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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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! 

Hate created out of ignorance

A Victorian woman named ‘Laura’ took to Facebook this week to Publicly shame a so-called Sex offender, after witnessing what she called ‘disturbing and harassing behavior’ on public transport, in Melbourne. Since her post becoming viral, shared and commented by millions of people via social media over the last few days, with her seemingly feminist views voiced to aim to stop this behavior toward women. It was made clear, by hundreds of people who personally knew this man that he in fact was autistic and not in fact a sexual predator. Laura has since taken down her post, but did not set the story straight beforehand. She did not apologise for wrongly accusing this man, and promoting hate and abuse towards him, for his actions. She did not apologise for the vilification she created. She just left it, and that is what is not okay.

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Public transport is a great way to travel in a city. It is reliable, easily accessible and cheap. But you do encounter all different types of cultures, personalities, and abilities. This is what being tolerant is about. But Laura, demonstrated in her article that she felt responsible to protect another civilian, another female with the fear of her being harassed or sexually assaulted.  She felt he was such a threat to the public, in result the man’s face was splashed across social media in an explosive rant by Laura, as she claimed he intimidated four women on the tram.

By reading into just a snippet of the millions of comments, made on this post. It was made very clear that not everyone agreed with the woman’s claims. Some people wrote that the man was in fact a regular commuter on Melbourne trams who has autism and ‘wouldn’t hurt a fly.’

‘I have seen him on the same tram for years along Swanston and Elizabeth street,’ one man told Daily Mail Australia.

‘He exclaims and utter noises very suddenly at times and he does hover over people but he never touches anyone without asking.’

‘I don’t believe he singles out women in that regard either, he’s done it to me before and I have told him to leave me be politely and that he did.’

‘He likes getting high fives from folks, most people ignore him but at times they do give him one.’

 Another person pleaded with social media users to stop calling the man a predator.’This man was trying to get a woman to give him a high five and I know this man he has a disability,’ she wrote online.

It is clear with the backlash about Laura’s experience, that she mightn’t have encountered someone with a disability like this man’s before. Does that beg the question, that Australian citizens should be more worldly to understand that because someone behaves differently to what is perceived as behaving ‘normally,’ it does not make them a predator. It just makes them different to you. Which is more than okay.

Pictured below is an online post, via Facebook. In which a woman claims the viral post has led people to threaten violence on this innocent man.

 

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This is in direct comparison to Laura’s actual post, which is pictured below. Since discovering the man was Autistic Laura did not apologise but simple took the viral post down, after millions has already viewed and shared her thoughts and accusations.

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Moral of the story, know your facts before you accuse. Before you put it online for the world to see.