Can you promote yourself as a female athlete without selling yourself?

It’s no secret that millennials take social media very seriously. But nowadays professional athletes have a duty of care in the way they promote themselves via social media.
Athletes use platforms such as Instagram or Facebook to boost their image and share their stories, making them more attractive to brands, sponsors and viewers; not to mention bringing in extra dollars and credibility into the world of athletics along the way. Some athletes choose to do this with humility while others choose to use their physical appearance to attract an audience, rather than their athletic ability.
At the recent Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, Hawaiian John Florence won a prize of USD$100,000. This came after Sally Fitzgibbons earned her 1st place winnings of USD$60,000 the day before. Both athletes surfed the same break, within the same conditions, at the same time. The discrepancies do not stop there. According to the most current Forbes The World’s Highest-Paid Athletes List the top 39 paid athletes in the world, are ALL men. With Serena Williams being the only female athlete in the top 87 of the list, coming in at #40.
Does this infuriate yourself, like it does the women reading this discovery? This begs the question: Why are female athletes less valued then their male counterparts? In almost every professional sport. Sexualisation, plays a big part.
Some women may feel the pressure because they are not receiving equal pay to men in the same sport. This can result in no longer viewing athletic achievement as a priority and distorts the perception of the female athlete, who then may choose then to use their appearance to gain social media presence and become more influential. This in turn allows them to earn more in endorsements and sponsorships, than relying on their performance in their chosen field.

Comparing social media statistics between the current #1 and 5-time world champion Stephanie Gilmore’s 466K Instagram followers, Alana Blanchard’s impressive 1.8 million followers, and Ellie Jean Coffee’s strong 784k followers. Why does Blanchard and Coffee’s popularity far exceed Gilmore’s? Maybe because the two are notorious for their faces seen in every Rip Curl or Billabong campaign (respectively) as well as their Instagram filled with selfies in glamorous, tropical locations. Yet neither compete on the WSL tour, placing a long way past 100th in the rankings, or are nearly as athletically gifted as Gilmore. A quick scroll through their feeds and you’ll notice a big difference, in comparing the current world champion, who’s feed showcases videos of her recent tubes and training sessions, the others choose to showcase the latest bikinis, captured at a strategic angle.

www.instagram.com/stephaniegilmore

 

www.instagram.com/elliejeancoffey

“Some girls are definitely self-sexualizing, they know what the market is and what gets the best response. In the culture of surfing, sex sells. They’re making a lot of money out of it.” Scott Atheron, Surf Coach, Manly Surf School.

This doesn’t apply to surfing alone. The current fastest women in the world, is Shelly-Anne Fraser-Pryce of Jamaica. After winning an Olympic Games in 2012 and being the current reigning world 100m champion, you think she would be a household name? With only 211k Instagram followers to her name, the world’s fastest female was paid US$60,000 for her world title win in 2015. In comparison to Mr Usain Bolt, undoubtedly the world most successful sprinter and known to almost all people who own a television, around the world. He attains 6.7Million Instagram followers, is number 32 on Forbes Highest-Paid Athletes list and for the same race, at the same championships was paid US -$120,000 for his 2015 World Title, in comparison to Shelly-Ann’s $60K.

This necessity for over exposure, it seems, is growing the gap for women in sport. Tim Wigmore, of NewStatemen Sport, has this to say about the matter. ‘’The roots of this discrepancy lie in the birth of modern sport, 150 years ago. Women’s treatment in sport has always been a manifestation of wider gender inequality and, as sports evolved and professionalised, became self-perpetuating. The huge funding disparity between male and female sport means that women have had fewer opportunities to play sport, have suffered from inadequate coaching and facilities compared with those enjoyed by men, and have been paid meagre sums, even for playing international sport. This has damaged the quality of sport.’’ 

 We are left with the issue , in this social media, millennial world, if women want to cover that gap, they must be perceived, first and foremost, as athletes and not as Instagram models. If sexuality is the main qualifier for popularity in women’s professional sport, then women’s sport will not be seen for what it is; a sport, rather than a glorified modelling industry.

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Athletes Not ”Female Athletes”

Welcome to The Changing Game podcast! This is where five students take a closer look at the rise of women’s sport and key issues in the female sporting landscape.

