Student Number: n8588490
Name: Hadeir El Shinawi
Tutor: Cindy Phelan

"Women have a vital role to play in the development sport in Australia - as participants, volunteers,athletes and sports leaders as coaches and administrators.
And yet we still see women facing barriers to participating in sport across their lifetime" - Spoken by
Kate Ellis, Australian Federal Minister for Sport (Australian Government, 2010).


The artefact above is a campaign established by sports brand ‘Nike’ in 2012, to pay tribute to the struggles which women have overcome to gain the right to play sport. The video presents four elite female athletes, boxer Marlen Esparza, marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Women's National Basketball Association players Lisa Leslie and Diana Taurasi as they tell of the hardship they faced as a child, purely because they were 'girls'. The video highlights the determination and success of these women, even though gender criticism stood in their way.

According to the National Physical Activity Guidelines for Australians (Better Health Channel, 2012) approximately 46% of Australian women are failing to meet the recommended 30 minutes of moderate- intensity physical activity each day. The importance of amending this public health issue is beneficial for both physical and mental health and wellbeing.

The World Health Organisation (World Health Organization, 2012) stated the health issues that may occur due to inadequate physical activity are cardiovascular disease, Diabetes, Osteoporosis and breast cancer (World Health Organization, 2012). The numbers of women who are currently affected by Diabetes stands at over 70 million worldwide, with one third of female deaths globally, are caused by Cardiovascular Disease (World Health Organization, 2012). However, studies have shown a link between engaging in physical activity and improvements in psychological health by decreasing levels of stress, anxiety and depression (World Health Organization, 2012).

"In a country with such a rich sporting culture as Australia, where women's sport is competitive and very successful on the international stage, it is incredibly disappointing that female sport remains so starkly under-represented in the media."- Kate Ellis, Australian Federal Minister for Sport (Australian Government, 2010).
Participating in sport is not only beneficial for health but also for building character and instilling a sense of belonging and confidence in individuals. Although women have made a significant contribution to sport over the years they still face barriers of gender inequality in sports televising, media portrayal and sporting opportunities.

The problematic factor in the misrepresentation of female athletes is the media’s portrayal. The mass media plays a pivotal role in influencing our beliefs, values and attitudes, not only of ourselves but of others (Koivula, 1999). The media is presented in a way which manipulates and shapes our thoughts in a particular way, often bombarding audiences with gender stereotypes and reinforcing social expectations.

Kate Ellis, Australia’s Federal Minister for Sport, released research by the Australian Sports Commission which tackled the issue of female sporting achievements still going under represented in the media. Research found that women’s sport only made nine percent of all media news coverage and had the shortest duration on television sports news (Australian Government, 2010), yet women currently make up 40% of sporting participants (Adams & Tuggle, 2004; Kane, Griffin, & Messner, 2002). The problem with trying to redress the issue is that the media will continue to show what it believes audiences want to see. It appears that for women to gain media coverage they need to strive and go further than sport in order to do so. Female athletes generally receive more media attention on their femininity and physical appearance than the quality of their sporting achievements (Fink & Kensicki, 2002).

“Female athletes generally need to win in order to receive media coverage,whereas
maleathletes tend to receive coverage regardless of their success"
(Australian Government, 2010)
m and c.jpg
Beach Volleyball team Carolina and Maria Clara from Brazil

The exposure of female athletes is mostly focused on their physical appearance instead of their sporting performance. The phrase ‘sex sells’ holds the central focus in the recognition of female athletes in mass media. The female attire for mainstream sports such as volleyball, swimming and track are revealing and promote female athletes in a sexualised manner. The common term used to describe the sexualisation of females is “sexploitation”. The Australian Sports commission released an article on “sexploitation” of women, addressing concerns for young women lacking in self-confidence and body image due to images presented in the media, potentially leading to poor self image. A number of researches have determined a linked between poor body image and eating disorders (Australian Sports Commission, 2012).

The degrading portrayal and misrepresentation of female athletes not only impacts on the athletes themselves but on young girls and women. An indication of the impact body image in the media has on audiences, is shown in a survey conducted in 2012. The study used 29 000 Australians aged between 11- 24 to respond to questions relating to body image. The response found 70% have body shape and weight dissatisfaction (Fuller-Tyszkiewics, Ricciardelli, McCabe & Laville, 2012). Multiple studies have shown that the sexualisation of female athletes in the media impacts on adolescent girls and women's self-esteem.
Caster Semenya wins Women’s 800m in Berlin

Also arising is the broader topic surrounding gender testing of female athletes. Gender testing is not only degrading but more so humiliating for the athlete. South African runner Caster Semenya was subject to these tests after claiming victory in the 800 meter run in 2009, in a time that was “too fast for a woman.” Controversy surrounded her over speculations she was a man. The tests look for above average levels of the hormone testosterone, which are believed to be performance enhancing. Anthropologist and Sociomedical Scientist Karkazis and Jordan-Young (2012) reported that there is no evidence to support the theory that athletes with higher testosterone levels showed more success in sport than those with lower levels. It is even more disturbing that this concern only applies to women and not men.

