"Ice queens" and "snow studs": gender stereotypes and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games
In 2010, the United States of America experienced an unprecedented Winter Olympic Games, winning a total of 37 medals, including nine gold medals. American spectators included the 190 million who viewed the primetime Olympic televised coverage on NBC, and a portion of the 1.6 million in attendance (Vancouver, 2010). There were more than 5,500 athletes, both men and women, who participated in a variety of winter sports. Despite these impressive numbers, little is known about the media's representation, or audience perceptions of the Winter Olympic sports and its athletes. This research utilized two methodologies (a content analysis and a survey) to analyze gender stereotypes in the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. A nationwide sample of 718 survey participants sex-typed the 12 Winter Olympic sports as either masculine, gender-neutral, or feminine. Then, the televised content was analyzed for prominence of coverage, visual gender cues, and verbal gender cues of male and female athletes and masculine and feminine sports. Finally, survey participant attitudes about a masculine sport (snowboarding) and a feminine sport (figure skating) were examined for gender stereotypes. Data were analyzed with the guidance of gender schema theory and social role theory. The content analysis revealed multiple gender cues in amount of televised coverage, camera angles, camera shots, and commentary. Survey results mirror these gender cues; the Winter Olympic sports are sex-typed according to gender schemas, and audience attitudes about the Olympic athletes reflect gender roles in society. Specifically, male and female athletes participating in gender-appropriate sports are perceived as favorable, while athletes participating in gender-inappropriate sports are perceived as unfavorable. Audience perceptions of sports and athletes arguably influence media spectatorship, sponsorship, and marketability. Limitations of this research include the convenience nature of the survey distribution, and the focus on specific Olympic sports. Additional research will expand these findings and broaden the understanding of gender stereotypes in sports.