White Women Smiling? Media Representations of Women at the 2018 Commonwealth Games

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Pavlidis, Adele
Kennelly, Millicent
Rodriguez Castro, Laura
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2019
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Abstract

The 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (GC2018) were the first to offer equal medal opportunities to men and women as part of a broader strategic push by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to promote gender equality. In this article we analyze images of GC2018 sportswomen and associated headlines and captions in what we are calling “traditional” and “non-traditional” media outlets. At first glance, media coverage of GC2018 seemed to reflect the intended spirit of equality, with both traditional and non-traditional media including many images of sportswomen. We found that some media outlets did better than others at representing sportswomen, yet all embraced the image of “white women celebrating and smiling”. Despite the diversity of women from the Commonwealth competing in GC2018, our analysis concurred with Bruce’s (2016, p. 366) assessment that media depictions of sportswomen normalize and reinforce “ideals of White, middle-class femininity”. There were instances where these ideals were challenged, including through representations of loss, intense emotion, and even anger, but overall, whiteness and normative femininity were presented as “natural” and “neutral”. As feminist scholars interested in sport, we call for coverage that dismantles colonial practices, encompasses greater diversity beyond heteronormativity and white supremacy, and moves away from normative femininity to embrace sportswomen’s failure and loss, as well as intense emotion, as important “frames” for photojournalism and media professionals in sport and beyond.

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Sociology of Sport Journal

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This publication has been entered into Griffith Research Online as an Advanced Online Version

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Sports science and exercise

Sociology

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Gender studies

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Pavlidis, A; Kennelly, M; Rodriguez Castro, L, White Women Smiling? Media Representations of Women at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Sociology of Sport Journal, 2019, pp. 1-11

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