There is no doubt that women’s sport is not receiving the same recognition as male athlete. The opportunities and facilities that male athletes have in support of their sporting careers are far broader than those women have. Women aren't presented with the same opportunities for growth. To find sponsorships and build a stable carrier in sport, many female athletes are referring to organizations such as “National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS)” and “Women’s Sports Foundation (WSF).” Organizations such as these, aim to assist female athletes by providing fundraisers and support. The NAGW has been around since 1899 and provide women with programs, education, funding and research to strengthen the growth of females in sport. Providing organizations such as WSF and NAGWS aim to recruit and encourage more females to play sport. Other methods used to increase females to play sport is by providing more opportunities and positions for women to commentate, write articles and broadcasts sport in the media (Australian Sports Commission, 2012).

The degrading misrepresentations of women in the media based on questions of true gender, sexualisation and sporting capability are all factors that impact on both the elite athletes themselves and women and girls who view this. The result of this may deter many females from participating in some sports or ultimately stop them from playing all sports (Australian Sports Commission, 2012).


Women's amateur boxing finally included in 2012 olympics

Sport and social culture fall under the stereotypes that women should participate in “feminine” sport and competing in only ‘feminine’ sports. Those women who attempt to cross these gender stereotypes in sport face males compete in “masculine sports”. In certain cultures women have been restricted to follow these norms of scrutiny and stereotypical harassment. The border lines between feminine and masculine sport till this day stand in the way of women participating in sport. In some cultures women have been denied the opportunity to compete in certain sports because of the revelling uniform that women are required to wear for certain events. These cultural and social beliefs stand in the way of many women competing in sport. The strong concerns which surround the call for equality between women and men in sport are important for the health of many young girls and women. The Australian Sports Commission made a statement addressing the fact that sexploitation and sponsorships are less contentious for male athletes,whilst also adding that society perceives men’s sport differently to women’s (Australian Sport Commission, 2012) .

kathy freeman.jpg
Australian Runner, Cathy Freeman is an inspiration for many athletes

Linda Carpenter in “Women in Higher Education” voiced her concern for the need to hire more females to take roles as coaches for men’s teams so that both male and female students could see women in leadership positions (Hixson, 1998). Public health need to recognize the social pressures and stress that so many women and girls are faced with and provide them with support and encouragement to be physically active and participate in sporting activities. The Australian Bureau of Statistics found a noticeable difference in male and female sports participation between the ages of 15-17 years (86% of males compared to 71% of females) (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012). Studies also showed participation rates of males are generally higher than females in all age groups (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012).
Researches have shown little change in the number of females participating in sport over the past 10 years and are still being misrepresented across various levels of sport (Australian Sports Commission, 2012). The Australian Sports Commission (ASC) has taken action to redress this issue by increasing media coverage of women’s sport and improving leadership programs and opportunities. In 2008- 2009 the ASC conducted research alongside ‘Journalism and Media Research Centre’ to gain a clearer understanding of women’s representation through various forms of media, in comparison to male athletes (Australian Sports Commission, 2012). The ASC have also implemented strategies for sports industries to “attract, retain and increase” both women and girls to play all sports (Australian Sports Commission, 2012).

The mass media continues to in adequately show female sporting events and acknowledge their sporting accomplishments. There has been some increase in marketing of female athletes which has given women and girls the opportunity to witness athletic women achieve and accomplish in numerous sports and in sport related careers. The increases in television commercials that present female sports role models have shown improvement in health, body image and in physical competency (Nancy, 1998).

The importance of mending this gender inequality in sport is to help encourage women to get involved and participate in physical activity, and build their confidence. Providing more sporting opportunities for women will help improve their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Numerous studies have determined that regular physical activity will reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes (Corbin, 2011). Physical activity will also help build self-esteem and confidence and reduce levels of stress, anxiety and depression. A study conducted by Hausenblas & Downs (2001) supports this with findings that showed athletes have a more positive self image and confidence than those that are non-athletic. These health benefits are primarily important for women, especially adolescents who commonly struggle with body image and self confidence.


