In a blog today from NPR’s The Nation, Mary Jo Kane, the director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota, opines about the American media’s tendency to sexualize female athletes. Kane references a recent study she conducted at the University of Minnesota, in which her findings revealed that, in the vast majority of cases, a "sex sells" approach to images of female athletes offended the core fan base of women's sports — women and older men.
Scholars have long argued that a major consequence of the media's tendency to sexualize women's athletic accomplishments is the reinforcement of their status as second-class citizens in one of the most powerful economic, social and political institutions on the planet. In doing so, media images that emphasize femininity/sexuality actually suppress interest in, not to mention respect for, women's sports. Many of those charged with promoting women's sports take an entirely different view. The "sex sells" strategy remains commonplace among sports journalists and marketers, with many of whom also believing that reaffirming traditional notions of femininity and heterosexuality is a critical sales strategy.