Major Papers


Women in Sport, myth, ideology, popular feminism, popular misogyny, economy of visibility


The sports media company ESPN has long utilized traditional and social media to enhance their brand and promote professional athletes, specifically men, and their accomplishments on various media platforms. Notably, in 2010 ESPN launched a global multiplatform brand called espnW as a way to connect women with sports, while also informing and inspiring women athletes and fans. Although women athletes have made great advancements in sport, such as gaining this kind of media representation, this should not be seen as a victory lap.

This paper applies Barthes’ (1957) concept of ‘myth’ to help us understand the ideological underpinnings of representations of young women athletes and demonstrate how these ideologies contribute to the production of ‘popular feminism’ and ‘popular misogyny’ (Banet-Weiser, 2018) in a branded, social media space. Critically analyzing ESPN and espnW, I identify popular feminism and its reaction of popular misogyny to show that ESPN, as a brand, merely popularizes the topic instead of challenging the deep-rooted ideological structures of sport. Through an examination of recent ESPN and espnW Instagram content, I consider how ESPN’s popular feminism uncovers the reaction of popular misogyny where women being part of the conversation is perceived as a threat to a once purely masculine environment. A variety of themes are found in various ESPN and espnW’s Instagram posts and comments to support these points. In the end, this paper identifies that there still exist many problems and barriers that restrict women from making progress in sports.

Primary Advisor

Kyle Asquith

Program Reader

Vince Manzerolle

Degree Name

Master of Arts


Communication, Media and Film

Document Type

Major Research Paper

Convocation Year