Sports Illustrated: Clash of the Genders

Often, sports publications do not need to target a specific audience. It is easy for these publications to target the general population of sports fans by simply going with what is popular or trending. An example of this would be during the outbreak of Jeremy Lin for one basketball season and he was the face of almost every sports publication. There was not a place to turn where his name was not being spoken. By putting him, and other trending athletes, on the front cover it attracts the attention of everyone who is experiencing this “history” or spectacular event. In terms of their writing, there is not much that can say about their target audience. In general, their articles target the general mass of people who follow sports including fans for specific teams or the common people who enjoy to read sports related content. They often use a play on words to create clever titles that would grasp the attentions of onlookers. The front covers are always vibrant in colors and are usually of action-shots to attract viewers to pick up a copy. The use of icons and role model athletes can be seen as a measure to attract a younger audience who idolizes certain players.

An interesting thing about front covers of Sports Illustrated is their portrayal of genders. The male athletes on the cover of Sports Illustrated are usually action-shots or in uniform. However, for the females they are usually shown in a bikini and in provocative poses. There are few female athletes such as Ronda Rousey and Mo’ne Davis who are not in bikinis, but their biggest magazines for women are the swimsuit models they publish each year. Sports Illustrated makes it seem as if female athletes are only of great significance during the swimsuit season. Also, it looks like Sports Illustrated makes it seem like sex appeal is the only thing that sells. This ties into the stereotypes of how genders are portrayed in society, and Sports Illustrated amongst others are simply using these stereotypes to make money. According to Jezebel, only 35 out of 716 Sports Illustrated covers featured women between 2000-2011. Majority of them were models such as Kate Upton, and not actual athletes. Even googling images of Sports Illustrated, mainly all of the photos that shows up are half-naked women.

There is a difference in how each gender is covered in stories as well. For example, an article about Ronda Rousey in the May 18, 2015 edition of Sports Illustrated talked about her not being able to use a social dating app, such as Tinder because of her fame. Instead of the article on her being strictly about her fighting career or recent fight, Sports illustrated decided to open with the discussion of her “love life” and how her friends can use these dating apps as opposed to Ronda. In light of all of this, another video segment of Ronda is titled “Is Ronda Rousey too popular to find a date?” as if that has anything to do with her career. Congratulations, she is as popular as any other celebrity so why should that question be asked to her, and not a male athlete per se? Comparing this interview to an article of Lebron James posted in May 26, 2015, they begin an entirely different way by talking about his history as a basketball player. In this article, they focus strictly on Lebron James in terms of a basketball player. There are no talks or questions of his love life or personal matters. Simply, it was all about basketball for him, but that is not the case for Ronda Rousey.

Sports Illustrated has been a powerhouse of sports publications, but it seems as if they are giving in to conformity in terms of selling sex appeal. The number alone with only 35 of 716, majority of them being in bikinis, covers featuring women shows how this idea of the female position in society is evident in the media. The content that they do publish, however, is top notch when it comes to reporting sports. However, the way they go about reporting on each gender creates the opportunity to talk about the idea of sex appeal and the gender roles in society.


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