‘Cover The Athlete’ Campaign Challenges Sexist Double Standards Toward Female Athletes


Yes, 1980s tennis champ John McEnroe, we are indeed deadly serious. Because you see, the sexist questions that female athletes have been fielding from the media since the beginning of time (or since they were “allowed” to even participate in competitive sports) are now being challenged and examined from every angle, and it turns out, we’re just as pissed as you after every bad call you received from a linesman in your career.

In fact, we could do with some of that signature John McEnroe anger because frankly, it’s just gotten to a point where we are shaking our heads wondering “how on EARTH is this still a thing?!?” That “thing” we’re talking about, is the way female athletes are continually questioned about their physicality in a way that is sexist and done to comply with the objectification standards that are commonplace for women in the media.

We recently came across this brilliant campaign called Cover The Athlete which is now seeking to shift the spotlight away from what outfit a female athlete happens to be wearing, and onto the ridiculous and vapid questions lobbed at them after their athletic performances.

The campaign believes there is a huge problem in sports media and the double standards when it comes to interviewing male and female athletes.


“Sexist commentary, inappropriate interview questions, and articles focused on physical appearance not only trivializes a woman’s accomplishments, but also sends a message that her value is based on her looks, not her ability. And it’s much too commonplace. It’s time to demand media coverage that focuses on the athlete and her performance, not her hair, clothes or body.” says the website.

They have made it easy for all of us to take part in the campaign by setting up a list of international sports media outlets, and with one simple click, you can tweet the likes of ESPN, BBC Sports, CBC Sports and more demanding better from their journalists.

The video they made to promote this movement uses actual clips of interviews with male athletes at various press conferences, but they have dubbed questions that have been asked of female athletes just to show you how stupid it sounds when a male athlete has, for example, just won a match, and then gets asked to do a twirl in his outfit. Oh yeah, that is an actual question asked of World. No. 7 tennis player Eugenie Bouchard after she had just won a second round match at the Australian Open in January 2015.

There was a lot of outcry on social media toward Channel 7 Australian interviewer Ian Cohen, who also asked Serena Williams to do the same after one of her matches. This is where we have to adopt a John McEnroe and say to people like Ian: “YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS!?”


Does he even know what job he applied for? Serena Williams and Eugenie Bouchard are some of the world’s best tennis players and that is what they get asked after their commanding on-court performances? Serena Williams is certainly no stranger for being objectified for her body. Around the time of the US Open, a New York Times article focusing on a group of female tennis players body images garnered plenty of outrage that it is 2015, and this is what female athletes are essentially reduced to in some (very common) cases.

Another world champion female athlete who has spoken at length about body image is undefeated UFC Bantamweight fighter Ronda Rousey. Both Ronda and Serena have been the target of awful jokes about their muscular bodies and it’s downright shameful. Do we make fun of men for having slender bodies if their sport requires it? Why does society think it’s cool to make fun of the very frame that makes both these women virtually invincible in their respective sports?

In a recent interview when asked about her body image, Ronda shared how her mother taught her to grow up being independent and not rely on others. She coined the term “do-nothing bitch” for women who want to sail through life thinking their looks or a man will give them everything they need. And in defense of her own body she said that every muscle on her body is for a purpose.


This is a very important campaign and somewhat piggy-backs off the “Ask Her More” campaign which has been disrupting Hollywood’s award seasons and red carpet interviews over the past couple of years. Fans, critics, media members and even some of the female stars themselves were sick of only being asked about their glitzy outfits, whereas men at the same shows were being asked hard-hitting and interesting questions about their actual jobs and why they were nominated.

Look, it’s not wrong to want to ask a question or two about an outfit. But when a female celebrity is present at an award show because she is nominated for her work and the only thing a reporter wants to know is how long it took them to wash their hair that day, and when a female athlete has literally just obliterated her opponent on a court or on a field and the only tidbit of intelligence a reporter can muster up is to ask her to twirl in her pretty skirt, we have a major problem.

Let’s cover the athlete, and reverse the damaging messages we are giving girls in virtually every public industry that seek to reinforce the idea that their value comes from their looks. You can watch the Cover The Athlete campaign video below, and do your part by tweeting media outlets via their website.

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