When it comes to female athletes, it often seems like the “female” takes precedence over the “athlete” —especially when it comes to reporters who treat the court like a red carpet. This phenomenon of asking athletes about their weight, clothing, hair, or love life came to a crisis point at this year’s Australian Open. Canadian tennis player Eugenie Bouchard was asked to “give us a twirl and “tell us about your outfit.” It was sexism at its worst. People everywhere revolted at the idea that the world’s 48th best tennis player was reduced to talking about her short skirt.
In response to #twirl gate (that’s what it was called!), the #cover the athlete campaign was born to encourage the media to cover female athletes with the same professional respect that they do the men. To prove their point about the huge gender disparity in sports coverage, the campaign produced a parody video. It highlights the sexism of these types of questions by asking them of male athletes. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps, for example, is “asked” by a reporter, “Removing your body hair gives you an edge in the pool, but how about your love life?” to which he laughs and looks incredulous. Other male sports stars are asked questions about their “helmet hair”, “girlish figure”, weight, skimpy uniforms, and one soccer commentator even adds, “I wonder if his dad took him aside when he was younger and told him ‘You’re never going to be a looker, you’ll never be a Beckham, so you’re going to have to compensate for that’?.”
It’s hilarious until you realize that these are questions female athletes get asked all. the. time. And worse, they’re expected to answer them or risk being called cold or bitchy.
“Sexist commentary, inappropriate interview questions, and articles commenting on physical appearance not only trivialise a woman’s accomplishments, but also send a message that a woman’s value is based on her looks, not her ability—and it’s much too commonplace,” the campaign’s website explains. “It’s time to demand media coverage that focuses on the athlete and her performance, not her hair, clothes or body.”
Want to help out? (We sure do!) The campaign is asking everyone, both men and women, to contact their local media network with the message: “When you cover a female athlete, we want you to cover her performance and abilities.”
Can we get an Amen? It’s about time these incredible athletes get credit for what they do, not what they look like. (Check out these 20 Iconic Sports Moments Featuring Female Athletes.)