Panel focuses on portrayal of women athletes in the media

by Fabiana Torreao

The media portrayal of women athletes in the Olympics will be the topic of a panel tonight from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Cowles Auditorium in the Humphrey Center.
The University’s Tucker Center for Research on Girls & Women in Sports will present the panel in coordination with the MacArthur Interdisciplinary Program on Global Change, Sustainability and Justice.
Lisa Disch, a political science associate professor at the University and one of tonight’s panelists, said the panel is important because of the impact the media has on viewers’ perception of women athletes.
“(The media) can either set positive or negative role models to either transform or re-enforce our stereotypes of women in society,” Disch said.
Mary Jo Kane, director of the Tucker Center, said a calendar featuring the United States women’s track team posing nude is one example of the negative portrayal of women.
Another example, she added, is the photograph of the U.S. women’s swim team clothed only by an American flag published in Women Sports Fitness Magazine.
Kane said media should focus their coverage of women’s sport on athletes ability, not beauty.
“I just want them to turn the camera on and let us see what it looks like when women play sports,” she said. “Whether it is a sport that emphasizes grace and beauty or strength and power, just turn the camera on.”
The panel’s moderator, sociology associate professor Doug Hartmann, said they will analyze international media portrayals of women athletes, focusing on this summer’s Olympics.
He said panelists will examine what the Olympic media coverage means not only to American women, but to women around the world.
“We still have a long way to go in regard to equality when it comes to women in sports,” Kane said.
The Tucker Center, established in 1993, presents a distinguished lecture series every semester which is open to the public.

Fabiana Torreao welcomes comments at [email protected] She can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3236