Why Is The Internet So Worried About The Weight Of Female Athletes?


The second Google search result after you type in “Cheridan Hawkins” is “Cheridan Hawkins weight,” what does that say about how we treat female athletes compared to men?
While I was researching Oregon softball to preview Alabama’s game, I came across something that bothered me. I was curious about Cheridan Hawkins’ year in school. I remembered her from last season, but I wasn’t sure how many years she had left with the Ducks.
Naturally, I asked Google for some help. So I typed “Cheridan Hawkins” into Google. And then I got mad.
Autocomplete results on Google for Cheridan Hawkins
The first suggestion is “Cheridan Hawkins pitching.” Cool. Seems legit. Cheridan Hawkins is an elite pitcher. People could use that search term to find stats, or her play on national teams, or her awards, or other practical things.
The third suggestion is “Cheridan Hawkins Instagram.” Some people like to follow their favorite athletes on social media. That’s fine too.
But the second suggestion – “Cheridan Hawkins weight” – stands out. I saw this yesterday and I still don’t understand it.
While trying to understand, I wondered if weight was a popular search term for other athletes. I tried to think of some famous male athletes whose weight might be of interest. Here are three guys I thought of and their top five search terms on autocomplete.
Feb 1, 2015; Glendale, AZ, USA; New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen (34) celebrates with defensive tackle Vince Wilfork (75) after defeating the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX at University of Phoenix Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY SportsThis is Vince Wilfork. Vince Wilfork makes a Super Bowl champion defensive line look small. Vince Wilfork is a big dude.
When you search for Vince Wilfork on Google, the top five autocomplete results are: wife, 40 yard dash, 40 time, stats, contract.
Four things directly related to his football performance and something that, if you met Vince Wilfork in a social setting, you could politely ask him about almost immediately.
Next, I’d like you to meet Bartolo Colon. He pitches for the Mets. He also sometimes plays with his belly in the dugout.

Google’s first five suggestions for Bartolo Colon are: stats, fangraphs, salary, ESPN, fantasy.

Once again, we see that people are primarily curious about Colon’s play (both statistics and articles about him), his contract, and how he performs on fantasy teams.

May 20, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Former NBA player and current TNT television personality Charles Barkley prior to game one of the Eastern Conference Finals of the NBA Playoffs between the Atlanta Hawks and the Cleveland Cavaliers at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Brett Davis-USA TODAY SportsFinally, let’s say hi to a native son of our great state of Alabama.

Charles Barkley was called the Round Mound of Rebound. He recently appeared in commercials for Weight Watchers.

And when you search for Charles Barkley, Google assumes that you’re interested in: wife, twitter, daughter, shoes, stats.

We’re more interested in his family, his social media, his clothes, and the stats from the career that ended fifteen years ago than we are about his weight.

Maybe you’re thinking that the three men I’ve highlighted don’t have their weight searched as often as other terms because they are so successful. But so is Cheridan Hawkins. This year, she was one of three finalists for national player of the year. She has made the Pac-12 first team all three years of her collegiate career. Hawkins has played on the US National Team at both the junior and senior level. She is at the top of her sport.

As a society, we’re interested in Cheridan Hawkins’ weight because she’s a woman. For any female athlete, her athletic ability takes a back seat to her attractiveness.  It’s the same reason that age is a top search term for Danica Patrick, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams.

Even when male athletes have defining physical characteristics that are instrumental to their career, we find other things to be more interested in. Wes Welker is short. It’s a big part of his success. But if you start to search for Wes Welker, stats, wife, and career stats come up before “height.”

That’s not fair, and it’s not right. Cheridan Hawkins is awesome, that should be all that matters.

Maybe it’s too late for the women in sports today. But by caring more about Cheridan Hawkins’ stats, her social media accounts, and her play on the US National team, we can create a better world for our younger sisters and for our daughters. We can allow them to invest their energy in pursuing their passions and mastering skills, instead of holding them to standards of attractiveness as a primary measure and seeing what they manage to do in the time that’s left over.