In this episode Susannah Walmsley will firstly chat with our special guest Mary K from Ladies Who League. The group will look at key moments in women’s sport from the fans perspective and hear from an amazing panel of women’s sport advocates. The pannel made up of Andy Kovszun,who is Content Producer at Fitzgibbons International, Phil Wishart from the Office of Sport, Susannah Walmsley, a professional basketball player with the Sydney Uni Flames, Stacey Speer hosting the podcast, who is an American football player and works in marketing at Gridiron NSW. And myself, offering perspective an internationally ranked Heptathlete. 

My chosen focus for the podcast was the quote regarding the AFL Women’s league ”AFL need to keep pushing for equality and have the support behind them to make these talented athletes,seen as what they are. Athletes, rather than ‘’Female Athletes. As long as the women are playing the same game, they deserve the rights to be paid equally.” In final editing of the podcast, due to time restraints the team decided to focus my discussion about equal pay as a professional athlete, and athletics in Australia in comparison to USA College Athletics. Rather than the AFL discussion which was made in previous takes.

AFL – Still a Man’s Sport?

This interview explores current topics surrounding Australian rules football with the introduction of the Women’s league for the first time this season. The main research found that the AFL has a large pay gap between men and women’s professional AFL players. The ABC provided the statistics that female players are being paid 125 times less than their male counterparts. The Australian also discussed sexism in the sport. Additional research showed that there was a huge difference for New South Wales and Victorian fans, between what matches were available on free-to-air and cable television stations, as well as additional coverage on news stations, both television and radio, and in local newspapers.

Australian Rules football has had a predominately Victorian fan base within Australian society. The introduction of the Women’s league created exposure nation and world-wide in bridging the quality gap between men’s and women’s professional sports. But the question is, is the AFL really doing enough to bridge that gap so women unlike men, must work alongside their professional football career in order to make a living? Recently ABC online provided statistics showing that female players are being paid 125 times less than their male counterparts. It was also made apparent in the AFLW’s annual report that an entire women’s AFL team cost less that an individual average male player.

To gain an insight, UTS Sports Media spoke to an AFL mega fan Clare in Sydney last week. She has this to say on the issue: ‘’ With it being such a massive thing firstly, to the women in the AFL league, I think they’re doing a fantastic job this season, with the introduction of women. However, there’s still a long way to go for women to have the same opportunities as men do.’’

The Women’s league certainly gained great exposure across the shortened eight-week season, the exhibition match, won by 19 points by the Demons, reached 1.1 million viewers who watched at least five minutes across Channel 7, 7mate and Foxtel. (Footywire.com.au statistics).

With so much exposure and fans barracking for their favourite teams, it would make sense that football would be a full-time job for the female athletes, like the men? Think again. The top two players of each team will get about $25,000 for the season, and then $10,000 for high profile players, and $5,000 for everyone else. You read correctly: These elite athletes will earn merely $5,000 for an eight-week season. All are expected to train about nine hours per week, plus pre-season. This seems incomparable with an average male player who earns just over $300,000 (ABC.net). This essentially equates to buying an entire women’s team for the cost of a single male player. It just doesn’t add up.

Clare voiced her concerns on this topic by saying, ‘’As a mother of a daughter, I am very excited by the fact that women’s league has been introduced. And by the time she’s old enough, hopefully those years would have provided enough time for it to have developed and become an equal opportunity. ‘’ The problem seems to lie with broadcasting rights to women’s matches, as that’s where the big money lies. It would be expected to take a few years before the broadcasters would pay rights to show women’s footy matches, according to AFL’s general manager of game and market development, Simon Lethlean.

As long as the women are paying the same game, they deserve the rights to be paid equally.

Below is what the public had to say:

AFLTwitter Poll

AFL Fb Poll

Too Much Ego, Kills Talent

For some people, their world can revolve around, how many ‘likes’ they need to attain on social media, in order to validate their existence, or feel worthy. It could be easy to get caught up in the popularity contest. By comparing how many ‘followers’ you have, to the person next to you. Some people too, feel the need to create an idealistic life with pictures; to make themselves seem more attainable to people viewing behind a screen. This is not real life

Once upon a time, I too was so naive to get caught up in this world. And was worried about my social media life reflecting how many people liked me, in real life. Then I realised how shallow and Ridiculous this thought process, really was. You are worth much more than that. And to be honest, now that this no longer phases me – I’ve been a lot happier ever since. 

