Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies

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The discourse of the male gaze: a critical analysis of the feature section ‘The beauty of sport\' in SA Sports Illustrated

Mandie Brandt, Adelia Carstens


This article demonstrates, through critical analysis, how words and pictures are manipulated in ‘The beauty of sport', a regular feature section in SA Sports Illustrated (hereafter SASI), to construe images of sportswomen that resonate with female stereotypes shaped by the male gaze. Three stereotypes of women seem to dominate in the media, namely the ‘sex object', ‘person trying to be beautiful for men' and ‘wife and mother'. The first two, including a number of subtypes, proliferate in the magazine under scrutiny. From a critical perspective, these stereotypes serve to maintain hegemonic power. Journalists derive power from the magazine (as a power elite), which legitimates the selection of ‘suitable' interviewees. Via the journalist, the selected few gain a ‘voice' through the magazine. However, they remain subordinate to the magazine, which has a mandate to create idealised identities for them. The stereotyped images of sportswomen in SASI stand in stark contrast to the portrayal that the majority of sportswomen prefer, namely that of physically strong and emotionally balanced, sporting professionals. It is concluded that the misrepresentation of sportswomen in SASI is not only detrimental because of its reinforcement of harmful discourses, but also because of its role in creating serious social and psychological problems for women involved in sport.

Southern African Linguistics and Applied Language Studies 2005, 23(3): 233–243
AJOL African Journals Online