U.S. Sports Academy
Author: Heather Van Mullem1
1Division of Movement and Sport Sciences, Lewis-Clark State College, Lewiston, ID, USA
Heather Van Mullem, PhD
500 8th Avenue
Lewiston, ID 83501
Heather Van Mullem, PhD is a Professor of Kinesiology and Health at Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, ID. Her research interests focus on gender issues in sport, specifically representations of female athletes in the media.
You play like a girl? Gender and image in high school yearbooks
The purpose of this study was to explore how male and female student-athletes were portrayed in images included in two high school’s yearbooks published between 1920-2020. Photos in yearbooks, gathered from the high schools and a community library, were analyzed for their presentation of athletic competence, using presence on court, in uniform, and in action shots as indicators (2). In images of one person, males (M = 3.750, SD = 7.776) were statistically portrayed in passive shots more often than females (M = 2.030, SD = 3.724); t (2,913) = 6.335, p = .000. In comparison, females (M = 5.260, SD = 10.412) were statistically portrayed in active shots more often than males (M = 4.440, SD = 8.646); t (4,722) = -2.946, p = .003. Males (M = 7.550, SD = 11.094) were also statistically portrayed in uniform more often than females (M = 6.810, SD = 10.974); t (7,083) = 2.791, p = .005. Finally, males (M = 1.720, SD = 5.029) were statistically portrayed more often off court than females (M = 1.100, SD = 2.729); t (1,417) = 2.512, p = .012. In comparison, in images of two or more people, males (M = 6.400, SD = 9.589) were statistically portrayed in active shots more often than females (M = 4.640, SD = 7.852); t (6,190) = 7.544, p = .000. Males (M = 8.800, SD = 11.807) and were also statistically portrayed on court more often than females (M = 6.960, SD = 10.704); t (8,818) = 7.478, p = .000. In contrast, females (M = 1.350, SD = 1.989) were statistically portrayed off court more often than males (M = 1.070, SD = 1.763); t (1,329) = -2.705, p = .007. Finally, males (M = 9.570, SD = 12.410) were statistically more likely to be portrayed in uniform when compared to females (M = 8.000, SD = 11.516); t (9,814) = 6.385, p = .000. This study’s findings are, overall, consistent with previous research which indicates that male athletes, when compared to female athletes, are more commonly presented as competent athletes. Athletic and yearbook administrators should ensure the quantity, quality, and type of yearbook photos reflect both the season of competition but also the true athletic competence of the competitors.