Media Microaggressions against Female Olympic Athletes Up 40 percent

June 13, 2017, University of Missouri-Columbia

Female athletes long have experienced microaggressions from the media and the public, such as racism, sexism, the belittling of athletic accomplishments and being the brunt of sexual jokes. Now, researchers at the University of Missouri School of Journalism have found that microaggressions against female athletes in the media increased by nearly 40 percent from the 2012 Summer Olympic Games to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games. Cynthia Frisby, an associate professor of strategic communication at Mizzou, also found evidence of increased microaggressions against female athletes of color compared to white athletes.

Frisby and lead author Kara Allen, an undergraduate student at Mizzou, analyzed 723 newspaper and magazine articles covering the 2012 and 2016 Olympics. In the coverage of the 2012 Olympics, the researchers identified 69 microaggressions against female athletes. In the 2016 Olympic coverage, the researchers found 96 instances of microaggressions against female athletes. These microaggressions included four instances of sexual objectification, 26 instances of treating females as second-class citizens, 44 instances of racist or sexist language or jokes, 61 instances of restrictive gender roles, and 30 instances of focusing on the athletes' physical body types and shapes. The researchers also found increased microaggressions against female athletes who play more "masculine" sports such as basketball, powerlifting and wrestling.

In a separate study, Frisby examined 643 about elite tennis players Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber to determine if athletes of color receive different amounts of microaggressions from the media compared to who experience similar amounts of athletic success. Frisby found 758 instances of microaggressions against Serena Williams, a black woman, while she only found 18 microaggressions against Kerber, a white woman.

"We hope that we are making progress as a society toward inclusivity and acceptance; however, when examining the data for how the media cover sporting events related to female athletics, it is evident that we have a long way to go," Frisby said. "We've known for a long time that often experience discrimination and other microaggressions, but now that we have statistical data illustrating this issue, we want to use it to educate and members of the public on how to avoid some of these problematic pitfalls."

The study "A Content Analysis of Microaggressions in News Stories about Female Athletes Participating in the 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics," was published in the Journal of Mass Communication & Journalism. The study "A Content Analysis of Serena Williams and Angelique Kerber's Racial and Sexist Microaggressions," was published in the Open Journal of Social Sciences.

Explore further: Black athletes stereotyped negatively in media compared to white athletes

Related Stories

The American athletics track is still a man's world

November 20, 2014

The limited coverage that American female athletes get in the media is one of many subtle forms of gender biases they have to cope with. The little exposure they do get often focuses more on their attire, or how attractive, ...

Media portrayal of public shooters can perpetuate stereotypes

April 26, 2017

As the pervasiveness of media reports on public shootings increase, the way in which media cover these violent stories can have broad social implications, including the creation and perpetuation of racial and mental health ...

Sexist Olympic coverage

January 20, 2010

Pirkko Markula says when it comes to the Olympics, media coverage rarely gives women equal treatment.

Recommended for you

Unprecedented study of Picasso's bronzes uncovers new details

February 17, 2018

Musee national Picasso-Paris and the Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts (NU-ACCESS) have completed the first major material survey and study of the Musee national Picasso-Paris' ...

Using Twitter to discover how language changes

February 16, 2018

Scientists at Royal Holloway, University of London, have studied more than 200 million Twitter messages to try and unravel the mystery of how language evolves and spreads.

4 comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

rderkis
not rated yet Jun 13, 2017
Quote Article "We've known for a long time that female athletes often experience discrimination and other microaggressions, but now that we have statistical data illustrating this issue,"

Discrimination definition -- the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people

But I saw no study of men athletes? So how can this article prove discrimination between men and woman, other than between white and black female athletes?
Ownlife
1 / 5 (3) Jun 13, 2017
It's disappointing to see PhysOrg putting fake "science" on its front page. I clicked through to see the source, and couldn't help but appreciate the irony when I saw that it was Mizzou.
nrauhauser
5 / 5 (1) Jun 14, 2017
But I saw no study of men athletes? So how can this article prove discrimination between men and woman, other than between white and black female athletes?


Intuitively, such behavior directed at men is vanishingly rare.

The gender differences in our society are truly ridiculous once you start to look into them.
rderkis
not rated yet Jun 14, 2017
Intuitively, such behavior directed at men is vanishingly rare.

I intuitively believe you are a martian, sent by ancient rome to sow discord..
Therefore no studies are necessary. :-)
Intuition based on anybody's best guesses will never replace studies.
And unless your doing a study on intuition, the word "Intuitively" really has no place on a scientific web site.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.