Title IX has had 40 years to flex its muscles in helping make sport a less gendered venue, and, indeed, more women are participating in and watching sports than ever before. Oddly enough, the media representation of sports has not followed suit. A new study from sociologists Jonetta Weber and Robert Carini of the University of Louisville reconfirms a long line of research in media representations of athletes by looking at the covers of every issue of Sports Illustrated from the last decade. In an article for the website Jezebel, Madeleine Davies explains the scholars’ troubling results:
Researchers found that of the 716 SI issues published between 2000 and 2011, a mere 35 of them had covers featuring female athletes. That’s only 4.9%.
It’s extra bizarre since 12.6% of the covers from between 1954 and 1965 featured female athletes. And that’s not even the worst part. Only 18 of the recent covers actually had the female athlete as the primary image on the cover—that’s just 2.5%—and only 11 of the 35 issues showed non-white women on the cover. Despite a marked increase in women’s sport participation, one of the best-known sporting news outlets has been gradually phasing out female athletes and their accomplishments.
For more on SI’s troubled history of representing female athletes, check out The Atlantic’s 2011 piece “9 Ways Women Get on the Cover of ‘Sports Illustrated’.”