#CoverTheAthlete campaign calls out sexist coverage of female sports stars
Eugenie Bouchard, of Canada, returns a shot to Dominika Cibulkova, of Slovakia, during the third round of the U.S. Open tennis tournament in New York on Sept. 4, 2015, in New York. (AP / Charles Krupa)
Christina Commisso, CTVNews.ca
Published Friday, November 6, 2015 12:29PM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 7, 2015 2:48PM EST
Would a male athlete be asked to do a twirl to show off his outfit? Or would he confess his dream date in front of dozens of cameras and a stadium full of fans?
Yet Canadian tennis star Eugenie Bouchard was asked both questions by sports reporters.
A new campaign, #CoverTheAthlete, highlights the questions and commentary female athletes often deal with, focused more on their looks than their abilities.
The campaign was launched by two Toronto advertising executives and competitive athletes Jessica Schnurr and Hannah Smit.
"We've just seen one too many instances of inappropriate or ridiculous questions asked of female athletes," Schnurr told CTV News Channel on Saturday. "Questions that had nothing to do with their performance or ability, and instead had to do with their appearance and their body and their hair."
A #CoverTheAthlete video posted to YouTube takes real questions that have been asked of female athletes and dubs it over footage of high-profile male athletes, including Sidney Crosby, Michael Phelps and Wayne Rooney. The video speculates on the types of reactions these athletes may have to such personal inquiries.
As of Friday, the video has more than one million views.
Schnurr said when Bouchard was asked to twirl during a post-match interview at the Australian Open, after "dominating her opponent," she decided it was time to address the issue.
"Sexist commentary, inappropriate interview questions, and articles focused on physical appearance not only trivializes a woman’s accomplishments, but also sends a message that her value is based on her looks, not her ability," the Cover The Athlete website reads.
Among the questions highlighted on the campaign is one posed to Romanian tennis star Simona Halep, who was asked if a past breast reduction surgery plays any part in her success.
The website also features commentary from a Telegraph columnist who wrote about Serena Williams: "Generally, I’m all for chunky sports stars ... but tennis requires a mobility Serena cannot hope to achieve while lugging around breasts that are registered to vote in a different U.S. state from the rest of her."
The campaign asks the media to provide coverage that focuses on the athlete's abilities, and urges readers to send that message to sports networks with the hashtag #CoverTheAthlete.
Schnurr said the response to the campaign has been "overwhelming."
"It resonates with a lot of people…who are fed up by seeing this kind of thing," she said.