By Ashley Shiels
BURN THE BRAS! Okay, not really. They provide support, which is exactly what women in sports are in need of right now, especially on social media. With the introduction of Title IX, there have been many positive increases in equality between genders as far as sports go. One exception to that, however, is social media coverage. Title IX may be able to force institutions to provide financial and treatment equality for both genders, but it cannot control people’s perceptions of the sports.
We know how crucial social media is to the sports marketing world, but it’s irrelevant if the audience isn’t motivated to use it. Men’s sports coverage relates to the plain idea that the word “man” is synonymous with the word “athletics” in addition to the idea that women involved in sports are “manly.” There are specific sports that occupy something called the Institutional Center and, in America, these sports include football, baseball, and basketball. This can be different depending on the country, but the Institutional Center makes up all the sports that the social focus is directed to. Media coverage for sport’s in the Institutional Center is blatantly more male dominant, and the little media coverage that women’s sports do get is usually focused on their sexuality rather than their actual performance. This same thing goes for the discussions occurring on social media. Obviously, Twitter and Facebook are opportunities to provide discussion and bring attention to the women in sports. However the question now is, in a male dominated institution, what exactly is being said and is the attention actually wanted attention?
When an examination of social media coverage was done, it provided that women’s coverage and discussion on social media is far less than men’s. Just to play devil’s advocate a little we ask… could these sites just be responding to their audience’s needs? After all, these platforms are where the audience says what kind of coverage they want.
Almost all women involved with sports including athletes, fans, and even coaches, would agree that there is a sort of misogynistic wave of people on social media waiting to tear them down or discuss them for any reason other than their athletic abilities. Becky Hammond was hired as a full-time, paid, assistant coach in the NBA. There was a study done using Radian6 begging the question: How did Twitter conversations regarding Becky Hammond’s hiring manifest? The results showed three different categories of tweets regarding Hammond: information sharing, evidence of sport culture change, and plain hostility towards the irregular pick. Most of the tweets fell into information sharing and updating about the fresh news. The next amount of tweets mostly regarded women breaking barriers, with an example tweet claiming “women are power,” and supporting the change. The last category included tweets speaking negatively of her hire, spouting exclaims like “sports are ruined” and “there’s no way I’d take a women’s coach seriously.” These tweets were also heavily engrossed with stereotyping gender roles, like in the tweet pronouncing “How can she do that [coach] in the kitchen?” and another saying that her addition as assistant coach made her nothing more than a “Glorified Jersey Washer.”
This is just one example of the things that come with women’s sports being involved in social media. But it also points out the idea that social media platforms, such as Twitter and Facebook, are places where people feel obliged to discuss and promote social change. As much as things can have the ability to be negative, the pros of social media marketing greatly outweigh the cons, like women’s collegiate sports teams being able to sell more tickets, engage with fans, and provide a place of discussion.
Perhaps for the moment, the social media coverage for sports is indeed lopsided. However, for now, there are two ways that social media in women’s sports can be looked at: One, it provides control and accessibility of women’s sports to those supporters, athletes, and fans. Two, it causes a heavier burden on supporters and athletes of women’s sports.
Nonetheless, social media provides us with the tools to institute social change and reform the way that women’s sports are covered, the excitement surrounding them, and the information available to those interested parties. With time, hopefully, the first use of social media mentioned above will eventually be the more prominent use in women’s sports.