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The influence of gender and media in participation of sports


Over time, gender and the media have been identified to be factors influencing the entry and participation into a sport. Sport has been used for both physiological wellbeing and commercial purposes. In either of these, the influences of gender and the media cannot be overlooked. As witnessed in sports and according to Nylund
 (2007), gender and media have significant influence in the choice and participation of sport. Participation in sports can be either as a participant or as a fan, this essay considers participant approach. The essay will be examining the role of gender and media in participation of sports and ways through which they influence and make a conclusion on how they impact participation.


Gender and the media influence the choice and participation into various sports independently. According to Pfister (2010), sports have gradually and overtime come out of the fields to the mainstream media. In bringing sports to people’s homes, the media has functioned to create a certain impression of each game which in turn affects participation in that sport.

Since the 1980, sports in general have been viewed as a masculine event hence closely attached with the male gender (Bernstein, 2002). Based on the cultures of most societies, the female gender is viewed as a soft and beauty-portraying hence should not be involved with the masculinity that sports require.

Currently, one cannot help to notice that, such games that have taken not only national, but also international prominence include the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) men’s world cup, the super bowl (men’s American football), National Basketball Association (NBA) Men’s championships, and Men’s rugby.

Despite the players of these sports being men, the fun base is composed on mainly men. In addition, media has also managed in a way to create niche biasness where the majority of sports news anchors are men, the commentators are men, and the sports analysts are men. It is also worth noting that, the televised sports are watched in men-favoring environment of bear, cigarettes, and “babes” (Nylund, 2007).

Influence in participation of sports

  1. Gender

As stated by Pfister (2010) and witnessed so, the participation of females in sports is fewer than males. In ancient times, for one of the most popular sports – the Olympics, the female gender was not allowed to not only participate in the games, but also watch them. However, in the end of the ninetieth century, because of the efforts of queen victory, middle class women in England where participating in sports. By twentieth century, national governing bodies where organizing sports competitions for women. In 1914, the first women sport was incorporated in the Olympics, archery (Duncan et al, 2007). In the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, there were 97 female games compared to the 163 male games. Even though up to date the change has been remarkable, still female participation in sports have remained dismal compared to the male gender. Gender affects participation in games through;

  1. Physique

Sports have continued to be viewed as masculine. The female gender on the other hand is viewed as a fairer weaker sex therefore, sports are deemed too dangerous for them (Cashmore, 2005). During the 1928 Olympics, several women running the 800 meter race collapsed during the rate casting major doubt if the female gender was up to the race. Because of the 1928 800 meter outcome, the event was scraped off the women Olympic Games up to 1960 Rome Olympics. According to Sheffer and Brad (2007), the 3,000 meter event, pole-vault, triple-jump, and the hammer throwing events have been out of the female’s athletic event up until recently.

Based on the fact that sports have been branded with a masculine image, women who dare to participate in these events are ignored as attention seeker, deviants of the female place in the society, and can be easily branded as being transgender. The issue of Caster Semenya in 2009 is a proper evidence of the stereotype that exists. Moreover, the male gender has always been used to cast the stone in sports records. During the 2012 London Olympics, Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen was accused or doping simply because she was faster than her male counterparts in the same race (The Guardian, 2012).

  1. Social attributes

For the majority of cultures, the place and professional of the female gender is the home and homemaker respectively. This belief is still prevalent in today’s society and considering sports demand long hours training, women are disadvantaged (Duncan et al, 2005). The training for sports involves being trained on psychological toughness to endure and beat the competition, attributes that are accepted in the society for men, but not women.

Clothing is also a major contributing factor. The society expects a woman to dress as to cover her body as much as possible. This requirement is more spelt in the Islamic culture. Considering for one to participate in sports, they have to dress down to the sport-accepted standard, it results to hindering female participation in games, especially in the Islamic community.

  1. Role models

The male gender has been active in sports since the introduction of sports. As a result, the young boy aspiring to participate in sports has quit a number of peal models to emulate or compare to for inspiration. On the other hand, the female gender has been active in sports not up until recently, even though participation still remains lower than that of males (LaVoi et al, 2007). As a result, girls have fewer real models to emulate and in some sports there are no real models.

  1. Finance

According to Cashmore (2005), finance in sports is mainly through sponsorship, which is done by individual companies or the government. The amount received by sportswomen is only a fraction of what sportsmen get. It is even more difficult to secure sponsorship for female athletes as many sponsors from the corporate niche prefer male athletes for their masculinity.

