The underrepresentation of women in sports media coverage was the subject of a talk by Cheryl Cooky, sociology and women’s studies associate professor at Purdue University, at the Jesse H. Jones Communication Center on Thursday.
The talk, “Framing Silence: The Mainstream News Media Coverage of Sports,” was sponsored by the Moody College of Communication’s Texas Program in Sports and Media and is part of a series offered by the radio-television-film department. The series focuses on issues in sports covering topics including violence, performance-enhancing drugs and race.
Cooky said the absence of women’s sports in news media coverage speaks volumes about the current culture.
“Silences are not simply the outcome of oppressive power relations,” Cooky said. “Sports can still serve as a site for oppression while also a site for empowerment.”
As part of a longitudinal study of men’s and women’s sports coverage in news media, Cooky and her colleagues have been collecting and releasing data on the issue every five years since 1989. The study has found that 100 percent of the lead stories concerned men’s sports.
Cooky said since Title IX, which prevents discrimination based on sex and gender, was passed in 1972, more women are playing sports, but coverage of women’s sports has decreased.
“The increased participation of girls and women in sports has not been reflected in the news media coverage,” Cooky said. “Coverage of women’s sports is lower now than it was in 1989 when we started the study.”
Sociology associate professor Ben Carrington said he was upset when he learned about the small percentage of coverage for women’s sports.
“To say that this is getting better is not right — in fact, it’s getting worse,” Carrington said. “We’re slicing it at 1.8 percent right now, and that’s just unacceptable.”
Cooky said that although the objectification of women in sports has decreased since the late 1990s, she still hopes to see less “packaging” of women for men’s sports.
“What puts me to sleep at night is the thought that in getting this work out there and to the people who can bring it to the masses, we could impact a sense of consciousness and bring about some change,” Cooky said.