Sexism in sport: Is women’s snowboarding fairly represented in the media?

While flicking through Stylist Magazine the other day, I stumbled upon a campaign that they’re running to end sexism in sport, and more specifically the bias in the media towards men’s sport. The following, statistics have led them to launch a petition calling for the issue to be discussed in the House of Commons, after an initial request to the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport, to launch an enquiry into the coverage of women’s sport in the UK, was denied.

  •  Only 5% of sports media coverage features women
  • For every 53 articles written about sporting men, there is one about a woman
  • Women’s sport receives only 0.5% of the total sponsorship income into sport (men get 62.1%)

Kelly Clark at the Winter X Games Europe 2012

I found these statistics both shocking, yet unsurprising. Being a female snowboarder, I’m more than accustomed to being involved in a male dominated sport. However, while there are slight differences between men and women’s snowboarding (there is much debate as to whether or not women should ride the same courses as men), they do receive a similar, although not equal, level of exposure in the media when it comes to competitions. This is largely thanks to the standard of today’s female riders. With the likes of Kelly Clark going as big as some of the men, they are just as incredible to watch as their male counterparts.

Sadly the balance isn’t quite as even in other areas of snowboarding media and women don’t feature too heavily in the majority of mainstream edits, films or magazines, all of which are a fundamental part of the sport today.

However, women within the sport are starting to raise their own profile and there are a handful of production companies, organisations and websites which cater to the (not unsizeable) female snowboarding population, with more emerging all the time.

Cooler Magazine, part of the massive action sports media group, Mpora, which publishes Whitelines and Onboard snowboarding magazines, has been providing action sports loving women with their own dedicated magazine for several years now.

New on the scene is Coven Magazine, an independent quarterly for women which combines action, art and adventure. Issue two is just out and features everything from women’s surfing, skateboarding and motocross, to fashion, art and a fair trade safari in Kenya. Check out the website to view the magazine online or find your nearest stockist, to pick up a hard copy.

While the big female orientated brands, such as Roxy, have been producing promotional edits featuring their sponsored riders for a while, female riders haven’t had much of a presence in full length snowboarding films. However, this is changing thanks to production companies such as Lipstick Productions who last year released the awesome, full length film ‘5 more minutes… please?!’ which features only female European riders, such as Basa Stevulova, Aimee Fuller, Sina Candrian, Conny Bleicher, Aline Bock and Tini Gruber. They recently released the teaser for the follow up, ‘Eurotic’ and it looks like it’s going to be every bit as good as the last!

Some other sites and organisations which represent female boarders are Women in BoardsportsGirly LegsPowder Room, and Chix Shred. And then there are the brands such as Roxy, NikitaVolcom and Burton who also run sites dedicated to female shredders.

So, perhaps female snowboarders are fairly well represented in the media compared to other sports, such as football and rugby. But this is undoubtedly testament to the tenacious female riders who are determined to go as big as the men and refuse to be relegated to easier courses (Canadian rider, Spencer O’Brien has been quite outspoken on the subject – see her blog post on the subject), and also thanks to female riders in the media who are determined to give themselves, and their heroines, a voice.

What do you think? Are women in board sports well represented in the media compared to other sports, or do you think they should have more of a presence? Please leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts and get a discussion going…

Cheers!

Cat

If you want to support Stylist’s ‘Fair Game’ campaign, click here to sign their petition.

15 responses to “Sexism in sport: Is women’s snowboarding fairly represented in the media?

  1. Sexism is rife in sport and sports coverage. I’d much rather watch some Female versions of sports. I.e Tennis is normally much better to watch in the ladies game than the men’s.

    A big driver in this sexist slant lies within the media. Media coverage drives the problem on and it seems the media (and Brit media) loves to knock successful women. I.e Paula Radcliffe.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Richie. And when sportswomen do appear in the media, the focus seems to be more on their appearance than on their performance.

      It’s also depressing to see that, even when presented with some pretty shocking statistics, the Select Committee for Culture, Media and Sport still aren’t prepared to address the issue. I really hope this petition can help to drive some change.

  2. Deffo, Signed petition. And What about the Jess Ennis ‘fat’ comment. Like WTF? exactly what all that was about? Just as you say, more about appearance than performance. But Jess was in amazing form anyway at the time of the comment…… And Sepp Blatter when he said women should wear more feminine gear for footy…… the mans a ‘tool’. The other problem(s) is the corruption and cronyism that exist in politics, the media and especially sport. Theres a lot of self promotion and self protection goes on in all sports and people protecting there own interests and little kingdoms. BTW Loving the Female snowboarding movies. My own view is that the great thing about sport is having fun and giving something as well as taking something. That’s why I love snow sports so much. A great day on the hill is a great day on the Hill. No matter if it’s ‘going big’ with advanced friends or coaching someone on the beginner slopes

    • The Jessica Ennis fat remarks were so ridiculous that I think even she laughed them off, but that doesn’t make it acceptable. And then there was poor Rebecca Addlington who was slated in the press for being ugly! Even if she was (which she’s not), it has absolutely nothing with her sporting performance, which is outstanding. Why our press would want to tear apart our top athletes (regardless of their sex) is beyond me. You’re right about the cronyism that exists in politics and the media though – it’s so wrong.

      Fortunately the snowsports community is close knit and female riders get a lot of support from the men, even though they tend to be male dominated sports. They still don’t always get much exposure in films and magazines though, which is what’s so great about the Lipstick Productions films. Being a woman, I’m probably biased, but I think they’re just as good to watch as many of the all-male ones. I also know lots of guys who agree though!