In addition to low sponsorship, the prize money for female sports is lower than that of the male counterparts in the same sport. For example, the prize money for men participating in the Wimbledon is far much less for women than it is for the men. The prize money for the women’s FIFA world cup is far less than it is for the FIFA men world cup (Cashmore, 2005). Ultimately, the end result is women have reduced finances therefore; it is difficult for an aspirating female athlete to cater for their training requirements effectively. For the majority, they cannot afford to invest fulltime in sports as they have to take a side job to sustain themselves.

  1. Media

The media has undoubtedly taken increased interest in reporting male sports than female sports. The result is the profile for female sports personalities’ remains low. Moreover, the media itself has for the last few decades presented the sports niche as a man’s world, even though this is currently changing, sports anchors have been men in all the major national and international broadcasting stations.

  1. Media

It is the primary goal for sports administrators and players to get positive and consistence media coverage (Sheffer & Brad Schultz, 2007). Sports and the media do enjoy a symbiotic relationship, a reason for the emergence and success of purely sport-covering channels e.g. SuperSport. The media has a major role in influencing the choice and participation in a sport. For example, thanks to the media, men’s football has managed to grow both in player and fan base to a global scale.

However, a counter argument exists that, media is simply a stool that is shaped by and represents the society. Media is simply customer-demand oriented and it has to simply address the needs of the society. Even though the media and sport might be demand driven, media has the sol-role of determining how the presentations they make are packages as to enhance palatability to the target audience.

Media and sports share one similarity, they both are widely accepted and they cut along the various societies, cultures, and regions. Given that the media, especially international media has a global reach, then the influence of media on sports cannot be overlooked.

Media’s primary role in sports is to create a certain image for a sport and sports personality (Nylund, 2007). The image can be either positive or negative. The effect of the image created by media is witnessed in spectator appeal, sponsorship attraction or reversion, among other ways.

With a positive image created by the media for a sport of an athlete’s profile, the result is increased appeal for the sport and creation of a large fan base. Athletes profile is well published making him/her a real model for other aspiring athletes. The increased support for the sport or the athlete creates a possible target audience for corporate entities which step in as sponsors. With the finances, more and more potential athletes are attracted to take up the sport professionally.

That notwithstanding, the media has played a dismal part in this enormous role. In the mainstream media, sports news is kept aside up to the last less than seven minutes of a live broadcast. In print media e.g. daily newspapers and seasonal magazines, sports news is covered in the last three pages on average. Moreover, the media has adopted a different way of presenting sports news that is different from the other news and requires one to do some thinking for comprehension. As a result, most news viewers have no interest in sports news.


Gender and the media are closely intertwined in their influence for the choice and participation of sports. Gender has major impact on sport with the female gender being sidelined in sports activities. The female gender is disadvantaged in sports participation because of the physical requirements of most sports, biased attributes by the society, insufficient role models, inadequate or lack of finances, and the biased media which lays emphasis in promoting male-player games and the majority of sports news anchors being men. In addition, media has served to exacerbate the inequality and reduced participation in sports activities because of unappealing presentation of sports games. It is therefore concluded that gender and media are contributory to the low participation in sports through biasness against the female gender and negative presentation respectively.


Bernstein, A. (2002). Is it time for a victory lap? Changes in the media coverage of women in sport, International Review for the Sociology of Sport 37: 415- 428.

Cashmore, E. (2005). Making sense of sports (4th Ed.). London: New York

Duncan, M. C., M. A. Messner &
N. Willms (2005).
Genderintelevisedsports: Newsand highlightsshows, 1989-2004. Los Angeles: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.

LaVoi, N.M., Buysse, J., Maxwell, H.D., & Kane, M.J. (2007). The influence of occupational status and sex of decision maker on media representations in intercollegiate athletics, Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal, 15: 32-43.

Nylund, D. (2007). Beer, babes and balls: Masculinity and sports talk radio. State University of New York Press.

Pfister, G. (2010). Women in Sport: Gender relations and future perspectives. Sport in society, 13, 234‐248.

Sheffer, M.L. & Brad Schultz (2007). Double standard: Why women have trouble getting jobs in
local television sports, Journal of sports media, 2, 77-101.

The guardian (Monday 30 July 2012). Ye Shiwen’s world record Olympic swim ‘disturbing’, says top US coach. Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/sport/2012/jul/30/ye-shiwen-world-record-olympics-2012 on 24th April 2014.

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