How Chinese new media construct elite female athletes
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Around the world, sport is principally organized around masculinity. Women are often afforded limited access to sports participation, situated as “others” in a male-dominated domain. This gender inequality is mirrored in sports media; selective representations have a tremendous influence on people’s perception and understanding of sport, athletes, and society. In this study, I examined media representations of two Chinese female athletes of different status—specialized athlete, Ding Ning, and professional athlete, Li Na— in China, a nation in the midst of political/economic/cultural transformation and a sports reform initiative. Analyzing stories drawn from two Chinese web portals, I focused particularly on how gender, nationalism, and collectivism/individualism entered into media representations to determine if there were differences in the portrayals of these two female athletes. The portraits that emerged were very distinctive. A textual analysis revealed significant differences in each of the three conceptual areas. A fourth theme, which I have identified as “monetary value” also emerged. Possible explanations for and implications of differences in the media portrayals of the two athletes at this particular historical moment in Chinese society were provided.