Your success in this world, depends on gracefully you move through life, how much you put in and how well you treat others. 1000 likes on a selfie, ain’t going to save you when you’re in trouble or keep you warm at night. 

I have noticed the world of Track and Field, has become very much similar in following this Trend. I love track. I always have. It’s my passion. And a huge part of my life. This will be my eighteenth season, as a competing athlete. And I’ve begun to notice these negative trends progress over the years. 

Politics, gossip and ‘followers’ – have somewhat been a closer focus and point of conversation, rather than how fast, strong, or agile someone is. Those other elements have nothing to do with performance. This doesn’t make sense. This frustrates me. 

Being an individual sport, it can become very lonely out there. No Team, backing you. Just the track. Your thoughts in your head and the hard work you’ve put in, to get you to that point. And then, this ‘Trend’ is continuing to emerge and take focal point. Where it seems people have progressively begun to judge another athlete, based on how many followers she or he has, or how their social life matches up to their fellow competitors.

I’m sorry, but that isn’t going to make you run a PB. Attain a qualifier. Or win a medal. It’s going to create a false sense of security. Make you worry about your reputation. And create an environment for yourself, that encourages popularity based majorly on looks. Rather than yourself as a human being. 

Don’t get me wrong; Social media is a wonderful tool! For sharing memories, marketing and promotion or advertising. But it should not be a platform for bullying and slander, because someone doesn’t ‘match up’ to their competitor online. Even though they might be a greater athlete on the track than them.  What has our sport become? Bullying is never okay.

I, personally have been bullied on social media, a few times over. It’s strange encounter. Having Someone hiding behind a keyboard, throwing words at you. Having someone try and bring you down, in order to make themselves look more cool, or more attainable for what ever reason. 
Having someone judge your worth, based on a picture? They don’t even know you. They don’t know how deep their words could be cutting. They don’t know your situation or the state of your mental health. They don’t know you, as a person. Yet, they attack – for personal gain? Or for a laugh? That doesn’t help anything. Or anyone. 

Your ego, is your worst enemy. This negative energy thrown around, will only ultimately come back to bite you. 

I’ve found this trend translate from behind the screen to real life, in more recent circumstances. I recently had a former bully, approach me in a social situation… and try and get some kind of gain from making a public personal attack. 

Fortunately I was mature enough, to defuse the situation. Act politely. And discontinue that encounter as quick as it started, much to their dismay. But, I do wonder – what fuelled their experience? What was their goal behind doing that? To want to personally attack me… for being me? I kinda felt sorry for them, in that moment. 

I’ve never done anything to harm this person in any way metaphorically or physically, but yet I am a target? No. I will not stand for this. I deserve to go through life, being authentically me. Free of judgement, just like the next person. Or fear of someone trying to bring me down for simply being myself. And, as does each of you, equally have that right! 

This egotism, can move into how you interact in front of people. If you surround yourself with that negative persona for long enough, it can become you. And I’ve seen it change people’s personalities, just like this individual’s. 

To say the right things in front of the screens and then slander other people behind the scenes. 

Humility

And I can only wish these people, attain enough self confidence to become humble. To realise their actions aren’t making themselves a better person, a better athlete or making the world better. It’s only bringing someone else down. 

I encourage you: Never lower yourself to your bully’s standards. Don’t follow The Trend. Negative people will find their flaws. Karma will take care of that. 
Your job it to keep doing you. Authentically you. And move through life attracting all the positive energy, you solely deserve.  

Run your race, you beauty! 

Interview and Slideshow

I decided to interview a very interesting man names Sundesh, from gym I train at following my technical glitch and got a great insight into how he firstly, migrated to Australia in search of asylum during a political coo, in Fiji during the late 1980’s in which he was a radio journalist himself.

Sundesh was captured by military and explained he was hung by the arms for three days straight, in punishment of reporting on what was going on in Fiji. He decided to flee his country, and sought help from a politician in Australia. He was able to secure residency and relocated after three months of correspondence.
Sundesh, went on to explain how he now thinks of Australia as home. And a country who provide him and his family safety, food and a sense of belonging during a time of need.
Sundesh explained he trained at the gym, we were currently at during his relocation to Sydney. But then went on to travel 127 countries in search of a story to write a book upon.

