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  • 13 February 2015 00:00
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Why can't female athletes be role models in their own right?

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Why can’t female athletes be role models in their own right?

Rihanna - the music sensation was signed by PUMA as the face of its women’s fitness line while Gisele - a successful model featured in Under Armour’s TV commercial and marketing campaign. What’s wrong with these scenarios you ask? Well Under Armour received ‘Marketer of the Year’ for its novel approach to marketing women. Yet this Sport’s clothing provider along with a line of other forefront sports clothing companies is hindering the growth of women’s sports and the exposure of top-tier athletes by creating a double standard in the media.

Female athlete’s get a fraction of the respect and audience that male athlete’s within the same sports receive. Historically the media have not promoted female athlete role models; instead female athletes have been sexualised. It is common to see a female athlete in suggestive poses on the front of a campaign or magazine cover. Rarely are females portrayed as performance athletes instead emphasis is on their beauty and sex appeal which often overshadows their successful on field endeavours. Magazine’s and adverts are continually projecting a "woman first, athlete second” attitude emphasised when leading sports brands choose not to use athletes to front their campaigns, instead choosing an aesthetically pleasing star who will reach a bigger public audience. Consequently young females are directed to look to male athletes as their sporting role models.

At this present time the opportunities for females to participate in sports and fitness endeavours are at an all time high. With campaigns like Sport England’s ‘This Girl Can’ it highlights the importance of female athlete role models and the impact they can have in inspiring young females to make sport a habit for life. National athlete role model programmes have proved a great success in creating more female role models that show youngsters that gender is not a barrier to elite level success.

Sporting Champions is Sport England’s athlete role model programme and the female athlete’s on the programme visit youngsters in community projects to raise their aspirations and show them that they too can achieve great things with hard work and determination.

Programmes like this are the future of creating a gender balance where females and male athletes are equally respected and looked up to, allowing females to grow up aspiring to be like their female role models as opposed to a male role model.

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