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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?
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
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
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.