The 2012 London Olympics Women's Boxing
The 2012 London Olympics, described as the ‘Women Olympics’ had the potential to either make or break Women’s Boxing, and, in terms of media interest and coverage, it was certainly a groundbreaking moment for the sport. The results of the media reporting from UK newspapers proved this, with every mainstream Newspaper providing the amount of coverage that Women’s Boxing thoroughly deserved. UK media’s response and reactions to the female athletes, particularly Nicola Adams and Katie Taylor, demonstrated a huge shift from previous representations of distaste and cautiousness about a place in Boxing for Women. While statistically the coverage of Women’s Boxing was positively significant, the language, for the most part, seemed to follow in the same direction.
In ‘The Guardian’s’ piece, written by Alexandra Topping, she described how women proved they could compete in “quintessentially male sport” and how Katie Taylor was a skillful, masterfull boxer” who had the “killer instinct”. Throughout most articles describing performance, there was constant a lack of focus towards the aesthetic aspect of a female athlete, rather this time the focus was on pure ability and skill, a focus that hasn’t been apparent in previous research of female fighters, or female athletes in general. Taylor was said to have used “lightening quick combinations” who looked “completely at home in ring”. These, along with the phrase “killer instant” are terms you would find associated with a male boxer, highlighting how they are simply shown as ‘fighter’ or ‘boxers’ themselves, and not depicted or genderized. This particular story was representative of wider media coverage of Adams and many other female fighters throughout the event.
Furthermore, another key theme in the reporting of female boxer’s which seemed to be prevalent and shared were how the boxer’s success was not just down to ability and athleticism, but hard work and a strong mindset. In describing Adam’s opponent, Kom, they said: “If there was any sadness attached to the bout, it was confirmation that Kom will not win the gold medal, her career merits…if Adams has had to overturn obstacles put in her way, Kom has moved mountains”.(Daily Mirror) Dis-Similar to many early findings, discouraging and putting down a female athlete’s mental state and weakness, Boxer Kom is now praised for how mentally strong she is, portraying it in being a vital factor into the successful career she’s had. ‘The Sun’ were also vocal, saying how Adams had a “relentless drive to succeed” as well as “determination in life”.
However, while ambivalent attitude and language has been presented towards women sports in the past, this theme has continued in the reporting of the 2012 Olympics. The Daily Mirror reported how ‘these girls’ are “not as strong or powerful as the men” yet Taylor and Adams are “great standard bearers” and he “can’t get enough of them”. This type of coverage is confusing as they are described as both positive and negative, so it’s hard to get a real grasp as to what the writer’s true opinions are. Perhaps many writers at the time were still adjusting to the changing gender roles in relation to Boxing at the Olympics. They were no longer writing just about men but tasked at changing their reporting repertoire to include women also, therefore, the adjustment may take time.
However, whether done intentionally or not, phrases like “it brings a feminine touch to the ring” indicate that language towards a female’s femininity are still prominent within the media’s reporting. The Daily Mail also describe female fighters as “beautifully honed” as Nicoa Adams’ trainer “pops an enormous gumshield into her grinning mouth and barks something into her pretty face”. The idea that her “shaven headed” trainer is ‘barking’ orders at her ‘pretty’ face almost gives the notion that Adams is there under her will, fighting for the “mob of boozy men” and not for herself and her own goal of wanting to win a gold medal for her country. The Daily Mail here have still found a way to strongly masculinze the sport, despite a female being the competitor.
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