Women Athletes in the Media

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Both female athletes and reporters have yet to achieve parity with men in the media. In terms of coverage, women athletes are almost invisible. In 1993, only 5% of televised sports news covered women’s sports – virtually the same percentage as in 1989.30 In print media, a study of four major newspapers found that fewer than 5% of all sports stories were devoted to women only.

Women in sports reporting and broadcasting also face discrimination in the predominantly male sports media world. Often, the issue revolves around locker room access. An incident involving the New England Patriots football team serves as an example. In September of 1990, Boston Herald sports reporter Lisa Olson shook up her profession by describing the harassment she faced in the New England Patriots’ locker room. She reported that team member Zeke Mowatt exposed himself to her and made lewd remarks while other team members watched and cheered.32

Sexual harassment of women sportswriters is far from unique. Kristin Huckshom, a sportswriter with the San Jose Mercury News, reported other incidents: a football player running a razor up a writer’s leg; a writer receiving a rat in a pink box, sent by a player; writers being hit with jockstraps and having obscenities yelled at them.

What was unique is that Olson spoke out about her experiences. “Female reporters routinely laugh off comments that should be reported,” says Huckshorn. “They accept treatment that should be fined. They keep quiet, figuring silence is the price of admission for doing the job.” Huckshom says she is afraid that Olson’s speaking out was rocking the boat” and “destroying the fragile status quo.” But she goes on to comment: “[Olson] makes me wonder; if I had spoken up all along, would this still be happening to me?”

Veteran sportswriter Mary Garber thinks the issue of women in the locker room is a front for larger issues. “As I see it, athletic people are using women in the dressing room as an excuse to do something they have wanted to do. This is to control our access, to put limitations on what we can do…. I don’t think anyone really cares about the dressing room.T34

(Empowering Women in Sports, The Empowering Women Series, No. 4; A Publication of the Feminist Majority Foundation, 1995)

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