Saturday, 24 February 2018

NBC's Winter Olympics' Gender Coverage Gap and Gender Marking

 "[This all] sends a powerful message about the value of women’s sport. We may be picking up on this during the 2018 Olympics, but none of this is new. There’s a whole history of examples of similar things happening, it’s just that sometimes we have these moments where we can really notice how even in 2018, despite the tremendous gains we’ve made, women’s sport is still occupying second-class status." 

NBC's primetime broadcast of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is - so far - not gender balanced. Significantly more men's events are highlightened than women's events. In the first ten nights, men received 48.5% of the coverage, women received 32.9% (18.6% were dedicated to mixed-pair events). The 15.6% gap is smaller than the average gap found in the past two decades but wider than it was in the first half of the Sochi Games (via).
"The results of the first week of NBC’s primetime coverage of PyeongChang are a bit disheartening because of the continued press for equal coverage." James Angelini
Weiller, Greenleaf and Higgs analysed TV broadcasts of the 1991, 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics which were all covered by NBC. They focused on sports that had male and female participants and noticed an increased amount of coverage of women's sports and athletes from 1996 to 2000. In numerous sports, gender marking (identifying the gender of the athletes, e.g. "swimming" vs "women's swimming") was evident.
"In track and field, audiences were reminded 57 that they were watching the U.S. Women's Track Team. They were reminded only 12 times that they were watching the U.S. Men's Track Team. Similarly, during the rowing competition, there were 27 instances of gender marking for female athletes during the one hour and 45-minute time frame televised. Little gender marking occurred for male athletes in rowing."
Karen Weiller
Gender marking of female athletes implies that in sports, male is the norm and female the deviation. For instance, we have "football" and "women's football". There is no "men's football", it is just "football".

There was also a hierarchy of naming as athletes of the women's rowing competition were called "girls" ten times; male athletes were never referred to as "boys". Women competing in swimming and diving were referred to by their forenames 87 times, gymnastic commentators used women's forenames 104 times (for men 11 times and 64 times) (via).
"It is obvious that media coverage of an event like the Olympic Games is critical in setting the tone as to how women are represented in the sports media. But as Olympics coverage shows, men's sports continue to enjoy a level of focus and sophistication that women's sports are missing."
Karen Weiller
"Comparison of female athletes to males in the same sport suggests a standard differential and standard comparison, most often with the female athletes being identified as the lesser of the two."
Karen Weiller
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Photograph of Elisabeth Demleitner and Stephan Hoelzlwimmer (West German luge team) with their latest design in helmets, Innsbruck, 1976 via


  1. Sports and gender is extremely fascinating. Many, many thanks for leaving comments, Karen and Abbie!