Athletes react to media’s gender double standard

by | Feb 6, 2015 | Sports

By Ali Amad

In an interview after her second round win in the Australian Open, Canadian tennis star, Eugenie Bouchard, was asked by a male Australian journalist to show off her outfit to the crowd and cameras with a “twirl.”

The incident sparked outrage on social media and mainstream news, and a debate on how female athletes are treated by the media ensued.

Mary Asare, a fourth year Humber varsity women’s basketball athlete, said Ian Cohen, the announcer who interviewed Bouchard, crossed the line.

“I believe it’s a bad thing. We want to be treated the same,” Arase said. “We’re not only items for people just to look at. We work as hard as the guys and we do the same stuff at practices.”

One of the extra roles Humber’s varsity athletes take on is dealing with the media. Manager of athletics and sports information, Jim Bialek, said Humber’s athletes are prepared and educated in handling those responsibilities.

“We have all kinds of policies. The CCAA (Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association) has a policy that was just released and it’s a complete package on how to deal with the media, how to answer questions,” Bialek said.

Bialek says safeguards exist to protect Humber’s athletes from potential abuse or discrimination.

“We have a varsity code of conduct. It’s done provincially, it’s done nationally,” Bialek said. “If our athlete feels uncomfortable, whether it’s ‘do a twirl’ or ‘what did you think of the officiating,’ they can make a choice not to answer.”

“Humber trusts that you say the right things and represent the school properly,” Arase said. “If you ever feel uncomfortable, there’s always an open door where you can talk to someone.”

Arase is adamant she would not let an interviewer pressure her into answering uncomfortable questions if faced with a similar type of situation as Bouchard.

“I would politely just try to end the conversation,” she said.

“If you want to talk about sports then by all means I’d be happy to, but if it’s going to continue in an inappropriate way I prefer not to continue it,” said Arase.

Claire Brown, a second year varsity cross-country running team member, feels like the Bouchard controversy has been blown out of proportion, but encounters stereotyping of female athletes all the time.

She said a good example of this media stereotyping is Australian hurdler Michelle Jenneke, who gained worldwide fame after a video of her “sexy” warm-up dance went viral.  A series of interviews, talk show appearances and commercials centered on her sex appeal soon followed.