More than Sport: Representations of Ability and Gender by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) of the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games

Nancy Quinn, Karen Yoshida


Purpose: To examine the CBC’s television coverage of two highlighted Canadian Paralympic athletes who participated at the 2004 Summer Paralympic Games held in Athens, Greece. This analysis focuses on representations of ability and gender and to consider the repercussions of these representations for Paralympians, people living with physical difference, and spectators. Methods: Informed by disability studies theory and Garland-Thomson’s (2000) work, qualitative research methods were used to analyze segments of CBC’s television coverage of two Canadian Paralympians, one male and one female, for dominant and recurring themes. Results: Multiple positive representations of athletes were presented in the data. The dominant theme was the athletic.  Though a positive alternative to negative stereotypes of ability this representation is used solely for the female athlete in this case study. The analysis of the male athlete revealed a more nuanced, complex representation.  Within this analysis, the asexuality of female athletes with a physical difference is perpetuated and male hegemony within sport is reinforced.   Conclusions: Media has a powerful role in the construction of social perceptions of people with physical difference. Based on this analysis, the CBC coverage promoted a more fully human portrayal of the highlighted male Paralympian. However its representation of the female athlete continued to reinforce ableist assumptions regarding ability and the asexuality of women with a disability. Sport journalism is a powerful medium that constructs representations of people with physical difference, however critical analyses of these representations are necessary to reinforce those that are positive and realistic representations of people with physical difference.  


Key Words: ability/disability, sport, media, representation, gender

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