Money Smart Athlete Blog

Female athletes: Stereotypes and public opinion and how it affects self-image

Mar 15, 2023 | Women Athletes

By Stefanos Gregoriou, The Sports Financial Literacy Academy

For decades, female athletes have been fighting an uphill battle in the world of sports. Despite improvements made over time, stereotyping and biased public opinion towards female athletes remains an issue which can have catastrophic effects on their self-image and overall athletic performance.

One of the most common challenges that female athletes unfairly have to face, is the stereotype that women are weaker and less athletic than men. This perception is not only inaccurate but also damaging, as it prevents women from being accepted as equal athletes. The media frequently reinforces this image by emphasizing on women’s physical attractiveness rather than their abilities on the field or court. Female athletes are frequently rated based on their appearance, with physical skill being commonly overlooked.

Moreover, negative public opinion can also have a significant impact on the self-image of female athletes. Women who participate in traditionally male-dominated sports, such as football or boxing, are often viewed as outliers and may face heavy criticism and discrimination. These negative attitudes can lead to feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and disappointment, all of which can have a knock-on detrimental impact on female athletes’ sport performance.

Even the most accomplished female athletes have been subjected to harsh criticism over time, which has not been by any means constructive to their development. Serena Williams, one of the most accomplished tennis players of all time, has come under fire for her physical looks, with some claiming she is “too muscular” to be appealing. This type of criticism is especially harmful to young female athletes who are still building their sense of self and are looking for guidance, since it can give the wrong idea that self-worth is tied to appearance.

Despite this hostile environment, female athletes have proven that they do not give up. They keep on fighting to achieve success in all fields; in their sport and in their personal lives. Athletes like Simone Biles, Megan Rapinoe, and Naomi Osaka have become role models for young girls all around the world, reminding them that if they work hard and believe in themselves, anything is possible, as long as they give themselves the space and time they need to gather their pieces and get back in the game, despite the struggles. Such positive female athlete representation in the media, is vital in inspiring and empowering girls and women; athletes and non-athletes.

It is time to recognize female athletes’ tremendous achievements and successes based on their ability and not their gender. Women have proven repeatedly that they are just as skilled and dedicated to their sports as men. They deserve equal recognition, respect, compensation, and opportunities. By doing so, we can pave the way for the next generations of female athletes to pursue their own dreams and aspirations in a healthy environment that supports growth and development.

In conclusion, the struggles of female athletes are real and valid, and the stereotypes and judgmental public opinions that they face can significantly impact the way they view themselves and consequently their success both on and off the field. It is time for society to recognize female athletes’ remarkable achievements and to encourage them to grow and evolve, as athletes and as individuals. We need to build a more inclusive sports culture for all athletes, regardless of gender, by concentrating on their talents and accomplishments rather than their appearance or gender.

The Money Smart Athlete® Blog is established and run by the Sports Financial Literacy Academy® (SFLA).  Through its education programs, the SFLA has the vision to financially educate and empower athletes of all ages to become better people, not just better athletes.  For more information on our courses, our SFLA Approved Trainer Program®, and how they can benefit you and your clients, please get in touch with us at [email protected].