He is now 74 years old, and has found himself back at the same gym he trained at all those years ago. Vince and Roz’s gym is one of Australia’s longest running gyms, having been operating at various locations around Sydney since 1953.
Sundesh explained that having broken his back during his travels in New Zealand, physical therapy was the only thing that has made him as mobile as he is now.
He is happy to be back at his old training ground, having re-joined the gym Just two weeks ago.

This is what he had this to share with us, about his triumph over serious injury.

Going the distance. 

A poem..

Have you ever been lucky enough to find that person. That you don’t need, but life’s better with, by far than without. The person, All the rom-com movies talk about. The, actual ”ONE”.

I found mine.

Unexpectedly. And spontaneously.

And it was easy.

The Dating. The commitment. The ups and downs. To sharing a house together. Sharing a life together.

The one person you can’t wait to tell everything to!

Who makes you laugh, like you’ve never cracked up – Nearly peed-your-pants kind of laugh.

The little things you’d normally get annoyed by. Don’t seem to bother you at all, with this one. 

But Annoying each other; that never gets old.

To hanging out and never getting sick of each other’s company.

To the point you actually miss them, even if you’ve only been a part a few hours.

The smiles. Oh, how he makes me smile! 

The conversations that are so deep, they make you understand yourself better. They make you understand your life better; the world

And you can so easily, see yourself creating a little Future together. A future full of hope and undoubtedly, a future full of love

But then oneday, your world suddenly changes. 

And everything you gotten used to, disappears. 

Long distance.

Some say ”it will never work…” To walk away. 

We thought it mightn’t work. But giving up on each other was never an option for me.

I knew It would be hard. 

But we chose. And We continue to choose. Each other. Again and again.

To wake up to an empty side of the bed, every morning, was kind of sad. Then the times when I checked my phone, hoping for that text. Or that call.

I may have broke down, crying at unexpected, embarrassing moments when I was reminded of something he said, a place we visited. A moment we created together. A song we danced along to. 

Or simply, just missing him. That one happens a lot. All days. Every day. 

But we are strong. 

We force a smile when we talk about Him; because nothing could describe to someone how you deeply, achingly, painfully miss him.

It would be easy to step back. 

Be we simply chose to love

With a promise that we’ll be back in each other’s arm’s soon enough.

By Far, the most emotionally testing, draining, lonely investment I have ever embarked upon. 

But I’ll all be worth it, when he’s back. 

When he’s truly home

It’ll be worth the tears, the trials, the struggles, the doubts, the self doubts.

Because sometimes distance makes everything clearer.It makes you realise; it’s worth it all. This is your person. There is no one on this planet like them. You crave them. You are theirs. 

That life is always going to be better with that person. And nothing is stronger than the love we have

So I’ll keep on, keeping on: chosing him. Choosing to love him everyday. 

Because the promise his eyes, gave mine. During the hardest goodbye of my life, said it all. That this is real, undoubtable, uncontrollable.. love.

And love is all you really, ever need.

Keep choosing love. 

The Cost of Ambition

The alarm goes off. Your day begins. It’s still dark outside. You think, ”do I really have to.” Inner you says ”Yes! Rise and grind, girl.”

I’m not a morning person. But it has to get done. Training. Work day. More training. It’s 8:30pm and you’re still in the gym on a Sunday evening, thinking ”What am I even doing here?” Inner you says ”Cause you’ve got work to do.”It’s a constant brain-battle, between your mind and body. 


You know you need to do those early mornings, those late nights. Those extra training sessions. The active recovery. The rehab. The gruelling sports massages and acupuncture sessions to stay uninjured. The Friday nights spent at the gym, instead of at the club with your mates.You need to Work multiple jobs: to sustain this life.

Because you’re not an average human. You’re a person who won’t settle for a mediocre life. You crave something more.Something extraordinary. And you’ll do everything it takes to get there.If you can resonate with this mind-play.

Maybe not resonate directly to lifestyle , as maybe your goal isn’t physical, like mine. Maybe you are studying to better your work life.

Maybe you are working your butt off, in a job you aren’t necessarily passionate about, to better your passions in life. To better someone else’s life that you are responsible for. Or simply to just get by. 

Whatever you’re doing.I encourage you to keep going. Never stop the grind. Every step you aim to better yourself, every step you are closer to those goals.Never settle less, than the life you expected of yourself.

It will all be worth it, oneday soon enough. You’ll know why you had to go through it all. Until then, trust the process. 

You got this