Sex Roles

, Volume 45, Issue 3, pp 217-229

First online:

He's a Laker; She's a “Looker”: The Consequences of Gender-Stereotypical Portrayals of Male and Female Athletes by the Print Media

  • Jennifer L. KnightAffiliated withSouthwestern University Email author 
  • , Traci A. GiulianoAffiliated withSouthwestern University

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Although an extensive qualitative literature shows that coverage of women's sport often focuses on female athletes' attractiveness (to the exclusion of their athleticism), there is a dearth of quantitative research examining exactly what effect this coverage has on people's perceptions of athletes. As part of a 2 (Gender of the Athlete: Female or Male) × 2 (Gender of the Participant: Female or Male) × 2 (Focus of the Article: Physical Attractiveness or Athleticism) between-subjects design, 92 predominantly White undergraduates (40 men, 52 women) read a fictitious newspaper profile about an Olympic athlete in which the article focused on the athlete's attractiveness (as coverage of female athletes often does) or on the athlete's athleticism (as coverage of male athletes often does). Interestingly, participants neither had favorable impressions of nor liked articles about female and male athletes when attractiveness was the main focus of an article. These findings suggest that the media should be cognizant of the harmful and erroneous impressions that can result from portraying athletes in terms of their personal attributes rather than their athletic accomplishments.