Sunday, April 29, 2012

Analysis of Sports Illustrated covers

I am analyzing rhetorically the difference between the male tennis star’s (Roger Federer) Sports Illustrated cover from the summer of 2009 and the women’s cover from 2010 (Anna Kournikova).  Notice how Roger Federer is portrayed first and foremost as a tennis player.  Anna Kournikova, on the other hand, is portrayed first and foremost as a sexual woman.  Do magazine covers, advertisements, and other media images usually portray female athletes as athletic or as sexual?  Wood states that "the limited coverage of women's sports that exists disproportionately focuses on sports in which athletes have the most conventional feminine appearance and behavior.”  (Wood)  This is shown clearly in comparing these two covers of an athletic magazine.  Without going in and reading the article, we have no idea if Kournikova is a tennis player or just another pretty face. 

Wood states in her book that “women professional athletes continue to be under-represented in news coverage, and are often stereotypically portrayed when they are included.”  Men are usually described athletically as "big," "strong," "brilliant," "gutsy" and "aggressive," women are more often referred to as "weary," "fatigued," "frustrated," "panicked," "vulnerable" and "choking."(Duncan) Media images of women in sports are also very different from the familiar pictures of male athletes in action. "the most traditional stereotype is women as sex object, and that continues to dominate media" (Wood)  Female athletes are increasingly photographed in sexual poses.  My opinion is that Sports Illustrated feels like it is necessary to sexualize women for men to sell more magazines.  Gatekeepers regulate television and media by only focusing on men’s sports and when they do “recognize women it is usually because of their attractiveness or feminine appearance and behavior.” (Wood) It obvious that women athletes are underrepresented, but when they do get in media the journalist  interests are poses that could be seen as suggestive.  This is a fact in Kournikova’s cover.  The tennis player is obviously photographed on a bed hugging a pillow with her shoulder exposed and her facial expression is suggestive which is backing up the stereotype of women being vulnerable and weary instead of the strong and gutsy athletes they are.  The cover for Federer is very different with his action shot showing a powerful swing and his athletic ability.

I did research and found out that Anna Kournikova was recognized because tournaments that didn't include Anna Kournikova had 30% less attendance. (Robinson) Her matches always sold out and several different reports stated that “it's safe to say that fans weren't crowding the courts in order to watch Anna Kournikova beat her opponent.”(Duncan) It seems like her fame has less to do with her accomplishments and more to do with her sex appeal and attitude. A quote from Kournikovoa in this magazine says, "I'm beautiful, famous and gorgeous." No one mentioned her athletic ability; not even Anna herself!  

In this article I pointed out some of the inaccuracies by the media as they do their best to portray female athletes and sports in a misleading light. Viewing this issue rhetorically I am more aware of inaccurate reporting and, have sought, in this article, to bring some of these inaccuracies out into the open.  My group is looking at women in the workplace, and this is a great example of how women are seen as objects and recognized for their looks rather than their abilities and talents.

Duncan, M.(1992).Gender Bias in Televised Sport. FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting.

Robinson, David. " - Male & Female Athletes In The Media: Are They Equally Portrayed?" Web. 20 Apr. 2012. <>.

 Wood, Julia T. Gendered Lives: Communication, Gender, and Culture. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Pub., 1994. Print

Author: Sarah C.

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