking choices made by the commentators and producers of
the show. However, as Table 7 shows, if we add the number of times that gendered team
names were mentioned or included in graphics, we can see that the viewers of the
womens games were once again subjected to a constant barrage of verbal and visual
reminders that they were watching womens basketball and women athletes.
Gender Marking, Basketball, Including Team
(Three men's games, Three women's games)
We noted one other example of a kind of gender marking that
is not indicated in the tables above. When statistical graphics of women players such as
star Sheryl Swoopes were shown on screen, they often included a photo of the player in
non-athletic clothes, with styled hair and jewelry. By contrast, the photos of the men
that accompanied such statistical graphics always showed the men in their basketball
2. Hierarchies of Naming by Gender and by Race
The 1989 study reported that in tennis and in basketball, women athletes were continually
called "girls," while men athletes were never called "boys." We also
found a strong tendency in tennis, and a somewhat less dramatic tendency in basketball,
for commentators to refer to individual women athletes by their first names only, while
nearly always using the last name, or first and last name, when referring to men athletes.
Moreover, we found in mens basketball that every time announcers did refer to
athletes by their first name only, they were discussing men of color. White men were never
referred to by their first name only. We labeled this tendency a "hierarchy of
naming," by gender and by race, with the always last-named white men at the top
granted adult superordinate status, and the frequently first-named "girls" at
the bottom, verbally infantilized. In the middle of this verbal hierarchy were the
sometimes first-named men of color who shared in some of this infantilization.
In 1993, we found some significant changes in how
commentators refer to athletes. First, and most dramatically, the practice of calling
women athletes "girls" has virtually disappeared. We counted only one instance
in basketball, and a single instance in tennis of an athlete being called a
"girl." Second, the tendency to call women athletes by their first name only has
continued, but at a less dramatic rate than in 1989.
As Table 8 shows, in womens tennis, first name only
use dropped significantly from 1989 (when 52.7% of references to women athletes were first
name only) to 1993 (31.5%), but was still far more prevalent than in commentary on
mens tennis. First name use in mens tennis went up a bit, but we note that the
mens quarterfinal, announced by John McEnroe (who presumably is on a first name
basis with Pete Sampras and Michael Chang) accounted for 94 of the 148 mens first
name references. When we subtract this possibly anomalous match from our calculations,
first name use in mens games only amounts to 6.3% of the total, slightly less than
the 1989 percentage. It is worth noting as well that in the mixed doubles segment, where
gender was perhaps most salient, women were referred to
by first name only 41.4% of the time, while men were never referred to by first name only.
Naming of Athletes, Tennis
(Including mixed doubles match)
||First name only
|| 304 (52.7%)
In basketball commentary,
first name use in describing women declined, while first name use in describing men rose
from 1989 to 1993. Though mens rates are now a bit higher than womens rates,
2% compared to 1%, both are extremely low. Women and men basketball players, in 1993, were
almost always referred to by last name, or by first and last name. As in 1989, nearly all
(90%) of first name references to men were to men of color. But we are doubtful of the
significance of that number, since the vast majority of male players in the Final Four
games were men of color. Men of color played 76.3% of the total minutes in the three
3. Verbal Descriptions of Women and Men Athletes
Basketball and tennis announcers, in the 1989 study, often described womens and
mens action differently. For instance, announcers tended to attribute strength and
power to male athletes, and weakness to female athletes. In the 1993 study we found, in
both womens basketball and in womens tennis, that commentators more frequently
noted womens strength and power. There were also some changes, and some continuities
since the 1989 study, with respect to commentators attributions of womens and
mens successes and failures.
(a) attributions of success and failure: Basketball
and tennis commentators, in the 1989 study, appeared to hold two formulae for success: one
for men, the other for women. Men appeared to succeed through a combination of talent,
instinct, intelligence, size, strength, quickness, hard work, and risk-taking. Women also
apparently succeeded through talent, enterprise, hard work, and intelligence. But commonly
cited with these attributes were emotion, luck, togetherness, and family. Women were
likely to be framed as failures due to some combination of nervousness, lack of
confidence, lack of "being comfortable," lack of aggression, and lack of
stamina. Men were far less often framed as failures. Men appeared to miss shots and lose
matches not so much because of their own individual shortcomings (nervousness, losing
control, etc.), but because of the power, strength, and intelligence of their male
This framing of failure suggests that it is the thoughts
and actions of the male victor that win games, rather than suggesting that the
losers lack of intelligence or ability is responsible for losing games. In short, we
argue that men were framed as active subjects in control of their own destinies, women as
In the 1993 study, we found greater respect for women
athletes abilities and less ambivalence about their strengths. This change was
especially evident in the womens tennis commentary, where there was a clear tendency
to attribute the failures of a woman to the strengths of her opponents (e.g.,
"Martina Navratilova isnt gonna let her get away with that."). There was
far less speculation about the women players possible "nervousness" and
lack of being "comfortable," and instead, far more positive discussion of the
womens abilities and strategies than in the 1989 study.
In the basketball commentary, though, we observed that
announcers explanations of on-court errors and failures tended to be different for
male and female players. When women made errors in play, the commentators pointed them out
repeatedly and meticulously, and attributed them directly to the players who made them
(e.g., She missed that shot."). Comparable errors in the mens games
tended to be disguised or redefined by commentators in one of four ways: (1) errors were
not spoken of at all (e.g., no comment was made about a missed shot); (2) an error by one
player was attributed to the superior ability of an opponent (e.g., after a bad pass:
"I think he surprised Jalen Rose with his defensive ability to stop what normally
Rose throws over the top of guards heads."); (3) errors were minimized by
commentators noting that they did not reflect the players true skills (e.g.,
"Its kind of unusual to see Jordan throw that one away."), or that the
error was caused by factors beyond a players control (e.g., "It was a tough
ball to catch, though, cause the backboard was causing some problems."); and
(4) errors were described using descriptive words that seemed to attribute the cause of
the error to chance, rather than to a players actions (e.g., "The ball hits the
rim and bounces off.").
We also observed some continued differences in the ways
that commentators described and explained mens and womens successes in both
basketball and tennis. First, the commentators for the mens basketball games and the
mens tennis matches continually and enthusiastically described and discussed the
implications of how "big" the male players bodies were, how
"big" their shots or strokes were, and indeed, how "huge" and
"big" their games and matches were. For instance, in the mens basketball
championship pregame show, the announcer opened with, "We have the two most talented
teams in the country, maybe the two biggest from one through eight in depth. Although this
place is the Superdome, and real big, that courts going to look real small with all
the big bodies out there tonight." In the tennis matches, "big" powerful
serves received a great deal of commentators attention. An IBM speed gun was used to
measure the speed of each serve, while announcers commented on the mens
"big" 115 mile-an-hour serves. In fact, it appeared that players serves
were evaluated mainly according to how fast they were. One woman player, Helena Sukova--at
62", taller than some of the male players--shared in the glittering
attributions of size and power. Numerous references were made to her size and the athletic
advantages it confers: "the great reach of Sukova," "this woman, who has
all kinds of natural power," "her 97-mile-an-hour serve," and so on.
These kinds of comments are similar to those made about
male players such as Cedric Pioline and Pete Sampras, who also were featured as being
powerful, having "big" serves and "big" forehands. This can be seen as
a kind of equity between "big" male and "big" female players. However,
the commentators reverence of the "big" tends to privilege the masculine
attributes of power and large size in such a way that these become the standard measure of
success in tennis. This places most women players, who on the whole are smaller and less
powerful than the male players, at a permanent disadvantage.
A second difference in the attributions of mens
successes, compared with those of women, was that male tennis players were six times more
likely to be credited by commentators for their intelligence. Several different male
players were continually described as being "smart," "intelligent,"
,a thinker," "a thinking man," "wily," "canny,"
"clever," and "heady." These attributions were used to describe some
of the women players, but rarely.
V. ANALYSIS AND INTERPRETATION OF FINDINGS
Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, girls and womens participation in
sports and fitness activities has skyrocketed in the United States (Cahn, 1994; Snyder,
1994). And although equity for women athletes is still far from a reality (Lopiano, 1993)
this numerical increase in womens athletic participation has been accompanied by
dramatic improvements in female athletic performance, and by a broadening of public
support for girls and womens sports (Nelson, 1991; Wilson and the Womens
Sports Foundation, 1988). But one would never know these facts simply by looking at
televised sports. The world of sports on television is still presented, for the most part,
as a male-only world (Kane & Disch, 1988, Kane and Greendorfer, 1994).
