Femininity, masculinity, physicality and the English tabloid press: the case of Anna Kournikova

John Harris, Ben Clayton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

103 Citations (Scopus)


This article is an examination of how femininity, masculinity and physicality are created and (re)presented within the English tabloid press. In identifying mechanisms for the construction and maintenance of (hegemonic) femininity and masculinity within sport, a gendered sports formula has been developed to analyse and explain sports coverage within this particular medium. Copies of the Sun and Mirror newspapers were collected and analysed over the course of the summer of 2000. The study highlights that idealized conceptualizations of femininity and masculinity are prevalent within the dominant narratives of both publications, not least through the disproportionate ratio of male/female sports coverage where only 5.9 percent of the sports reporting focused upon women’s sport. Our analysis of this mechanism is explicated through focusing upon one of the most photographed athletes in the world today, the Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova. Kournikova, we posit, is the most powerful symbol of the masculinity/femininity nexus within media sport and accounted for one-third of all articles on women’s sport. She is presented as the masculinists’ transcendent image of the idiosyncratic sportswoman, whereby masculinity is maintained through ideological representations of femininity. While the analysis does not focus exclusively on Kournikova, it is argued that she, more than any other athlete, epitomizes the gendered sports formula within the tabloid press.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-413
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Review for the Sociology of Sport
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2002


  • tabloid press
  • gender differences
  • Anna Kournikova


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