Sex sells sex, not women in Australian sportOctober 16, 2014 4 Comments
Sex sells sex, not women in Australian sport
Women in sport should be celebrated for their remarkable achievements, not looking good on the red carpet
I was quiet when a horse was named as “sportswoman of the year”. I was quiet when someone thought it would be good sport to see women run around in their underwear playing a game that most Australians don’t understand. But this time, I can’t be quiet. This time, someone who was supposed to be on our side has done something really stupid. I feel betrayed.
Four years ago, Women’s Health Magazine started the I Support Women in Sport awards to, in the words of editor Felicity Harley, give “our home-grown female sporting stars… the recognition and support they deserve”.
For this, I applauded Women’s Heath. Women in sport need a champion, particularly one that speaks to a readership of 350,000 a year, which is about 250 times the crowd a W-League game can pull.
But this year, something went horribly wrong. At the awards ceremony four topless models, posing as athletes, paraded around the red carpet for the event with painted uniforms.
When sportswomen battle every day to be appreciated for their talent and not their looks, why oh why did someone think it would be a good idea to have naked women at an event to promote the awesome achievements of our sportswomen? Did Cathy Freeman really deserve to see a semi naked model painted in the iconic bodysuit she wore in the 2000 Olympic games paraded on the red carpet?
Perhaps someone had the same misguided thought that has been had by sports marketers since there was such a thing as sports marketing: sex sells.
Let me tell you something. Sex sells sex. Sex does not sell women’s sport. It never has, it never will. We live in a world where women with sporting ability, if they want to “succeed”, are asked to be sex symbols first and athletes second. And if you don’t fit that bill or play that game? Good luck and see you later. It’s a rare athlete that can break though that haze of misconception. Cathy Freeman, ironically, being one of those athletes.
Our girls and young women are dropping out of sport at unprecedented rates. We, as a nation, are now one of the most obese in the world. We are doing our girls a disservice by not showing them images of strong, athletic women with agency and ability who use their bodies for something other than looking good on the red carpet.
Don’t get me wrong, I like to frock up as much as the next person but you know what - not every woman does. Our sportswomen are a diverse and interesting bunch. Diverse body types. Diverse stories and experience from the pure jock to the PhD to the career woman to the scientist. And these stories are worth telling. Girls can’t be what they can’t see and it’s time we showed our girls there’s a world beyond the one where they’re valued or devalued on looks alone.
So where to from here? I do have some advice for Women’s Health. Use your not inconsiderable voice to be an agent for real change. There is a strong and engaged community of sports fans who are day in and day out working tirelessly to promote women in sport. And when I say fans I’m also talking about journalists, content producers and photographers who you can engage to help you tell those stories to your readership.
I can think of five women’s sport websites off the top of my head that are run on nothing but passion and the belief that they’re changing the sports media landscape for the better. Work with them to tell those stories that our girls desperately need to hear.
Source The Guardian - Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP