Female Sports Personalities
I have a question about the lack of coverage women’s sport gets and I’m just gonna throw it out there: is there a lack of coverage because there’s a real lack of female athletes with personalities?
I preface this by saying, if you read this site regularly, you already know I am the biggest cheerleader for the womenz and am on a constant mission to empower women through sport, so you know, I’m not dissin’ anyone here, but just putting forward a genuine concern.
When I think about female sporting icons, one of the first to come to mind for me is Flo Jo. If anyone got people excited about women running around a track, it was her. It wasn’t just her impeccable style – she had a passion for the sport that just oozed from her. There was something vibrant and utterly captivating about her. We all wanted a piece of it.
Where is this generations Flo Jo? I look at our female athletes and think, sure, there’s a lot of talent, but where’s the personality? We don’t have a female equivalent of Usain Bolt. We don’t have a big personality who will draw in the crowds, who’ll make people want to engage with the idea of women’s sport being exciting.
Is this because being confident and out there and larger than life are not qualities that are encouraged in women? If a woman talked about her abilities as much as Bolt does about his, would that actually be considered off-putting? Perhaps female athletes are told to dial it down, just focus on the work and keep their mouths shut.
Maybe that’s why Jessica Ennis has been held up as such a champ. Ennis seems lovely, but let’s be honest, pretty dull. I don’t feel her passion. She’s nice and pleasant and crucially, it would seem when it comes to women’s sport, attractive, so she’s trotted out as a spokesperson. But she just doesn’t seem to have much of a personality.
Rebecca Adlington the British swimmer has been constantly bashed during and after the 2012 Olympics for not being attractive enough (that kind of BS is a whole other blog post in itself but my blood pressure can’t take it right now). I would’ve respected Adlington more if she’d have stood up to it and said ‘So what if I’m not a looker? How about you suck on my bronze medal?!’ Easier said than done, sure, but it’d just be so great to have a female athlete counteract that level of utter nonsense with something (other than getting a nose job).
Nicola Adams is one of the few athletes who came out of the 2012 Olympics who did have a real personality but I wish they’d just let her have it. They’re trying to mold her into something that I’m not sure is quite her. Let her personality live. Stop getting her to do all these cheesy events and charity functions. There’s a real chance, if you just let her be herself here, that people may actually want to watch women’s boxing.
At the moment, love her or hate her, Ronda Rousey is kind of flying the flag for female sporting personalities. Not scared to speak her mind, she seems to be about much more than just MMA. You follow her on social media and get a sense of her life. Perhaps the very nature of MMA and the UFC leaves more room for her to be herself as opposed to more traditional track and field activities, but I haven’t been this excited about a woman excelling in sport in a long time. Back in December when she beat Miesha Tate and refused to shake her hand afterward, she stood in the centre of that ring, in front of however many thousands of booing fans, and defended her decision. We can debate whether that was the right thing all day but that took some balls. That takes a personality. At least we know she’s about something. At least we know it’s about more than fighting for her. Love her or hate her, at least you’ll have an opinion on her and I venture to say, she’s drawn a lot more spectators to the sport through being unafraid to show who she really is.
I understand that to reach a pro level in sport requires an enormous amount of dedication, so yeah, maybe these athletes don’t have as much time to indulge their record collecting or shoe obsession or science geek side or whatever the hell may make up other parts of who they are, but surely there’s more to them than just their sport? And if it is just about their sport, then show us that passion. Show us why you’re so excited about it – help us understand. Channel Steve Prefontaine and make us wish we could be as poetic about running (or whatever) as you.
There are so many national women’s teams in so many sports in so many countries who do far better than their male counterparts, but don’t get the coverage. By no means am I saying here that all male athletes are fascinating and more worthy of our attention, far from it. But if the coverage isn’t there, I need these women to step up, get up on the soapbox and get people interested and that starts with being interesting themselves.
Sure, they can complain til the day is long that there aren’t enough government initiatives or the media is to blame, and I don’t disagree, but at some point, surely some (good) PR people (who know what they’re doing) could get to these female athletes, bring out their personalities and make everyone sit up and pay a bit more attention.
At the moment, I’m far more drawn to regular chicks who work out, like Follow the Lita, MankoFit, ThruTheBlue or any number of my friends quite frankly, who go hard but have passion and a personality that make their journey that much more interesting. I get that there isn’t as much beaurocracy or risk when you’re not pro and don’t have sponsors, but hopefully women who go pro aren’t made to feel as though they have to scale back the rest of their personality to get ahead.
I don’t have the answers – just thinking out loud. But what do you think? Are we lacking female sports personalities? What can we do to make them more captivating?
N.B One other pro athlete who totally rocks from the core is Fawn Dorr, who should be getting far more attention than she is. If we want sports stars with personality, we need look no further than her.