There are two general issues that should be addressed in
discussions of televised coverage of womens sports. First, Which athletic events are
covered? Television producers, editors, and sports news broadcasters engage in information
"gatekeeping," which is "the process by which billions of messages that are
available in the world get cut down and transformed into the hundreds of messages that
reach a given person an a given day" (Shoemaker, 1991). Our study of televised sports
clearly indicates that the dominant fact about televisions coverage of womens
sports is the lack of coverage. Second, How are athletic events covered? Once gatekeepers
decide to cover an event, numerous decisions are made as to how an event should be
covered: How much time, how much money and how many human resources should be devoted to
producing an event (Creedon, 1994; Duncan, 1993; Theberge & Cronk, 1986)? How should a
news story or live athletic event be "framed" by broadcasters? What parts of a
story or an event should be covered or not covered, what should be emphasized,
de-emphasized, or ignored (Messner & Solomon, 1993; Sabo & Jansen, 1992; Theberge,
1989)? Our study of sports news, womens and mens NCAA basketball, and the
womens and mens U.S. Open Tennis Tournament show some notable improvements in
the quality of coverage of womens sports since our 1989 study. But overall, the
quality of coverage of womens and mens sports is characterized by persistent
gender asymmetries as well as some continued overt biases against womens sports.
Televised Sports News
In contrast to our 1989 study of televised sports news, the
1993 study indicated that men (athletes and spectators) appeared to be used as (sometimes
sexualized) objects of commentators jokes in roughly the same frequency that women
are so used. Channel 4 commentator Fred Roggin directly referred to this issue in his
November 9 broadcast when he stated, while showing footage (with strip-tease music playing
in the background) of a hockey brawl in which a male players shirt was ripped off,
"We may be sexist here but were equal opportunity sexist. Ladies, this is for
you." We believe that it is appropriate for sports news to be presented
humorously--after all, sports is entertainment. But before heralding sports
newscasters "equal opportunity sexism" as a great leap forward for women,
we should consider that the increase in the humorous sexualization of men, and the
continued humorous sexualization of women, takes place in a context where the quantity of
coverage of womens sports and of women athletes is still dismally low. Women
athletes are, for the most part, still missing in action.
One might presume that spending roughly 94% of the air time
on the television sports news simply reflects the reality that there are far more
mens sports to cover. Indeed, during the 3 two-week segments of television news that
we examined, there were more mens sports taking place than womens sports. This
was especially true during the July and November segments, when two mens
professional sports for which there is currently no womens counterpart--professional
baseball and football, respectively--dominated the sportscasts. So it should not be
surprising to see more overall television news coverage of mens than of womens
sports. However, as Appendix A shows, there were many womens sports taking place
during these three time periods that simply were not being covered in the news. The
gatekeepers of televised sports news clearly allotted a disproportionately high amount of
coverage to mens sports. The fact that womens sports took up only about 5% of
all the air time on the sports news, and that much of this time was concentrated on
expanded-format Sunday shows, leaving other days (especially Mondays, Tuesdays and
Wednesdays) with virtually no coverage of womens sports, amounts to the continuation
of what Gerbner (1978) called the "symbolic annihilation" of women. As we stated
in the 1989 study, if it is not reported, in the minds of most people, it simply did not
On the rare occasions that womens sports were
covered, the near-invisibility of women athletes was exacerbated by the choices that the
sports news producers made in terms of which womens sports to cover and how to cover
them. The choice to spend what is essentially "token" time for womens
sports by covering "gag" events, "trashsports," or relatively unknown
womens sports, while ignoring or granting very brief coverage to womens golf,
tennis, running, and basketball sends a message that womens sports is an oddity, a
joke that at best deserves minimal public attention. And although there as an improvement
since the 1989 study in the proportion of womens sports stories that were
accompanied by visual footage, the overall low number of such stories still resulted in
far fewer visual shots of women than of men athletes. In the 126 newscasts we studied,
there were a total of 545 visual shots of mens sports (4.3 per broadcast), and only
45 visuals of women athletes (about 1 for every 3 broadcasts). Even more dramatic, we
think, is the lack of women athletes voices on the sports news. Interviews not only
add to the drama of a report on a big game or match, they also serve to
"humanize" the athletic performer for the television viewer. During the 126
broadcasts, 137 interviews with male athletes or coaches were presented (a little more
than 1 per broadcast), while a total of only 4 interviews with women athletes or coaches
were presented in the entire 6-week sample.
