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Women’s sports coverage encounters subtle sexism: Study

It has been found that 95 percent of anchors, co-anchors and analysts, analysing the sports coverage were male

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Women's sports and the surrounding sexism
Women's sports. Pixabay
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  • A subtler sexism frames the TV broadcasts of women in sports, according to a recent study
  • L.A.-based network affiliates devote only 3.2 percent of airtime to women’s sports on news broadcasts
  • The researchers have been constant in updating their findings roughly every five years

Washington D.C. [USA], Sep 19, 2017: A recent study stated that a subtler sexism has now made it to the Newsrooms framing the TV broadcast of women in sports.

The ongoing, decades-long study by the University of Southern California researchers suggests, that even if the mainstream broadcast coverage now treats the sports played by women a little more seriously, a major part of it, mostly respectful coverage still has to face the relegation to the sideline.

Only 3.2 percent of airtime, according to the research team, was devoted to women’s sports on news broadcasts, by the L.A.-based network affiliates, witnessing a degradation of 5 percent from 1989, which was the first year of the study. ESPN’s SportsCenter, on the other hand, only stands worse, devoting 2 percent of the airtime to women’s sports, same as it was in 1999 when the study began tracking the show.

“When compared to the start of the study, women used to be framed in ways that were overtly sexist. Now the sexism is subtler,” said lead author Michela Musto. “It seems at first that it’s respectful, but if you compare the framing with men’s sports, women are talked about in a much more boring way. There is no joking or complimenting. Those kinds of descriptors are missing from women’s sports.”

The researchers have been constant in updating their findings roughly every five years, in 1993, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014, to be exact. It has been planned to start the research later this year, for it to be updated in 2018.

The researchers, in a manner similar to the previous cycles of the study, analyzed three two-week segments of TV sports news coverage on three Los Angeles network affiliates, and on ESPN’s SportsCenter. The coverage was then coded across 20 distinct categories, which included gender, segment length, type of sport, competitive level of sport, and production value.

Much of the disparity may owe to the little airtime devoted to each individual woman’s story on SportsCenter. Sports stories revolving around women averaged 77 seconds, approximately 50 percent shorter than men’s stories, however, better than the 44 seconds allotted to them on local affiliates.

The overall respectful coverage may be the advancement from the time when Morganna the Kissing Bandit was one of the few women featured on the local sports report. But the refined tone of this coverage carried a brand of chauvinism, of it own. The researchers gave it the name “gender bland”, a programming that confronts the treatment of a mandatory “set aside.”

In “gender-bland” programming, the athletic achievements of women are depicted as “lackluster” and “uninspired.” That is, unless they approve to the image of caring teammates or partners and spouses, for instance, the 2016 Olympic trap-shooter medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s portrayal in mainstream media as “the wife of a Chicago Bears linebacker.”

Also readWhere Girls and Women are missing out in Sports? Or is it simple Gender Discrimination

A surge of female athletes since the 1970s, when Title IX, which prohibited discrimination based on gender in education for athletics became a law, makes the sparse coverage of women’s sports out of step, the researchers noted.

Around 3.1 million girls participate in high school sports today, compared to 4.4 million boys; in a stark contrast to the situation 45 years ago, when only 294,000 girls played sports in high school, and less than 39,000 played in college.

There are but few women in sports media industry that may play a role in influencing the coverage decisions, noted the researchers. It has been found that 95 percent of anchors, co-anchors and analysts analysing the sports coverage were male. The data shows resemblance to the other findings stating that 90.1 percent of sports print editors happen to be male.

If a woman in the sports broadcast industry happens to scale heights, as the case of Samantha Ponder, a sideline reporter who replaced Chris Berman as host of ESPN’s featured NFL program, Sunday NFL Countdown, this August, it still makes big news.

“I do believe that part of the move toward greater respect and equity for women’s sports in the media will involve getting more women into newspaper sports desks, radio and TV commentary,” said senior author Michael Messner.

“However, I also think that employers, when they hire new people, should seek to hire reporters and commentators — women or men — who really care about women’s sports, who can and will express genuine enthusiasm, rather than gender-bland sexism, when they report on women’s sports,” he added.

The study has been published in the journal Gender & Society.

prepared by Samiksha Goel of NewsGram. Twitter @goel_samiksha

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Indian Women Step up for #MeToo Movement And Let Their Voices Be Heard

The fire has spread from Bollywood and the comedy space to the news media industry as well, with a slew of journalists and editors being named.

