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Bellingham
Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Opinion: Sports’ media portrayal of women

Thank you University of Washington.

Thank you for giving us a reason to talk about women in sports.

Over the past few days you might have seen UW’s cheer and dance “tryout look” infographic pop up on your social media feeds. The team removed the infographic from Facebook after people took to Twitter to express their anger toward the graphic’s “do’s” and “don’ts.”

The infographic included makeup “do’s” such as “false eyelashes” and “flattering eye shadow,” as well as “don’ts” such as “dark smokey eyes” and “too much makeup.”

As someone who grew up dancing competitively and constantly tried out for different teams, I don’t find this infographic offensive; to me it seems pretty helpful. Auditioning for teams is nerve-racking and little aspects like the color of your lipstick can be the difference between making the team or not.

However, I do see how the graphic is interpreted as exclusive and not representative of all women because of the use of the stereotypical cheerleader: Skinny. Blonde. White.

Senior Kara Eckardt, a communication and sociology major, said she rolled her eyes when she saw the infographic pop up on her Instagram feed.

“It reinforces the stereotype of what it is to be a cheerleader because they make the scope of the kind of person that they want so small,” Eckardt said. “You’re automatically disqualifying someone because they have a tattoo or their physique and that says nothing about how capable they are.”

Washington State University posted a similar “do’s” and “don’ts” infographic with a consistent layout featuring another white cheerleader but UW received majority of the backlash.

Although the universities might have had good intentions, why even post a picture? Even as a blonde, white female who has dance experience, the photo of the seemingly size zero woman on the graphic would appear to immediately disqualify me and many others from the team.

Erik Soper, a 21-year-old visiting Western said UW received a lot of feedback because people have a tendency to overreact.

“Part of cheerleading is it’s a team sport [where] you need to have people who are about the same build ﹘ the heavy cheerleader at the top of the pyramid ﹘ there’s a reason that doesn’t work,” Soper said. “I think they should be asking cheerleaders to be healthy and training in a healthy manner.”

Cheerleading may have been the way it is for a long time but I think it’s time for a change. This graphic not only maintains the stereotypes of cheerleaders that women belong on the sideline but furthers the standards of what women should look like. Instead of focusing so heavily on makeup, which I understand is important when performing, we should be focusing on these women’s abilities as athletes and show people that cheerleading is an actual sport.

In a similar topic, a YouTube video posted by Just Not Sports went viral showing women in sports facing harassment. With the hashtag #MoreThanMean women sportswriters sat while men read aloud mean tweets sent to them on Twitter. The hashtag says it all ﹘ these tweets are more than mean; they are horrible.

Sarah Spain, a sports writer, radio and television host sat as tweet after tweet was read to her. While some started off as humorous, others turned hateful and sexist: “This is why we don’t hire any females unless we need our **** sucked or our food cooked.”

The video also included sports broadcaster Julie Dicaro who was told via Twitter that she needs to be “raped again.”

So many women in sports are harassed online just for doing their jobs. Women deserve to be treated better in the world of sports. Being a woman does not make them less capable or qualified on being knowledgeable about sports.

Junior Nicole Wright, a history major, said women sports reporters have to look a certain way because they are critiqued a lot for the way they look.

Renowned sports reporter Erin Andrews, who you may have seen on the sidelines of NFL games, was awarded $55 million from a Nashville court on March 7, 2016, after she was filmed naked in her hotel room by a stalker who used hidden cameras to invade her privacy in 2008.

Andrews also receives aggressive messages on Twitter such as “Hopefully a ball to the temple will knock the stupid out of you.”

Men are rarely second-guessed on their qualifications to talk sports, but once a woman starts speaking, people stop listening.

Eckardt said she falls into discriminating against women in sports when she watches basketball games.

“I wonder what credentials she has to talk about it but that’s because we’re so used to seeing men [talk about it],” Eckardt said. “That’s our own gender norms, judging what [the reporter] knows just because she isn’t a man.”

The #MoreThanMean video ends with a powerful reminder we should all consider:
“We wouldn’t say it to their faces so let’s not type it.”

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