The female population has been subject to wrongful treatment throughout history, Even in today’s society where women are considered to have far more rights and social freedom, the hardships of being a woman persist. The research has shown that with the trend of the “ideal” body-shaped woman becoming increasingly thin while at the same time athletic, an increase in the sexual objectification of female athletes has increased, especially over the last 15 years, Some studies have said that sports help women‘s perception of body image, while others say there is pressure to fit the mold of a perfect body. Differences in body image concerns (BIC) have been found across different levels of competition and across various sports. This literature review is extremely relevant as it is undeniable that women are objectified in all forms of media, Research has shown that female athletes in swimming and tennis are the most likely to be sexually objectified in media.
Female athletes face challenges regarding body image because of the high levels of scrutiny they receive along with heavy media attention. The notion that the new ideal woman should be both athletic and thin has been perpetuated throughout magazines and advertisements, placing tremendous pressure to achieve an unreasonable standard. One of the more interesting findings from these studies is that women have accepted society’s idea that appearance is equally important if not more important than performance. We agree with this last point as it is clearly evident that women of all ages are becoming more and more concerned and insecure about their appearance. From personal experience, we have noticed that some women value their appearance far more than they value their ability to perform at their best ability.
It is very difficult to convince a young girl that the models she sees on television and in advertisements are not the norm. When these young girls idolize famous women, then they want to do whatever they can to be like them, and often experience feelings of sadness and depression because they cannot reach this unattainable goal. In general female athletes prefer a heavier and more athletic build and the BIC of female athletes has been found to vary across sports and competition levels. Division I athletes have been found to have higher body dissatisfaction than Division III athletes, DI athletes were the only ones to say they were more dissatisfied with their body shape, while non DI athletes were more content with their body shape.
Table 2 identifies Gymnastics, Tennis and Swimming as the sports where athletes were found to have the highest levels of objectification, while Golf, Lacrosse, and Crew saw the lowest levels of objectification. The authors found that sports that are labeled as feminine, such as volleyball, gymnastics, and tennis were at a greater risk for BIC than endurance athletes. One study discussed how sports that historically have not been considered appearance—focused (volleyball and tennis for example) are now being considerably sexualized by media sources. Discrepancies in BIC have also been seen between athletes and non—athletes Fellows found that athletes had greater positive body self-esteem, and general view of their body’s physical condition (1999). Competitive athletes were less concerned with their weight but more dissatisfied with their body shape.
The literature explains how this can be counterintuitive but explains that it is a result of the female athlete struggling to identify with two different identities, being female and being an athlete, In sports psychology terms, one could argue that female athletes have been convinced through media and sexual objectification which can lead to them pursuing external goals instead of internal onesi By this we mean that the internal goals of self-betterment and a mastery orientation are secondary to the external goals of praise for one’s looks. These athletes sometimes have far greater extrinsic motivation towards their appearance then they do their performance. The way that a woman is portrayed nowadays erodes the self-efficacy of the normal girl. Campaigns are being made for women to be proud of their bodies and that super skinny isn’t sexy, but girls still see the magazines that set unreasonable standards for beauty It’s easy to think that one can explain to a young girl that she doesn’t have to look like the people that she sees on a magazine cover to be considered pretty.
What really needs to be done and what we think would be extremely beneficial to younger girls of society (and any female affected by BIC) is if these women that are actually on the magazines would come out and endorse positive body image and that all shapes and sizes are beautiful. Simply put, the root of the issue is the fact that we consider athletes heavier and more muscular, while society considers women, as thin and petite. To reiterate, female athletes face tremendous pressure and mental distress because of the way the media defines the perfect or ideal woman, Young female athletes are becoming increasingly concerned with their appearance, while focusing less on improving at their sport. This causes them to develop negative attitudes about their body, and become dissatisfied with nearly all aspects of their appearance. Changing the way the media portrays women is a task that is almost insurmountable, changing the way female athletes perceive their bodies and how they feel about themselves is task that we as society need to all take more seriously.