Watch Men Get Asked the Same Absurd Questions as Serena Williams and Other Female Athletes

‘Cover the Athlete’ asks the media to focus on ability rather than appearance.
Nov 5, 2015·
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

Tennis star Eugenie Bouchard made headlines at this year’s Australian Open—and not just because she made the semifinals. After winning a hard-fought match, Bouchard was asked by a member of the press to “give us a twirl”—prompting Internet outrage and questions about whether male stars would ever be asked to do a pirouette after a competition.

Yet the issue of gendered coverage extends beyond one reporter’s request for dance moves. A video campaign called “Cover the Athlete” takes real questions and comments that have been directed to female athletes and dubs them over interviews with male athletes.

The questions are based on past coverage of female athletes, such as when a BBC presenter wondered whether tennis player Marion Bartoli worked harder than some other players because she had to compensate for her looks. The makers of the “Cover the Athlete” video have tweaked the comment to highlight what it sounds like when a sportscaster wonders aloud whether soccer star Wayne Rooney got his drive because he doesn’t look like David Beckham. It sounds equally absurd, but there’s one major difference: No one has ever linked Rooney’s motivation to his appearance.

The mash-up clip features a host of comments female athletes such as tennis star Serena Williams and gymnast Gabrielle Douglas had to endure about their weight, hair, and dating life. Those questions appear all the more absurd when presented to bored-looking baseball players, confused hockey stars, and annoyed cyclists.

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“Something’s wrong with media coverage of female athletes,” the campaign states. “Sexist commentary, inappropriate interview questions, and articles focused on physical appearance not only trivializes a woman’s accomplishments but also sends a message that her value is based on her looks, not her ability. And it’s much too commonplace.”

Athletes aren’t the only ones in the spotlight who endure patronizing comments that have little to do with their career and a lot to do with what they’re wearing. Actors from Reese Witherspoon to Amy Poehler have rebelled against traditional red-carper banter, pressing reporters to pose more challenging questions through such campaigns as “Ask Her More” and “Smart Girls Ask.”

The folks at “Cover the Athlete” have a similar request: They’re demanding “media coverage that focuses on the athlete and her performance, not her hair, clothes or body.”