Sex Roles

, Volume 45, Issue 3–4, pp 217–229 | Cite as

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



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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Archer, D., Iritani, B., Kimes, D. D., & Barrios, M. (1983). Five studies of sex differences in facial prominence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 45, 725-735.Google Scholar
  2. Beere, C. A., King, D. W., Beere, D. B., & King, L. A. (1984). The Sex-Role Egalitarianism Scale: A measure of attitudes toward equality between the sexes. Sex Roles, 10, 563-576.Google Scholar
  3. Bem, S. L. (1974). The measurement of psychological androgyny. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 42, 155-162.Google Scholar
  4. Bem, S. L. (1981). Gender schema theory: A cognitive account of sex typing. Psychological Review, 88, 354-364.Google Scholar
  5. Bem, S. L. (1983). Gender schema theory and its implications for child development: Raising gender-aschematic children in a gender-schematic society. Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 8, 598-616.Google Scholar
  6. Birrell, S., & Theberge, N. (1994). Ideological control of women in sport. In D. M. Costa & S. R. Guthrie (Eds.), Women and sport: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  7. Boutilier, M. A., & SanGiovanni, L. (1983). The sporting woman. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  8. Burn, S. M., O'Neal, K. A., & Nederend, S. (1996). Childhood tomboyism and adult androgyny. Sex Roles, 34, 419-428.Google Scholar
  9. Cahn, S. K. (1994). Coming on strong: Gender and sexuality in twentieth-century women's sport. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  10. Coakley, J. J., & White, A. (1992). Making decisions: Gender and sport participation among British adolescents. Sociology of Sport Journal, 9, 20-35.Google Scholar
  11. Curtis, M. C., & Grant, C. H. B. (2001). Gender Equity in Sports [On-line]. Available: Scholar
  12. Daddario, G. (1998). Women's sport and spectacle: Gendered television coverage and the Olympic Games. Westport, CT: Praeger.Google Scholar
  13. Duncan, M. C. (1990). Sport photographs and sexual difference: Images of women and men in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic Games. Sociology of Sport Journal, 7, 22-43.Google Scholar
  14. Duncan, M. C., & Hasbrook, C. A. (1988). Denial of power in televised women's sports. Sociology of Sport Journal, 5, 1-21.Google Scholar
  15. Duncan, M. C., & Messner, M. A. (2000). Gender Stereotyping in Televised Sports: 1989, 1993, and 1999. Los Angeles, CA: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  16. Duncan, M. C., Messner, M. A., & Williams, L. (1991). Coverage of women's sports in four daily newspapers. Los Angeles: Amateur Athletic Foundation of Los Angeles.Google Scholar
  17. Eastman, S. T., & Billings, A. C. (1999). Gender parity in the Olympics: Hyping women athletes, favoring men athletes. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 23, 140-170.Google Scholar
  18. Fasting, K. (1999). Women and sport. Olympic Review, 26, 43-45.Google Scholar
  19. Fiala, S. E., Giuliano, T. A., Remlinger, N. M., & Braithwaite, L. C. (1999). Lending a helping hand: The effects of gender stereotypes and gender on likelihood of helping. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 29, 2164-2176.Google Scholar
  20. Fink, J. S. (1998). Female athletes and the media: Strides and stalemates. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance, 69, 37-45.Google Scholar
  21. Fisher, A., Genovese, P., Morris, K., & Morris, H. (1977). Perceptions of females in sport. In D. Landers & R. Christina (Eds.), Psychology of motor behavior and sport (pp. 96-118). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  22. Fiske, S. T., & Taylor, S. E. (1991). Social cognition (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  23. Gerbner, G. (1972). Violence in television drama: Trends and symbolic functions. In G. A. Comstock & I. A. Rubinstein (Eds.), Media content and control: Television and social behavior, vol. 1 (pp. 28-187). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.Google Scholar
  24. Gissendaner, C. H. (1994). African-American women and competitive sport, 1920–1960. In S. Birrell & C.L. Cole (Eds.), Women, sport, and culture (pp. 81-92). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.Google Scholar
  25. Greendorfer, S. L. (1993). Gender role stereotypes and early childhood socialization. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 18, 85-104.Google Scholar
