Library Dissertation Showcase

The fastest men on no legs: a critical discourse analysis of online sports media representations of Oscar Pistorius and Blake Leeper

  • Year of Publication:
  • 2020

Situated within the interdisciplinary fields of masculinity, disability, and media studies, this dissertation explores the extent to which mainstream sports media coverage contributes to the maintenance and revalidation of hegemonic masculine ideals within the sports arena. As disabled men are marginalised by hegemonic masculine norms on account of their physical and/or mental impairments, this study is interested in how disabled male athletes are depicted in mainstream sports media. Taking an intersectional approach, this dissertation also considers the differing and intersecting ways in which disabled athletes are portrayed depending upon their singular or multiple identities. Adopting a comparative case study research design, sports media coverage of two high-profile Paralympic double amputee athletes is examined using critical discourse analysis. The two athletes of interest are, South African Paralympian Oscar Pistorius, and African American athlete Blake Leeper.
Key themes and discourses emanating from the data analysis include, the use of black hypermasculine stereotypes, a lens of disabled exceptionalism, personhood defined by impairment, and the concealment of hegemonic masculine gains. Whilst both athletes in this study are marginalised in sports media coverage by hegemonic masculinity because of their disability, a more complex layering of black and disabled stereotypes is identified from the data analysis of media articles about African American Paralympian Blake Leeper. Additionally, representations of Oscar Pistorius reveal the ways in which hegemonic masculinity simultaneously marginalises and privileges the white South African athlete through negative disabled stereotypical depictions and hegemonic masculine norms granting patriarchal dividends. In this light, this dissertation concludes that the influence of hegemonic masculine ideals proliferates the articles in this study which negatively impacts upon the representation of disabled double amputee athletes whilst revalidating the norms of hegemonic masculinity and maintaining the gender order.

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