The artefact that I have chosen for my topic provides a powerful representation of the issue of fairness and equality for women in sport. The video demonstrates first-hand the struggles and pressures that female athletes have had to concur, in order to reach success. The commercial presented by the sports brand ‘NIKE’ selected elite female athletes to speak up on their battle to compete in sport, as they faced ridicule, belittlement, stereotypes and degrading comments from a young age. Their stories were told through young children, used to replicate them at the time where they first starting playing sport. They spoke of the harsh criticism they faced and how they can now look back and say they have conquered. Nike released this video in the efforts to celebrate how far women’s sport has come.

This assessment has allowed me to gain a better understanding into the true extent to which women have triumphed to reach their current sporting status. I have become more appreciative of every female athlete’s success as I now know the true extent to which it took for them to reach where they are now. Research has shown the health issues that are caused by failing to adequately represent female achievements in sport and the need to rectify this. With growing concerns of obesity in Australia and in so many countries around the world, it is becoming increasingly importance that women gain the rightful acknowledgements in sport and are encouraged to be athletic.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) Culture and recreation: sports and physical recreation. Australian Bureau of Statistics. Retrieved October 27, from

Australian Government. (2010). New report reveals poor media coverage of women in sport. Department of Health & Ageing. Retrieved October 27, from

Australian Sports Commisision (2012). Sexploitation : participating in sport : australian sports commission. Australian Sports Commission. Retrieved from

Corbin, C.B., Welk, G.J., Corbin, W.R., Welk, K.A., Sidman, C.L. (2011) 9th Edition Concepts of Fitness and Wellness A Comprehensive Lifestyle Approach (pp.105) New York: McGraw-Hill

Fink, J., & Kensicki, L.J. (2002). An imperceptible difference: visual and textual construction of femininity in sports illustrated and sports illustrated for women. Mass Communication & Society, 5(3), 317-339.

Fuller-Tyszkiewics, M., Ricciardelli, L., McCabe, M., & Laville, B. (2013). Body image and health. In Caltabiano, M., & Ricciardelli, L, (Eds.), Applied topics in health psychology (pp.259).

Hausenblas, H., & Downs, D. (2001). Comparison of body image between athletes and nonathletes. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 13(3), 323-339. doi:10.1080/104132001753144437.

Hixson, A. (1998). SPORTS: researchers talk women, sports, and academia; participation up, role models down. The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education, 9, 19-19.

Jones, A., & Greer, J. (n.d.). The effects of feminine appearance on audience perceptions of female athletes and women's sports. You Don't Look Like an Athlete, 34(4), 358.

Karkazis. K., & Jordan-Young. R. (2012, July 23) Rip up new olympic sex test rules. New Scientist. Retrieved 29 from

Koivula, N. (1999). Gender stereotyping in televised media sport coverage. Sex roles, 7, 601.

Mc Vee, M. B., Dunsmore, K., & Gavelek, J. R. (2005). Schema theory revisited. Review of Educational Research, 75(4), 531-566.

Nancy, L. L. (1998). Promotion of sports for girls and women. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, 69(5), 25-26.

State Government of Victoria (2011). Physical activity - women. Better Health Channel. Retrieved from

Wenner, L. (1998). Sports as a gendered Institution. Media sport (p. 90). Retrieved from

World Health Organization (2012). Physical activity and women. Retrieved 28 October 2012, from


Comment 1.

WIKI TITLE: 'Femaleness' - The injustice of women athletes
Name: Shawnie Tarczynski
Student number: 08610177
Tutor: Julie-Anne Carroll

Hi Shawnie

You have done a great job with your wiki presentation and I really enjoyed your choice of artefact of the press conference with Runner Caster Semenya. I felt that this gave a good insight into how athletes that are placed in the predicament of such accusation as 'gender questioning' feel and perceive the situation.You also used literature and statistics to adequately address the issue of the injustice of female athletes and gender stereotypes.

On the topic of female inequality in sport, It feel it is extremely disappointing that women are still demanding fairness and equality in sport. I feel that this issue should have been dealt with many many years ago.

You've done a really good job on your wiki page!

Comment 2.

Name: Anna Robertson
Student number: 05688868
Tutor: Michelle Newcomb

Anna I thought your choice of artefact gave a good insight into the people in society who are faced with the issue of growing up in a low socio-economic area and their likelihood of getting incarcerated. You also did a really good job in covering various aspects of this issue.

It is unfair that people who are in these low socio-economic are at a disadvantages than those that are wealthy. I think its sad and unfair that many children and teenagers like 'SAM' have to face this struggle from such a young age.

Anna you did a really good job on your wiki page!