What do girls think when they see their favorite soccer start posing in Sports Illustrated in a bikini instead of a soccer jersey? A new study, summarized by the BPS Research Digest, surveyed girls after they viewed five images of either “female athletes in a sporting context in their full sporting attire,” “female athletes in a sexualized context,” or “bikini-clad magazine models given random names.” Here’s the BPS Digest:
The key finding is that the girls and undergrads who viewed the sexualized athlete images tended to say they admired or were jealous of the athletes’ bodies, they commented on the athletes’ sexiness, and they evaluated their own bodies negatively. Some also said they found the images inappropriate. The participants who viewed the bikini-clad glamour models responded similarly, except they rarely commented on the inappropriateness of the images, as if they’d come to accept the portrayal of women in that way…
By contrast, participants who viewed the female athletes in a sporting context tended to comment on the athletes’ determination, passion and commitment; they wrote about feeling motivated to perform sport; and they reflected on their own sporting participation or sports they followed.
Elizabeth Daniels, the study’s author, points to the need for more performance images in the mainstream media. ”Infusing more performance images of female athletes into the media may be helpful in promoting physical activity among girls and young women,” Daniels said. “Currently, female athletes are largely absent from magazines targeted at teen girls.”