Making gains: Hypermuscularity and objectification of male and female Olympic athletes in Sports Illustrated across 60 years Academic Article uri icon


  • Female athletes have disproportionately lacked media coverage. The depictions that do exist have typically been sexualized, which has been described as trivializing their accomplishments. It is unclear, however, to what extent the gender differences in the amount and types of media representations of athletes are evolving with time. In addition, trends in increasing muscularity in media depictions of athletes have not been examined. The aims of this study were therefore to examine gender differences in levels of muscularity and gendered and objectified portrayals of summer Olympic athletes (N = 78) depicted on the covers of Sports Illustrated over the last 60 years. Findings from this content analysis suggested that while female athletes are achieving greater media representation, significant gender differences still exist, with female athletes more likely to be depicted in sexually objectified ways. Findings also revealed that athletic bodies portrayed in the media have progressively become more muscular. Further efforts to close the gender gaps in depictions of athletes in the media are warranted.

publication date

  • 2019