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 The research showed higher levels of infantilizing language for women in sport, who are more likely to be referred to as ‘girls’ than men are called ‘boys’.
 The research showed higher levels of infantilizing language for women in sport, who are more likely to be referred to as ‘girls’ than men are called ‘boys’.

Research Reveals Gender Bias in Sports Journalism

Research Reveals Gender Bias in Sports Journalism

A growing body of research is revealing gender divides in the language of sport.

A computer analysis of several thousand interviews with tennis players shows that in post-game press conferences, female players are asked more questions not related to the game.

The researchers compiled a database of postgame interviews for tennis singles matches played between 2000 and 2005, amounting to 6,467 interview transcripts and 81,906 question snippets posed to 167 female players and 191 male players.

“We are using statistical information to discover what is out of context, circumventing the need to rely on subjective judgments,” said Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, assistant professor of information science at Cornell University, reports news.cornell.edu.

Comparing these patterns with the language used in the interview questions, they assigned a “perplexity score” to each question.

The scores for questions asked of women were significantly higher than those for males, indicating that women were being asked fewer game-related questions. This held true in several different situations, including whether the player had won or how highly ranked the player.

Shortly after the Summer Olympics of 2016 in Rio, a study by Cambridge University Press looked at over 160 million words within the domain of sport.

Using the Cambridge English Corpus (CEC) and the Sports Corpus (multi-billion word databases of written and spoken English language from a huge range of media sources), the research found that men are mentioned almost three times more often than women.

Notable terms as common word associations or combinations for women, but not men, in sport include ‘aged’, ‘older’, ‘pregnant’ and ‘married’ or ‘un-married’. The top word combinations for men in sport, by contrast, are more likely to be adjectives like ‘fastest’, ‘strong’, ‘big’, ‘real’ and ‘great’.

When it comes to performance, it seems as though men also have the competitive edge: ‘men’ or ‘man’ are more associated with verbs such as ‘mastermind’, ‘beat’, ‘win’, ‘dominate’ and ‘battle’, whereas ‘woman’ or ‘women’ is associated with verbs such as ‘compete’, ‘participate’ and ‘strive’.

The research also showed higher levels of infantilizing or traditionalist language for women in sport, who are more likely to be referred to as ‘girls’ than men are called ‘boys’. Women are twice as likely to be referred to as ‘ladies’, compared to ‘gentlemen’ who are frequently referred to by the neutral term ‘men’.

The studies were inspired by the “Cover the Athlete” movement, which seeks to persuade journalists to stick to the sport and not veer off into players’ personal lives.

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