The Less You Say: An initial study of gender coverage in sports on Twitter
The above quote, from the Federation Internationale de Ski (International Ski Federation), is a telling example of how attitudes toward female athletes still remain centered around one theme: looks. For many years, girls were generally not encouraged to participate in sports, because sports were deemed to be masculine. Femininity was not a trait associated with any aspect of sport or athleticism. Clasen (2001) argued that, since sports are a typically masculine social environment, women end up having to showcase their feminine qualities rather than their athletic ability. Even after the success of female athletes in the 1996 Summer Olympic Games (in which the U.S. women won more medals than the U.S. men), their presence in American sports media continued to be underrepresented and they were shown in stereotypical and traditional ways, focusing on their femininity rather than their athletic ability. The mass media can have signiﬁcant impacts on the thoughts and ideas of indivi-
duals. Kane (1988) stated, “The mass media have become one of the most powerful institutional forces for shaping values and attitudes in modern culture” (pp. 88-89). This idea was reinforced again with the argument that media are a driving force in the determination of what is right and important within society (Greenburg & Hier, 2001; Kane, Traub, & Hayes, 2000). The theory of hegemonic masculinity
(Duncan & Brummett, 1993) explains how males are framed as the dominant group in athletics through various displays including air time, story count, and photographic images (Hardin, Chance, Dodd, & Hardin, 2002; Messner, 1988). This framing may result in a belief that women are not as important in the area of sports because of their lesser exposure in the media. Real (2006) stated the World Wide Web has become an ideal medium for sports
fans because of its accessibility, interactivity, speed, and multimedia content. Social networking and social media are changing the way individuals receive information; in fact, Twitter, the microblogging social networking tool, was said to lead the pack in breaking news (O’Conner, 2009). The purpose of this study is an initial examination of the social media platform
Twitter, to determine if gender coverage of women changes to a level more equivalent to their male counterparts. Traditional media platforms are limited by constraints of space, time and money; the only restriction within Twitter is a limit on how long each individual tweet should be (140 characters). The question arises as to whether or not traditional media biases, with respect to gender, will continue to exist on a new media platform not limited by the same constraints.