Getting on with the game the only contest

GLAMOUR GIRL: Danielle Montgomery.
GLAMOUR GIRL: Danielle Montgomery.

This newspaper has taken some pride in the fact that it does not discriminate in the coverage of women in sport.

Some pride only, because that should surely be the natural order of things.

Our cause has been helped by the fact that for the best part of a decade the Southern Sting was this province's dominant franchise and those players justifiably earned their place on the back page.

We like to think that we approach stories based entirely on news value, rather than whether the participant is male or female.

It's a vexed issue, however. At the amateur level, we would like to promote participation for all, from men and women, to the young and older. But professional sport is as much about selling as about playing.

Professional sport is about winning, or at least gaining attention, so that advertisers will pay money to have their products placed in the halftime break, the signage around the ground, the car body etc and ad infinitum.

The accepted wisdom is that people (men) are more inclined to watch women's sport if they are either a) pretty or b) pretty and scantily clothed.

Which is why Ladies European Tour golfer Danielle Montgomery has created headlines in the past when pictured naked in a bathtub filled with golfballs.

Google those images and your first thought is not likely to be "gee, must check out the LET next time it's on TV", it will probably be more like "gee, that doesn't look terribly comfortable".

"Like the men, we try and find any way possible to promote ourselves," Montgomery told The Press this week.

"We could do other things like instructional stuff, but this gets more headlines. And the pictures aren't that out there, they're not explicit or anything."

Spend a bit more time googling Montgomery and you could be forgiven for thinking that golf's fairways are packed with hotties in bikinis.

This is not necessarily the case.

Sex sells, but does it sell sport?

As Mary Jo Kane wrote in The Nation back in 2011: "Study after study has revealed that newspaper and TV coverage around the globe routinely and systematically focuses on the athletic exploits of male athletes while offering hypersexualised images of their female counterparts."

Does it work?

"Scholars have long argued that a major consequence of the media's tendency to sexualise women's athletic accomplishments is the reinforcement of their status as second-class citizens in one of the most powerful economic, social and political institutions on the planet. In doing so, media images that emphasise femininity/sexuality actually suppress interest in, not to mention respect for, women's sports," Kane wrote.

Women's tennis is not suffering from a shortage of attractive women, but it is suffering from a serious lack of depth.

That wouldn't matter if people were only interested in the perv-factor and not the contest. Instead, women's professional tennis is routinely written off as a boring gruntfest. Ditto, beach volleyball and lingerie football should be the two most watched sports on the box. But they aren't.

We can still respect women who choose to embrace their feminity while competing in sport, but we shouldn't show any disdain for those who just want to get on with playing. Surely that's the thing.