Women in sport commonly referred to as ‘aged’ and ‘unmarried’, study reveals

women in sport athletics

Women in sport are commonly referred to as ‘aged’, ‘unmarried’, ‘pregnant’ or ‘older’ in the media, a new study has revealed.

In contrast, the study, conducted by the Cambridge University Press, found that men were likely to be described as ‘fastest’, ‘real’, ‘great’ and ‘strong’.

The research also found that men are referred to twice as much as women. When women in sport are mentioned in the media, their appearance or personal lives often takes precedent.

Women are also depicted as ‘taking part’ in sports, rather than winning them. They are associated with words such as ‘compete’ or ‘participate’, while men are associated with words such as ‘win’, ‘dominate’ and ‘battle’.

There are also higher levels of infantlising of women within the media. They are more likely to be referred to as ‘girls’ than men are called ‘boys’. The study also found that men’s sports are often considered the default, with women’ participation in sports referred to as ‘ladies’ football’ and ‘ladies’ singles’.

The research looked at over 160 million words within the domain of sport using the Cambridge English Corpus. The study aimed to examine how the language we use could indicate our gendered attitudes to sport. The Corpus is a huge collection of data, taken for a variety of different sources, including news articles, social media and Internet forums.

Sarah Grieves, Language Researcher at Cambridge University Press said, “The breadth of sources we’ve analysed means we’re able to give a unique insight into the language used to describe women and men within the context of sport.”

“It’s perhaps unsurprising to see that women get far less airtime than men and that their physical appearance and personal lives are frequently mentioned.”

“It will be interesting to see if this trend is also reflected in our upcoming research on language used at the Rio Olympics.”


About the author

Alison is the Digital Content Editor for WeAreTheCity. She has a BA Honours degree in Journalism and History from the University of Portsmouth. She has previously worked in the marketing sector and in a copywriting role. Alison’s other passions and hobbies include writing, blogging and travelling.
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