      That’s great you signed the petition. It’s great to have guys getting behind it too! :)

  3. Disclaimer (!): this is slightly tongue-in-cheek/playing devil’s advocate, but I think there’s probably an element of truth in it (cue accusations of sexism no doubt)…

    I think people would be keener on women’s sport, and it would get increased press coverage, if women were able to push the limits of human performance (men AND women’s) in the same way men are able to. I don’t mean that women aren’t pushing to their absolute physical limits…I just mean that, very generally speaking (and there are exceptions), elite sportsmen are physiologically able to go bigger, further, faster, stronger etc…and people in general want to see that more – rightly or wrongly.

    Sure, it’s absolutely amazing to see Kelly Clark stomp a 1080 on a snowboard…and 99.9% of male snowboarders would give their left nut to be able to even do anything anywhere near as difficult as that…but when pro guys have landed 1440s, and most male pros are doing 1080s for fun, maybe some people see it as less impressive/groundbreaking because they’ve seen the same trick so often before.

    Of course that doesn’t make female sport any less competitive, and I for one wish there was more coverage of it. But at the same time I don’t think it’s something that can (physically) or will ever change, and I therefore doubt that women’s sport will ever get to the point of being on an equal footing in terms of media coverage.

    • Jon, what you say is true and it’s undoubtedly why female sport doesn’t get as much coverage in the media. However (and this might just be because I am female), there is more to snowboarding (and skiing) than just going massive, and while it is impressive to see guys stomping 1440s and the like, I find it just as impressive to see Aimee Fuller do a graceful backflip, or Jamie Anderson do a near perfect run in the Slopestyle. Sure, it is all relative to the stuff the men can do, but it’s still awesome to watch, and possibly even more so because they have a physiological disadvantage. But as I say, maybe that’s because I’m a woman!

      And besides, we don’t necessarily have to have an equal footing in terms of media coverage, but more than 5% would be good! Surely women’s sport is worthy of more than that? And even if men don’t want to watch it, there’s a large number of women do!

      Thanks for risking accusations of sexism to offer an alternative viewpoint! I suppose you think Jessica Ennis is fat too, do you? ;)

  4. Well, she is a b…just kidding! The Jess Ennis stuff is, as you’ve said above, just so ridiculous that it didn’t warrant anything other than her laughing it off. Same goes for the Rebecca Addlington thing – totally out of order…but in my mind the type of comments that appear in relation to female sports stars in the media is a slightly different argument to the amount coverage female sports get. I totally agree there should be more than 5% coverage of women’s sport, and as I said above I would definitely like to see more of it (and no, not for sexist reasons!).

    Given my comments above, I might now be about to be accused of being like a homophobe who uses the ‘some of my best friends are gay’ type of an argument (!), but genuinely some of my favourite sections in ski movies over the years have featured athletes such as Ingrid Backstrom and Sarah Burke – totally unbelievable and committed skiing (esp the big mountain stuff, which I always find more impressive anyway) – irrespective of whether it’s a male or female rider.

    Right, better sign the petition now… 

    • Yes, it is different. We’d got on to that because we were saying that the minimal coverage of women’s sport in the media tends to focus on the athletes’ appearance rather than their performance. It’s all part and parcel of an overall issue though.

      It’s good to hear that, in spite of playing devil’s advocate, you’re still able to profess your admiration for the likes of Ingrid Backstrom and Sarah Burke. Total legends.

      Hope you have signed that petition! I suppose you joined the Pride Glasgow parade yesterday too? ;)

  5. Sexism? it happens everywhere! not just in sports. But the good about it, competition between sexes is really challenging. It beats out the best of both.

    • That is very true, and possibly even more so for women. It’s undoubtedly why the standard of women’s sport is increasing all the time. This is particularly true in snowboarding.

      Hopefully this increase in standard will lead to an increase in exposure in the media!

      Thanks for your comment!

  6. Yes they do. People need to understand it’s supply and demand – in fact I would argue they are overrepresented. I am massive supporter of female athletes but at the end of the day less women take part in snowsports, therefore there is less demand for media coverage. It would be different if they could compete with the men then there would be no distinction and coverage would be split amongst the best ‘athletes’ – but that’s not the case.

    I enjoy watching any rider, male or female, especially if they are doing something with more style or no one has done before. Ultimately it’s up to female riders to create their own demand for media coverage, go bigger, be more creative. No one is out to under-represent female riders – it’s just that for the most part, guys are better.

    JB

  7. Wonderful blog! Do you have any tips and hints for aspiring writers?
    I’m hoping to start my own website soon but I’m a little lost on everything.
    Would you suggest starting with a free platform like WordPress or go for a paid option?
    There are so many choices out there that
    I’m totally confused .. Any tips? Thank you!

    • Hi Alex, so sorry to take so long to reply. I was in hospital for a few days and have been out of action with a broken arm, so correspondence has fallen by the wayside somewhat! Thank you for your kind words. I’m glad you like the blog! My main piece of advice to aspiring writers is to just do it! Put yourself out there. It can be daunting, but what’s the worst that can happen? And great things can come of it!

      As far as a platform is concerned, it depends on the nature of your site. If it’s for commercial purposes you might be best to go for a WordPress.org site and pay for a separate web host. If it’s just for small business or blogging then you’ll probably be fine with a free one from WordPress.com. I’ve certainly been very happy with WordPress. It has great functionality, but is also easy to use.

      All the best with it all!

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