Are we still being ‘benched’?

At an early age, I was introduced to sports.

Being an Italian, my family were heavily invested in the soccer. My dad loved to watch the mighty Sea Eagles Play, the F1 and of course our Sydney Swans. But sport for me was a treat.

My dad decided to involve me in tennis and since then I haven’t looked back. I picked up my first racquet at the age of three, and by the time I was 16-years-old I obtained my very first Australian ranking. It was a major achievement, to say the least, my experience being an athlete has been nothing short than what you would expect.

Coaching 5 days a week, fitness 7 days, strict diet and the determination to overcome any barriers that stood in my way.

When I reached year eleven in high school, I was given the ultimatum. To pursue my tennis career, and hopefully, one day known as an international athlete. Or, to continue on with my schooling and eventually invest myself into a university degree.

With the pressure of school and my family at the time, I made what I thought to be the mature decision to continue with school.

Since then I have never looked back.

My passion and love for sports, mixed with my love to write has lead me to pursue the degree of Communications/Media and Journalism. Where my future ambition (hopefully) are going to lie in the field of Sports Journalism.

Although, as some might say ‘I have chosen the unattainable’.

Sports journalism has been described as being “home to one of the most intense and most historically enduring gender divisions in journalism, in terms of who is permitted to cover which sports as journalists, how athletes are covered, as well as in terms of genders are served as audiences” (Chambers, Steiner and Fleming, 2004).

Pamela Creedon describes sports as an expression of “the sociocultural systems in which it occurs; and sports mirror the rituals and values of the societies in which they are developed” (Creedon, 2000). Similarly, Creedon defines sex as a “culturally constructed biological characteristic and gender as an ongoing cultural process that constructs differences between women and men” (Creedon, 2000).

Gender is a sociocultural value that is reflected in sports culture – notable in the distinctions between the role of men and women in sports. The 21st century has sports journalism change, and it still continues to be a shifting landscape to become more gender inclusive.

There have been numerous occasions where women have been driven to the forefront of sports journalism. This can be seen through Fox Sport and their incorporation of female reporters in Australia’s first dedicated rugby league channel, Fox League. Following this, the franchise has introduced ‘League Life’, a panel show where female journalists discuss rugby related issues on Wednesday nights.

The NRL is male dominated, in terms of players, fans and reporters. Introducing women into broadcasting, sideline reporting and commentating shows a turning point in the industry’s attitudes. A conglomerate such Fox Sports have a profound impact and influence on sports media in Australia, and more broadly, which can help to pave the way for increased opportunities for women in the industry.

However, we see these things happening, but what is going on in the background?

Sports journalism is a ‘macho’ arena, for women stepping into the spotlight often they are put to the forefront of discrimination and harassment.

As my level of tennis began to increase, my training became harder and integrated with males. Here is where I began to face some harassment, being told I was incapable, having balls pelted at me and at times having to have my coach or dad come to stop the ‘drill’ was only snippets of the uncomfortable situations I was placed in.

Now I regularly like to participate in online sports forums and attend games. But what I have noticed that hasn’t changed is the unwanted stigma that is attached when women want to involve themselves in the sporting industry. “It’s a male domain, are you sure you know what you’re talking about”.

Sports journalism is an industry that is far from gender neutrality. It is a catalyst for gendered-discrimination, despite its endeavours to become more gender inclusive.

Therefore, I want to explore the statistics behind the changing landscape of sports journalism to analyse the progression of women in the industry. I want to investigate the brunt of harassment female journalists face and determine whether women and their reporting are still being ‘benched’ in the industry.

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