Breaking Down How We Talk About Men's and Women's Basketball

How does the media talk about men's and women's sports? Quite differently, according to Nicholas Subtirelu, a Ph.D. student in applied linguistics at Georgia State University.

How does the media talk about men's and women's sports? Quite differently, according to Nicholas Subtirelu, a Ph.D. student in applied linguistics at Georgia State University. In a blog post, Subtirelu describes how he combed through articles on to see how the site reported on Division I men's and women's basketball.

“I went to and downloaded all of the articles for Division I men’s and women’s basketball from the past 10 years.”

The first thing he notes is the disparity in the amount of content between the male and female athletes. He found 3,451 articles on the site concerning men's basketball and 1,825 articles talking about women's games.

He then charted the words that appeared frequently in each gender's respective articles, taking out proper names of coaches, teams, and players. Subtirelu was much more interested in how writers presented the players — what kinds of descriptors were used to talk about the different genders.

The top five keywords for women were: her (possessive), herself, her, she, girls, and women. Whereas the men were described with words, such as pound, guy, dunk, stadium, and him.

The word “pound” is of particular interest. Subtirelu found numerous instances of men's heights and weights being mentioned in articles, whereas only women's heights would be written in a post. In his blog post, he debates why authors would omit women's weights:

“The authors of these articles are probably responding to a wider taboo about women’s weight when they omit female players’ weights. However, when men are described according to their weight, do they not often appear more powerful and foreboding? Is any perception that female athletes are less powerful or that their competitions are less intense or physical reinforced by the absence of discussion of their weight? I would also love to know what female athletes themselves feel about this.”

Another point of interest in this study was the difference between the use of gender-specific words. Women saw more mentions of their gender, including the word "girl," whereas no mention of the word “boys” was in the top 20 word list for men, and there were fewer gender-specific keywords.

If you want to read more about Subtirelu's linguistic study, including a full list of the top 20 keywords, check out his blog post on Linguistic Pulse.

Photo Credit: University of the Fraser Valley/Flickr

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

In a first for humankind, China successfully sprouts a seed on the Moon

China's Chang'e 4 biosphere experiment marks a first for humankind.

Image source: CNSA
Surprising Science
  • China's Chang'e 4 lunar lander touched down on the far side of the moon on January 3.
  • In addition to a lunar rover, the lander carried a biosphere experiment that contains five sets of plants and some insects.
  • The experiment is designed to test how astronauts might someday grow plants in space to sustain long-term settlements.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Love in a time of migrants: on rethinking arranged marriages

Arranged marriages and Western romantic practices have more in common than we might think.

Culture & Religion

In his book In Praise of Love (2009), the French communist philosopher Alain Badiou attacks the notion of 'risk-free love', which he sees written in the commercial language of dating services that promise their customers 'love, without falling in love'.

Keep reading Show less