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This Week in Research: Changing how our athletes are viewed in the media

My research focuses primarily on the media’s representation of female athletes and female sports. One of my projects focuses on the Olympic Games in Sochi and shows how Canadian media outlets, both Anglophone and Francophone characterized and portrayed the success and defeats of both male and female Canadian athletes. Another project addresses the representation of female athletes on social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook, in particular) as opposed to traditional media.

The Pan-American and Parapan American Games, as well as the Women’s World Cup of Soccer in 2015, which was held in Canada in 2015, allowed me to examine the importance of the host country’s role in sport media coverage.

The central objective of these projects is to determine how the intersection of gender and national pride can sometime change the way in which female athletes are represented by the media. By in large, female athletes are underrepresented by the traditional sports media, apart from events such as the Olympic Games. In the Olympic context, female athletes generally receive broader media coverage. This coverage also tends to be of higher quality and doesn’t typically focus on questions of gender. 

Digital media and social media platforms, in particular, such as Twitter and Facebook, also appear to offer an alternative forum of representation and exposure of female athletes and female sports, helping to overcome gaps in more traditional forms of coverage. Given the fact that this is an emerging field of research, and that there only exists a handful of studies, and only a few which deal with the Canadian context, are we still don’t know to what extent les sexist and discriminatory version of female sports and female athletes.