Lack of stories, lack of visuals of women playing sports,
and lack of interviews with women athletes and coaches all result from choices made by the
producers of televised sports news. For viewers, these production choices amount to an
almost uninterrupted cacophony of words about mens sports, a visual barrage of
images of male athletes in action, continually supplemented by the voices of the male
athletes themselves. By contrast, when womens sports are covered at all, they are
relegated to the margins of the sports reports. Commentators dont say much about
womens sports. They dont show much footage of womens sports. And, the
voices of women athletes are almost never allowed to break the constant baritone of the
voices of the male commentators and the men they interview.
Technical Production of Womens and
There were some notable improvements in the production
values of the 1993 Womens Final Four NCAA basketball games, when compared with the
1989 games. Most obvious were the improvements in the production quality of the
play-by-play. More cameras appear to have been used in the games in 1993 than in 1989.
There was an increase in the use of instant replays, as well as in the use of verbal and
on-screen graphic statistics. These changes enhance the viewing experience. Still, the
production values of the womens contests were uneven when compared with the
consistently high quality of the mens games. Moreover, the pregame, halftime, and
postgame shows were much shorter, and of lower quality than those of the mens games.
We can only speculate on why there is not more live,
televised play-by-play coverage of womens athletic events such as NCAA basketball.
One reason might be based on an economic justification. Television producers might argue
that the sports audience, constituted mostly of men, want to watch mens sports, not
womens sports, so they are, "Just giving the people what they demand."
And, some recent studies might seem to support this "supply and demand"
perspective. Cooper-Chen notes, for instance, "In the United States and abroad, women
watch more [television] than men in every time and program category except one: sporting
events" (Cooper-Chen, 1994). However, the fact that girls and womens
participation rates in sports activities have dramatically increased in recent years
suggests that these data do not reflect a lack of interest among women in watching
womens sports. Rather, they may reflect a lack of interest in watching the events
that television producers choose to show, and a rejection of the ways they choose to show
In fact, television producers do not simply passively
respond to what the audience "wants to see." Rather, television networks, in
conjunction with athletic organizations, consciously "build audiences" for major
events like the mens NCAA Tournament, the NBA play-offs, the World Series, or the
Successful audience-building for something like the
mens NCAA tournament involves: (a) showing large numbers of regular season games on
television, so when the tournament arrives, fans already know the teams, the players, and
even the announcers; (b) creating "stars" who are marketable
"characters," around which fan interest and identification can be nurtured (The
NBA has paved the way with this strategy); (c) "hyping" upcoming games with a
barrage of televised and print ads asthe event approaches; (d) preparing flashy, dramatic,
and informative pregame shows that create excitement and anticipation in the viewers; (e)
using halftimes and "dead times" during the games to build interest and
knowledge about upcoming games, or to air pre-taped or live interviews with players and
coaches in upcoming games; (f) relying on televised sports news to add to the excitement
by covering the games, supplying interviews with players and coaches, and hyping upcoming
games. When done successfully, this "audience-building" situates the televised
sports fan in a familiar cognitive and emotional field. The fan who tunes in to the
semifinals or the championship games is thus already predisposed to feel as though he or
she is "part of the action."
By contrast, audiences were not actively built for the
televised Womens NCAA Final Four games. Each of the above audience-building
principles was ignored: (a) very few regular season womens games were shown on
television, thus most fans could not be expected to have been familiar with the teams or
the players until the last few games were aired; (b) though on game day, networks
introduced the audience to one or two women star players "up close and
personal," very few, if any of the star women basketball players were known by name
in advance by most sports fans since few regular season games were aired, and electronic
and print media gave so little attention to womens sports; (c) networks spent few
resources in building fan excitement or knowledge through advertisements about the
upcoming Womens Final Four; (d) the pregame shows tended to be shorter, less
technically sophisticated, less dramatic (in fact, ambivalent), and less informative than
the mens pregame shows; and (e) major portions of the pregame, halftime, and
postgame shows of the womens games were used to build audience interest for the
mens upcoming games, thus substantially lessening the very limited time available to
build audience interest and knowledge about womens basketball.
As a result of this lack of audience-building, along with
other differences in the framing and presentation of the womens basketball games,
and the continued ambivalence of announcers (discussed below), viewers of the womens
games were far less likely to experience the breadth and depth of emotions, or to receive
the volume of information that viewers of the mens games did. Despite the
improvements since the 1989 study, the 1993 mens games were likely to be experienced
as exciting events of historic import, while the womens games were likely to be
experienced by viewers as less exciting, less dramatic and less informative.
