Sporting women and social media: Sexualisation, misogyny and abuse in online spaces

Authors: Osborne, J., Litchfield, C., Kavanagh, E. and Jones, I.

Start date: 3 July 2017

Virtual maltreatment is a cause for concern within contemporary sport. This issue is particularly relevant to female athletes in social media spaces. An analysis of Facebook and Twitter was conducted to examine the social commentary and fan interaction surrounding the top female players at the 2015 Wimbledon Tennis Championships. This study uses a critical feminist lens to examine these online interactions. In particular, this study proposes a ‘continuum’ of sexually-based online interactions stemming from the social media sites surrounding this event. This continuum of sexualised abuse directed towards the female tennis players ranged from appreciation of the physical form through to a threatening of physical/sexual abuse or overt misogyny. These findings demonstrate how social media provides a space for unregulated physical and sexual abuse of female athletes in a way that traditional sports media does not and this is identified as a significant social problem which requires further academic consideration.

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