  26. Hebl, M. R., & Heatherton, T. F. (1998). The stigma of obesity in women: The difference is Black andWhite. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 24(4), 417-426.Google Scholar
  27. Higgs, C. T., & Weiller, K. H. (1994). Gender bias and the 1992 Summer Olympic Games: An analysis of television coverage. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 3, 234-246.Google Scholar
  28. Hilliard, D. C. (1984). Media images of male and female professional athletes: An interpretive analysis of magazine articles. Sociology of Sport Journal, 1, 251-262.Google Scholar
  29. Kane, M. J. (1996). Media coverage of the post Title IX female athlete. Duke Journal of Gender Law and Policy, 3, 95-127.Google Scholar
  30. Kane, M. J., & Parks, J. B. (1992). The social construction of gender difference and hierarchy in sport journalism-Few new twists on very old themes. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 1, 49-83.Google Scholar
  31. Knight, J. L., Giuliano, T. A., and Sanchez-Ross, M. G. (2001). Famous or infamous? The influence of celebrity status and race on perceptions of responsibility for rape. Basic and Applied Social Psychology, 23, 183-190.Google Scholar
  32. Lewis, J. (1991). The ideological octopus. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  33. Lopiano, D.A. (1996).Women athletes deserve respect from the media. USAToday, 124, 74-76.Google Scholar
  34. Lumpkin, A., & Williams, L. D. (1991). An analysis of Sports Illustrated feature articles, 1954–1987. Sociology of Sport Journal, 8, 1-15.Google Scholar
  35. Martin, E. (1987). The women in the body. Boston: Beacon Press.Google Scholar
  36. Martin, B. A., & Martin, J. H. (1995). Compared perceived sex role orientations of the ideal male and female athlete to the ideal male and female person. Journal of Sport Behavior, 18, 286-301.Google Scholar
  37. Messner, M. (1988). Sports and male domination: The female athlete as contested ideological terrain. Sport Sociology Journal, 5, 197-211.Google Scholar
  38. Metheny, E. (1965). Symbolic forms of movement: The feminine image in sports. In E. Metheny (Ed.), Connotations of movement in sport and dance (pp. 43-56). Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown.Google Scholar
  39. Michael, M. E., Gilroy, F.D., & Sherman, M. F. (1984). Athletic similarity and attitudes towards women as factors in the perceived physical attractiveness and liking of a female varsity athlete. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 59, 511-518.Google Scholar
  40. Nixon, H. L., Maresca, P. J., & Silverman, M. A. (1979). Sex differences in college students' acceptance of females into sport. Adolescence, 14, 755-764.Google Scholar
  41. Rosenthal, R., & Jacobson, L. F. (1968). Pygmalian in the classroom: Teacher expectations and pupil's intellectual development. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.Google Scholar
  42. Sabo, D., & Jansen, S. C. (1992). Images of men in sport media: The social reproduction of gender order. In Masculinity and the media. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  43. Sagas, M., Cunningham, G. B., Wigley, B. J., & Ashley, F. B. (2000). Internet coverage of university softball and baseball websites: The inequity continues. Sociology of Sport Journal, 17(2), 198-212.Google Scholar
  44. Salwen, M. B., & Wood, N. (1994). Depictions of female athletes on Sports Illustrated covers, 1957–89. Journal of Sport Behavior, 17, 98-107.Google Scholar
  45. Trujillo, N. (1991). Hegemonic masculinity on the mound: Media representations of Nolan Ryan and American sports culture, Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 8, 290-303.Google Scholar
  46. Tuggle, C. A., & Owen, A. (1999). A descriptive analysis of NBC's coverage of the Centennial Olympics. Journal of Sport and Social Issues, 23(2), 171-182.Google Scholar
  47. Weiss, M. R., & Barber, H. (1995). Socialization influences of collegiate female athletes: A tale of two decades, Sex Roles, 33, 129-140.Google Scholar
  48. Women's Sport Foundation. (1998, July). Women's Sports Facts. East Meadow, New York: Women's Sport Foundation.Google Scholar
  49. Woodcock, A.T. (1995). Media coverage of boys' and girls' high school ice hockey in Minnesota. Melpomene Journal, 14, 27-29.Google Scholar
  50. Wulf, S. (1997, August 4). The N.B.A.'s sister act: Pro hoops gets a new season and a new gender with the successful start-up of the W.N.B.A. Time, 41-43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southwestern UniversityUSA;

Personalised recommendations