Campaigners demanding that media networks stop focusing on female athletes appearance over their performance have produced a video to demonstrate their point.
Evidently some media professionals need to see a male-on-male example to appreciate that asking an athlete to “give us a twirl and tell us about your outfit" rather than asking about the game is insulting.
#CoverTheAthlete’s 80 second video shows key sportsmen being asked similar questions posed to women – such as “have you heard the controversy over your helmet hair?"
[related_articles]The majority don’t even bother to justify the reporter with an answer – yet #CoverTheAthlete have shared multiple instances of these questions being posed to their female colleagues.
Examples of appearance focused reporting include an NBC New York headline which read: "Olympic Beach Volleyball: Great Bodies, Bikinis and More."
Another remark from a BBC commentator about tennis player Marion Bartoli reads: “I just wonder if her dad did say to her when she was 12, 13, 14: 'Listen, you're never going to be a looker, you are never going to be somebody like a Sharapova, you're never going to be 5ft 11, you're never going to be somebody with long legs, so you have to compensate for that.’"
Regarding Serena Williams – the Number One Singles Tennis Player in the World, a Telegraph columnist wrote: “Generally, I'm all for chunky sports stars ... but tennis requires a mobility Serena cannot hope to achieve while lugging around breasts that are registered to vote in a different US state from the rest of her."
We hope that columnist was feeling pretty mobile soon after hitting ‘publish’ - quite obviously Williams can run faster than your average reporter and, FYI, she's pretty good with a racket.
Cover The Athlete are asking people to write directly to media channels, saying: “Sexist commentary, inappropriate interview questions, and articles focused on physical appearance not only trivializes a woman’s accomplishments, but also sends a message that her value is based on her looks, not her ability. And it’s much too commonplace."
It’s far from the first time the issue has been addressed. Effigies could have been burned in the TWC office when Fifa President Seth Blatter said: “Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could, for example, have tighter shorts."
Serena Williams has faced endless criticism for her strong muscles and curvy physique which means she doesn’t fit the Hollywood ideal – but she shut down the body shamers on an American TV programme, by saying: “I just don't have time to be brought down. I have too many things to do, you know. I have Grand Slams to win. I have people to inspire. And that's what I'm here for."
Cycling examples are countless – most recently in the overtly sexualised Twitter message posted by bike brand Colnago which inspired a Twitter tirade that soon made it to the pages of The Sun and The Daily Mail.
We’ve heard it said in the past that if women want sport and cycling to grow, they need to accept that being sexualised is a part of that – as it draws audience.
As this video demonstrates, this isn’t a demand that is put on male athletes if they want to succeed, and therefore building an equal audience for women’s sport based on these methods is no kind of equality at all.
Support the campaign here.