Grace Vaughan Memorial Discussion Panel
Thursday 11 November 2004 Lawrence Wilson Art Gallery, University of Western Australia 35 Stirling Highway Nedlands
Sex, power and sport are complex issues, which have a direct impact on female athletes and women within the broader community. Research shows that when a gendered comparison is made, Australia‟s sportswomen have high participation rates in sport but media coverage and sponsorship is low. Sexual assault allegations within elite sporting bodies and sexploitation of female athletes are some of the other pertinent issues of sex, power and sport.
Media coverage of women in sporti
“Research shows that although the nation‟s sportswomen are playing harder, faster and more professionally than ever and have a proven international record, they struggle for consistent, long-term coverage.” From 1948 to 2004, of the 116 gold medals won by Australians at Olympic Games women have won 49; a remarkable achievement since only 28% of the total number of events were available to women.
“The media coverage of women in sport is treated very differently from that of men.” Although media coverage of women‟s sport has increased over the years, only 10.7% of newspaper sports space is devoted to women‟s sport, with men‟s coverage at 79.1%.
“Women‟s sport also suffers from its positioning in newspapers with women‟s stories often placed at the bottom of pages or at the inner, most inaccessible pages of the sports section.” “The language used in stories often differed from gender to gender. Women are often described in ways that stressed weakness, passivity and insignificance and in ways that deflected from their athleticism. For instance, they are frequently portrayed as girls regardless of their age. The physical traits or emotional state are often the focus; when confronted by stressful situations women are described as „dissolving into tears‟ and men are applauded for their „toughness‟.”
Sexual assault allegations
“…research documents that sports players are over-represented among the men who commit ii acts of sexual assault and domestic violence.” „Since February 2004, women have come forward with alleged sexual assaults by elite footballers from nine clubs in the Australian Football League and the National Rugby League. To date, no cases have been brought to trial and in most cases this is due to iii insufficient evidence.‟ „Two international studies found that, while male sports team members make up two or three per cent of the university population, they are responsible for 20 to 30% of reported incidents of violence against women. Another study found that male athletes are more likely than other men to agree with rape-supportive statements.‟
“Sexual assault is not limited to sports players. Being groped or harassed is a common element of young women‟s experience of clubs, pubs, and other public places.” „One in seven women aged 18 to 24, or 13%, report unwanted sexual touching in the last 12 months, according to a national survey by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.‟ „In the past year alone, one-quarter of young women received an obscene phone call, and over a third received inappropriate comments about their body or sex life by a man.‟ „One in six males aged 12 to 20 agrees with the statement that “it‟s OK for a boy to make a girl have sex with him if she has flirted with him or led him on,” according to a 2001 survey of 5,000 young people in Australia.‟ „Significant proportions of young men also agree that “when a guy hits a girl it‟s not really a big deal” and “guys who get the most respect are those who will fight when they need to.”‟
Representation of women in sport
Historical trends indicate that the level of participation of women in sport has increased both as active and social members. These trends are not reflected in decision-making bodies or organisations. Current research indicates that twice as many males as females are active members of v State Sporting Associations in WA. There are 15,204 accredited coaches in WA, of whom 75% are males and there are vi 14,222 accredited officials, of whom 70% are male. Although the West Coast Eagles and Fremantle Dockers have the highest percentage of female members at 52% (a higher rate than the Eastern States), to date no woman has vii been a board member of the Fremantle Dockers.
A common term used to describe the sexualising of athletes, applied to both men and women. Applies to forms of marketing, promotion or attempts to gain media coverage, which focus attention on the sexual attributes of athletes, especially the visibility of their bodies. The value of the female athlete is judged primarily in terms of body type and attractiveness, rather than the qualities that define her as an athlete. This can create an ironic situation for elite athletes; in order to gain media attention many female athletes resort to marketing themselves and their sport using the sexploitation angle. For example, women‟s beach volleyball has intentionally introduced uniforms to focus on the athlete‟s body rather than for any performance enhancing reasons. As such, women must compete in a bikini style that must not exceed six centimetres in width at the hip whilst men compete in shorts and singlets. Sexploitation is of concern as it has the potential to denigrate the individual both as an athlete and as a woman.
Information has been extracted from The Australian Sports Commission – www.ausport.gov.au/women/ Flood, Michael. „Being a sporting champion means you have to play by all the rules‟. http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=2058 posted Wednesday, March 10, 2004 iii Football Fans Against Sexual Assault – www.ffasa.org/ iv Unless otherwise stated, the following information has been extracted from Flood, Michael. „Australia‟s sexist male sub-culture is not limited to footballers.‟ http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=2269 posted Tuesday, June 08, 2004 v Department of Sport and Recreation, Government of Western Australia. State Sporting Associations in Western Australia in 2003: An Indicative Snapshot. vi ibid vii Styles, Aja. (18 October 2004). „Pick me for the Dockers, says Allison.‟ The Subiaco Post. viii Information has been extracted from The Australian Sports Commission – www.ausport.gov.au/women/