ISSN 1652–7224  :::  Published 15 November 2006
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The Role of Local Sports Media in the Process of Gender Equality in Sports

Judit Bérczes
Dept of Humanities, Örebro University

The local sports media – the sports pages in the local newspapers – have great influence over people’s perception of local sports and local athletes. The more column space given for sports teams on the sports pages, the bigger the chance that the stadium audience increases and that the team gets higher economical standards. The question asked in this article is: do women and men get the same attention on the sports pages, and what consequences can the reporting have on women’s and men’s opportunities to practice sports?

This article presents a study that mapped out the media reporting on sportswomen in the three largest daily newspapers in Örebro County, Nerikes Allehanda, Bergslagsposten and Karlskoga Tidning. The descriptions of sportswomen in the local sports pages of theses papers are studied by quantitative as well as qualitative methods. The quantitative content analysis shows that sportswomen receive 13 per cent of the text content, whereas sportsmen get 76 per cent. Previous research shows that different sports have been categorized as feminine, masculine and gender neutral on the basis of gender stereotypes (Koivula 1999). This study shows that stereotypically masculine sports dominate the media space, and men dominate these sports in media. Stereotypically feminine sports get around two per cent of the total media reporting. In that way the local papers contribute to the reproduction of male dominance in sports and portray sportswomen as deviant from the male norm. In the qualitative part of the study critical discourse analysis is applied and the language usage is reviewed in an ideology-critical perspective. The analysis shows that the local sports pages contribute in maintaining unequal relations between female and male athletes by focusing on female athletes in stereotypically feminine roles, portraying them as weak. The papers also play an important part in maintaining the hierarchical gender relations in sports. Hence, the they promote unequal opportunities for practicing top-level sports for women and men.

These patterns are put into a perspective of consumption and production. The conclusion of the article is that the sports pages in local papers have a restraining effect, through its way of reporting, on the work in Sweden for equal opportunities for men and women in sports. The main reason for this is the economic interdependence of sports and the media, which in turn has historical and cultural roots. The article also suggests a possible resolution to the perceived conflict between marketization and democratization. The local papers would get a larger readership if, in the sports pages, space was given in equal extent to female and male sports and athletes – more women would join the readership. In that way an equal reporting on male and female athletes is a win-win-situation where both the sports community and the local sports media prevail in the end.

Copyright © Judit Bérczes 2006.  |  Editor Kjell E. Eriksson  |  Publisher Aage Radmann