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The hushed whispers are getting louder. Flickr

Call it a bonfire of the vanities or an all-consuming sacrificial havan. But the “MeToo” flames now sweeping across social media have turned into a cleansing firestorm, burning holes in carefully honed public personas and turning the heat back on those whose job is to keep the social conscience and hold the powerful to account.

From best-selling authors to creative filmmakers to senior media editors and other guardians of public morality — people across industries are being named and shamed by the “MeToo” and “Time’s Up” movements which began in Hollywood a year ago.

The irony is profound in the case of celebrity author Chetan Bhagat. With a Twitter following of over 12.3 million, Bhagat has long been an active social commentator. But it is social media that is now pestering him with questions.

“Bhagat now finds himself arraigned in the court of public opinion, having to answer charges ranging from sexual harassment to wilful abuse of power that comes from a mass culture of celebrity worship. The old cliche of idols having feet of clay couldn’t ring truer,” said a senior media analyst.

Nana Patekat, Metoo
#MeToo movement is a movement against sexual harassment and sexual assault. #MeToo spread virally in October 2017. Flickr

On Saturday, Bhagat responded quickly to the charge with a somewhat abject apology, saying “sorry” for “going through a phase” in trying to “woo” a woman — all of this without naming the woman concerned.

“Much of what Bhagat says suggests that he believes himself to be no worse than ‘stupid’, guilty at best of misreading the drift of an intense, friendly social interaction and not being able to exercise ‘better judgment’.

“There was, as he puts it, ‘nothing physical’, ‘no lewd pictures or words were exchanged’ — as though sexual harassment cannot be said to have taken place in the absence of these overt predatory markers,” the analyst said.

In a scenario where silence or brazening it out are seen by many as an acceptable option, this may come as a relief. But is it enough, the victim might want to ask?

The lady who came out against comedian Utsav Chakraborty and opened a Pandora’s box of harassment complaints against a slew of popular comics on social media feels “punished” for telling the truth and claims she is facing post-traumatic stress disorder. And it doesn’t matter that Chakraborty wrote tweets over tweets explaining the “context” of his behaviour because the damage was done a long time ago.

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Tanushree hopes her story gives “girls a sense of confidence to come out with their story if they are suffering”.

It was actress Tanushree Dutta who last month gave the MeToo campaign the much-needed spark in India when she renewed an old allegation against acting veteran Nana Patekar of harassment on the sets of a 2008 film, “Horn OK Pleasss”. A decade ago when she came up with the same accusation, she says she felt silenced by those in power.

But now, there’s silence no more.

Leading stars have spoken up against the harassment that goes behind the gloss and glamour, and how the industry protects the “creeps” by letting complaints go unanswered or unaddressed.

Filmmaker Hansal Mehta has openly called “Queen” director Vikas Bahl a “creep” as the latter grabbed the spotlight, again in light of the MeToo movement, over allegations by a woman who had earlier accused him of sexually assaulting her.

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Queen” star Kangana Ranaut hasn’t been far behind in calling out Bahl,

“Will anybody do anything about this bloody creep or will the industry protect him like it always does,” questioned Mehta, who as a father of two daughters, fears they would have to deal with such “predators”.

Faced with sustained trolling and criticism, Mehta finally declared that he was “done with Twitter”.

“A platform that has ambiguous guidelines about hatred, negativity and abuse is no platform for debate or discussion — forget social change. Goodbye,” he said before deleting his account.

“Queen” star Kangana Ranaut hasn’t been far behind in calling out Bahl, who she said “bragged about having casual sex with a new partner every day”.

Two women have also come out about singer Kailash Kher.

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Two women have also come out about singer Kailash Kher.

As Nandita Das noted, “The hushed whispers are getting louder and are finally being heard.”

“Unlike in the past when such discussions disappeared all too quickly from the media, this time it appears that more people are listening. Women at the work place and outside too often face harassment and violence that almost always goes unreported. Especially, though not only, when perpetrated by powerful men.

“I am adding my voice in support with the hope that more lasting change comes out of this,” Das said.

The fire has spread from Bollywood and the comedy space to the news media industry as well, with a slew of journalists and editors being named.

Also Read: The Never-Ending Fight of Gender Inequality in Hollywood

Now, as Shobhaa De puts it, there are people “waiting impatiently for ‘MeToo’ in Indian politics”.

“Who will cast the first stone?” De asked. (IANS)