Female Athletes Judged By Sex Appeal

ByPatricia Reaney

L O N D O N, Sept. 13, 2000 -- Women in sports are judged moreby their looks than their athletic ability, a Britishpsychologist said on Tuesday.

Tennis stars Mary Pierce and Anna Kournikova are talentedtennis players but Kournikova, who is judged to be more femininethan the sportier Pierce, is a more acceptable athlete,according to Priscilla Choi, of Keele University.

“In this year’s Wimbledon [tennis championship] AnnaKournikova was hailed as one of the best role models for women’stennis and this is a woman who isn’t as good as the Williamssisters or Mary Pierce,” she told the British Association forthe Advancement of Science conference.

Flex Appeal and Sex Appeal

Although Kournikova was defeated in the third round of thechampionship and Venus Williams won the title bydefeating her sister Serena in the historic semifinal, Kournikovawas the media darling of the tournament.

“Women in sports are still being valued more for what theylook like than their sports performance and this is reflected inrecreational exercise,” she said.

“It is the more feminine athletes who also get moresponsorships.”

A survey Choi conducted of newspapers, women’s journals andhealth magazines showed that the looks and the personal lives offemale sports stars dominated media coverage and there waslittle mention of their achievements.

Choi added that society’s emphasis on gender and femininityhave hampered women athletes and has also spilled intorecreational sport.

“Exercise for women is about looking beautiful. They aredoing it to look good, not for health benefits or to improvetheir heart rate,” Choi explained.

Encouraging Girls

“This is damaging to women,” she said.

Fewer women than men take up an exercise and those that dooften do not continue because of the emphasis on looking goodand their goals are unrealistic.

“There should be more focus on women being empowered byphysical exercise than trying to look better,” she added.

Choi called for genuine equality in sports at all levels.She also urged parents to encourage their daughters, as well astheir sons, to exercise and to participate in sports.

“It’s about choice. If a woman wants to be a bodybuilder sheshould be able to do it without worrying whether she is feminineenough or not. Women who want to take part in physical exericseshould be able to do it without worrrying what they look like,”she added.

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