Verbal Commentary on Tennis and
The greatest degree of change we observed when comparing
the 1989 with the 1993 study was in verbal play-by-play commentary. These changes were
distributed differently between tennis and basketball commentary. The most dramatic change
was the virtual elimination--in both tennis and basketball commentary--of the practice of
calling women athletes "girls." The fact that adult athletes are no longer being
verbally infantilized in this way is a major step towards equality for women in sports.
Another evident, but not as dramatic, change was the
decline in the practice of calling female athletes by their first names only, while
referring to men by their last names, or first and last names together. In basketball
commentary, this practice disappeared, with both women and men basketball players being
referred to almost always by last, or by first and last names. In tennis, this gender
differentiating pattern persisted, but to a lesser extent than in 1989. First name only
use in identifying women tennis players dropped from 52.7% in 1989 to 31.5% in 1993.
Though this is a substantial drop from the 1989 percentage, it indicates that tennis
commentators continue to verbally infantilize female athletes, while verbally granting
male tennis players a more respected, adult superordinate status (Messner, Duncan and
Jensen, 1993; Duncan, 1993b). This was especially evident in the mixed-doubles segment
that we studied, where the women players were referred to by first name only 41.4% of the
time, and the men always were referred to by their last names, or by first and last names.
Though this was a rain shortened segment of mixed doubles, we think it is notable that in
the only sport we studied in which women and men were directly competing with each other,
commentators utilized a most extreme hierarchy of naming.
Some gender differences and inequities were still evident
in the practice of gender marking women athletes and womens events. Gender marking
is a problem when it is done asymmetrically, with womens events and women athletes
constantly being "marked" and male athletes and mens events always being
presented as the gender neutral "norm" or universal standard. This asymmetrical
gender marking has the result of "defining women athletes and womens athletic
programs as second class and trivial" (Eitzen & Baca Zinn, 1989, 362).
The practice of asymmetrical gender marking was clearly
evident in coverage of NCAA Final Four games, where once again the mens games and
the male athletes were almost never gender marked and were nearly always referred to as
the universal norm. Meanwhile, gender marking in the womens games actually rose
substantially, compared with the 1989 study. In the 1993 Womens Final Four, graphic
and verbal commentary reminded viewers 110 times per game that they were watching a
womens event. This happened an average of only 1.3 times in the mens games. As
we argued in the 1989 study, gender marking of certain events (e.g., "We will now cut
to the mens doubles match.") is often useful for viewers sense of clarity
about what they are about to watch. As in the 1989 study, we found that commentary on the
1993 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament utilized this kind of symmetrical gender marking for
Some of the more overt gender differences in the ways that
commentators describe women and men basketball and tennis players declined or disappeared
since the 1989 study. Commentators increased respect for women tennis players
strength and power is especially notable in this regard. On the other hand, commentary on
womens basketball still expressed certain levels of ambivalence about womens
strength and power (Duncan and Hasbrook, 1988). Moreover, there still appear to be two
different formulae for describing womens and mens success and failures in
basketball commentary. When a woman made a mistake, it was nearly always reported by the
commentator as her mistake, her missed shot. By contrast, when a man made an error or
missed a shot he should have made, his actions were likely to be framed by the
commentators in ways that saved face for the athlete. These gender differences in verbal
attributions of strength and weakness or success and failure are more subtle than they
were in the 1989 study, but the net result is that female athletes are still being
described as less competent than men athletes.
