Gender in Televised Sports longitudinal study


Gender in Televised Sports: News and Highlights Shows, 1989-2009 (2010)

CFR Study Reveals Dearth of TV Coverage of Women’s Sports

Participation and excitement over women’s sports may have exploded in recent decades, but you would never know it if you receive your information from nightly TV news and sports highlights shows.  Nearly four decades following the passage of Title IX, coverage of women’s sports on news and highlights shows still lags far behind that of men’s sports.  In fact, a 2010 CFR-sponsored study revealed that coverage of women’s sports on television news and highlights shows was at its lowest levels ever, since 1989 when the study began.

“Gender in Televised Sports,” authored by Michael Messner, professor of sociology and gender studies, with Purdue University’s Cheryl Cooky (a graduate of the USC gender studies program), revealed that in 2009 coverage of women’s sports plunged to only 1.6% of all airtime on LA’s three network affiliate sports news broadcasts. ESPN’s popular highlights show “SportsCenter” was no better, devoting only 1.4% of its airtime to women’s sports.

Since its release in June, 2010, the “Gender in Televised Sports” report has generated considerable public discussion.  Advocacy organizations like the Women’s Sports Foundation reported the findings, and professors are using the report in their courses.  Numerous bloggers and radio commentators discussed the research.  National periodicals, including the Washington Post, the New York Times, and The Nation ran features on the report.  However, the TV news and highlights shows that were the subjects of the report’s critical scrutiny continued to deliver a steady flow of men’s football, basketball, and baseball coverage in to America’s living rooms.

In an introduction to the “Gender in Televised Sports” report, noted athlete and sports commentator Diana Nyad wrote, “I confess to being shocked to learn that since 1989 very little has changed in the world of televised sports news. As a matter of fact, for women athletes, and fans of women’s sports, things have devolved, rather than having evolved. It is frankly unfathomable, and unacceptable, that viewers are actually receiving less coverage of women’s sports than they were twenty years ago…and that the sports news is still being delivered almost exclusively by men. There is no doubt that there has been a gender revolution in American sports in recent decades. Millions of girls play sports every day. Tens of thousands of women compete in college and professional athletics…It is time for television news and highlights shows to keep pace with this revolution.”

Download “Gender in Televised Sports” in its entirety here.


‘It’s Dude Time!’: A Quarter Century of Excluding Women’s Sports in Televised News and Highlights Shows (2015)

The last quarter century has seen a dramatic movement of girls and women into sport, but this social change is reflected unevenly in sports media. This study, a 5- year update to a 25-year longitudinal study, indicates that the quantity of coverage of women’s sports in televised sports news and highlights shows remains dismally low. Even more so than in past iterations of this study, the lion’s share of coverage is given to the ‘‘big three’’ of men’s pro and college football, basketball, and baseball. The study reveals some qualitative changes over time, including a decline in the once-common tendency to present women as sexualized objects of humor replaced by a tendency to view women athletes in their roles as mothers. The analysis highlights a stark contrast between the exciting, amplified delivery of stories about men’s sports, and the often dull, matter-of-fact delivery of women’s sports stories. The article ends with suggestions for three policy changes that would move TV sports news and highlights shows toward greater gender equity and fairness.

Download "'It's Dude Time!'" in its entirety here.


'From Fizzle to Sizzle!' Televised Sports News and the Production of Gender-Bland Sexism (2017)

This article draws upon data collected as part of a 25-year longitudinal analysis of tele- vised coverage of women’s sports to provide a window into how sexism operates during a postfeminist sociohistorical moment. As the gender order has shifted to incorporate girls’ and women’s movement into the masculine realm of sports, coverage of women’s sports has shifted away from overtly denigrating coverage in 1989 to ostensibly respectful but lackluster coverage in 2014. To theorize this shift, we introduce the concept of “gender- bland sexism,” a contemporary gender framework that superficially extends the principles of merit to women in sports. Televised news and highlight shows frame women in unin- spired ways, making women’s athletic accomplishments appear lackluster compared to those of men’s. Because this “bland” language normalizes a hierarchy between men’s and women’s sports while simultaneously avoiding charges of overt sexism, this article contributes to gender theory by illuminating how women can be marginalized in male- dominated, male-controlled settings via individualized merit-based assessments of talent.

Download "'From Fizzla to Sizzle'" in its entirety here.


One and done: The long eclipse of women’s televised sports, 1989-2019 (2021)

Access "One and Done" in its entirety here.

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