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Selected List of Sports Events in Which Women Competed in
INTERCOLLEGIATE WOMENS SPORTS IN SEASON
Track & Field (Outdoor)
March 18-21 Standard Register Ping
March 25-28 Nabisco Dinah Shore, Rancho Mirage (CA)
March 15-21 Lipton Championships
March 22-28 Virgina Slims of Houston
March 22-28 Light N Lively Doubles Saddlebrook
March 28 Family Circle Cup
TRACK & FIELD
March 20-21 US Masters Indoor Championships
March 28 IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Amorbieta, ESP
March 6-17 Sled Dog - lditarod Trail Sled Dog Race
March 16-21 Synchronized Swimming - U.S. Junior Championships, Fort Collins (TX)
March 16-21 Synchronized Swimming - U.S. National Team Trials , Fort Collins (TX)
March 17 Basketball - NCAA Division I First Round
March 17-20 Swimming & Diving - NCAA Division I Championships,
March 17-20 Biathlon - World Cup, Canmore, CAN
March 20 & 21 Basketball - NCAA Division I Second Round
March 25 & 27 Basketball - NCAA Division I Regional Championships
March 20 Speed Skating - World Short Track Team Championships, Budapest, HUN
March 26-28 Speed Skating - World Short Track Championships, Beijing, CHN
March 27-31 Fencing - NCAA Champioships, Detroit (Ml)
March 28 Rowing - FISA World Cup, Grand Prix of Mexico, Mexico City, MEX
July 15-18 JAL Big Apple Classic, New Rochelle (NY)
July 22-25 U.S. Womens Golf Open, Carmel (IN)
July 19-25 Federation Cup Frankfurt, GER
July 12-18 Citroen Cup Kitzbuhel, AUT
July 13-18 BVV Prague Open Prague, CZE
July 19-25 Pathmark Tennis Classic
TRACK & FIELD
July 12 IAAF/Mobil Grand Prix, Nice, FRA
July 23 IAAF/Mobil Grand Prix, The London Games, London, GBR
July 5-15 14th Maccabiah Games, Israel
July 8-19 World University Summer Games, Buffalo (NY)
July 15-19 6th Pan American Junior Championships, Winnepeg, CAN
July 22-August 1 World Games IV, The Hague, NED
July 23-27 U.S. Olympic Festival 93, San Antonio (TX)
July 24-August 2 17th World Games of the Deaf, Sofia, BUL
July 9-16 Yachting - 420 Ladies World Championship, Sardinia, ITA
July 13-18 Water Polo -VIII Womens Water Polo World Cup, Catania, ITA
July 13-17 Synchronized Swimming - U.S. Open Championships, Irvine (CA)
July 14-17 Powerlifting - Masters European Championships, Moscow, RUS
July 14-25 Field Hockey - 4th Intercontinental Cup Women, Philadelphia (PA)
July 16-18 Wrestling - Championnat du Monde Lutte Feminine Junior, Gotzis, AUT
July 17-18 Judo - US National Junior Olympic Championship, Elizabeth (NJ)
July 17-18 Water Skiing - National Championships
July 17-18 Canoe - Slalom World Cup #I, La Seu dUrgell, ESP
July 17-18 Cycling - European Championship 8, European Superclass 5, Marsla, SWE
July 17-25 Softball - II Womens Interncontinental Cup, Haarlem, NED
July 22-24 Water Polo - 5 Nations Meet/Open Women, Bonn, GER
July 22-25 Rowing - American Rowing Championships
July 23 Cycling - Coupe de Monde Cross Country, Mammoth Lakes (CA.)
July 24-25 Canoe - Slalom World Cup #2, Lofer, AUT
July 25-31 Softball - Men & Womens Modified World Championship, Salinas, PUR
INTERCOLLEGIATE WOMENS SPORTS IN SEASON
November 6-8 Mazda Japan Classic
November 8-14 Virginia Slims of Philadelphia
November 15-21 Virginia Slims of New York
TRACK & FIELD
November 14 New York City Marathon, NY (NY)
November 23 NCAA Cross Country Championships
November 19-29 17th Central American and Caribbean Games, Puerto Rico
November 11-21 Field Hockey - NCAA Division I, Regional and National Championships
November 12-21 Weightlifting - World Championships, Melbourne, AUS
November 13-21 Soccer - NCAA Division I, Regional and National Championships
November 16-21 Volleyball - World Grand Champion Cup Women, Ancona, ITA
November 18-20 Bodybuilding - World Womens 8 Mixed Pairs Championships, Warsaw POL
November 20-21 Alpine Skiing - Ladies World Cup, Veysonnaz, SUI
November 20-21 Field Hockey - NCAA Division I Championships
Margaret Carlisle Duncan, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee
Michael A. Messner, Ph.D., University of Southern
Kerry Jensen, M.F.A.
Faye Linda Wachs, University of Southern California
Wayne Wilson, Ph.D., Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los
Sponsored by The Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles
©1986 AMATEUR ATHLETIC
FOUNDATION OF LA
The Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles is the private, nonprofit institution
created to manage Southern Californias endowment from the 1984 Olympic Games. The
AAF awards grants to youth sports organizations, initiates regional sports programs and
operates the Paul Ziffren Sports Resource Center, a state-of-the-art learning center
designed to increase knowledge of sports and its impact on peoples lives.
David L. Wolper, Chairman
Anita L. DeFrantz, President.