It’s 2016, so sexism in sports doesn’t exist right?! Of course it does, and it usually has to do with how the media portrays female athletes. Even though 292 of the 555 American representatives at the Olympics this year are women, we’ve seen terrible accounts of sexism this year at the Olympics. From women being criticized on their looks, to husbands getting the credit for their work, to being compared to their fellow male athletes, we’ve seen it all the past two weeks. Apparently, recognizing female Olympians in their own right is too much to ask for of major news outlets covering this historical event. Records were broken, and medals earned, yet women still do not get the same recognition that men do in this day and age.
Here are some of the worst examples of sexism from the 2016 Rio Olympics:
15. Of course there’s that time when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú’s husband was credited for her gold medal win by NBC.
Hosszú won gold and crushed the world record in the 400 IM early in the games. However, one NBC commentator claimed that her husband and coach, Shane Tusup, is “the person responsible for her performance.” Of course, your coach is an important part of the process for support and training, but is he the one crushing the world record? No. @socarolinesays on Twitter put it perfectly when she said:
Katinka Hosszu just crushed a world record by half a lap lane and her husband is getting 100% of the credit
— Caro (@socarolinesays) August 7, 2016
Kathryn Dennett also makes an excellent point in stating that KATINKA broke the record, not Shane. Thus, Hosszú deserves her lion’s share of the credit for her amazing accomplishment.
No @nbc commentator that man is not "responsible" for Hosszù's world record. She is. He's her coach and partner. She broke that record.
— Kathryn Dennett (@kathryndennett) August 7, 2016
Dan Hicks, the commentator, apologized later stating, “With live TV, there are often times you look back and wished you had said things differently,” Dan Hicks said in defense of his remarks. “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.”
14. Katie Ledecky has been compared to men…multiple times.
This headline is a metaphor for basically the entire world. pic.twitter.com/5WpQa04N0o
— Nancy Leong (@nancyleong) August 14, 2016
The Mail Online calls Katie Ledecky the “Female Michael Phelps.” The article states,”Meanwhile Katie Ledecky, who is being touted as the female Phelps, has broken her own world record to win gold in the Women’s 400m freestyle.” Of course, this tidbit of information is given after a lengthy few paragraphs on Phelps so what do they do? They mention Phelps one more time. Of course, Phelps is an incredible athlete, the best Olympian of all time, but let Ledecky shine!
Not to mention former golden boy, Ryan Lochte quoting in Sports Illustrated,”She swims like a guy. Her stroke, her mentality: She’s so strong in the water. I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. She gets faster every time she gets in, and her times are becoming good for a guy. She’s beating me now, and I’m, like, ‘What is going on?'”
Uh, maybe she’s beating you because she’s a great swimmer, Lochte, and she swims like a Ledecky?
However, let’s give huge props to NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines for saying, “A lot of people think she swims like a man. She swims like Katie Ledecky, for crying out loud.” She’s not the next Phelps or Lochte, she’s the next Ledecky. Even if she was male, she’s her own person.
Then, a newspaper featured Phelp’s silver medal more prominently in its headline, over Ledecky winning (and crushing her own world record) in the 800 freestyle. Sure, Phelps may be more well known in the world, but why would the newspaper feel a silver is better than a world record? Nancy Leong, a professor at U Denver Law, got it perfect when she tweeted, “This headline is a metaphor for basically the entire world.” Basically, women’s accomplishments are sometimes overshadowed by men’s accomplishments.
13. Then there was that whole debate whether female athletes should wear makeup (sigh).
Before introducing a segment whether women should wear makeup during sports, Fox Sports Court host Tamara Holder says:
“We all know that old adage, sex sells. Well now female Olympians are sexing it up more than ever by wearing makeup during their competitions. Some say this is about empowerment. Well, really? Do women who are elite athletes need to wear makeup to feel stronger or is it simply a fashion statement like when LeBron James wears funny hats?”
After, panelists (who don’t have any makeup experience whatsoever) Bo Dietl and Mark Simone then say their opinion whether women can feel empowered by wearing makeup. Dietl basically says that makeup can make women (or men) look more beautiful for the camera. “It enhances the beauty of that athlete,” he says. OH OKAY.
Seriously who gives a damn if athletes are wearing makeup? It’s their choice if they want to go full-face, natural or no makeup at all. Whatever amount of makeup makes that athlete feel the most comfortable is the amount of makeup they should wear. Like Shannon Rowbury told USA Today, “You can be a strong, athletic, courageous woman and you can wear lipstick. I like being able to be all those things or try to help inspire young women to be all those things.”
12. When NBC Olympics Chief insinuated that Female olympic viewers don’t “watch sports”
When talking about the opening ceremonies being on a tape delay, NBC Olympics chief John Miller told Philly.com that, “The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.” AKA that was his excuse for the five-hour opening ceremony with endless commercials. Oh, I guess women don’t care who wins and totally just watch it for the show. Who cares about sports right?!?! We totally only care about their outfits and the guy’s cutes butts!
11. Corey Cogdell-Unrein called “wife of a Bear’s linesman”
— Chicago Tribune (@chicagotribune) August 7, 2016
Corey Cogdell-Unrein is three-time Olympian trapshooter and she’s won the bronze medal twice. Amazing right? Apparently it’s only amazing because she’s the wife of a Bear’s player. The Chicago Tribune tweeted out an article with the headline, “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.” The tweet highlights the importance of the media to carefully choose their copy of their headlines and tweets. Instead of highlighting her husband (who’s an American football player, not an Olympic athlete!!!), they should have highlighted the fact she won bronze (and that she lives in the Chicago area if they really needed relevance). The Chicago Tribune tweeted an apology stating that Cogdell-Unrein is “awesome on her own.” Okay, yeah Chicago Tribune- you probably should have thought of that before you tweeted out that basically her husband is more important than her medal.
10. When a commentator compared the USA Women’s Gymnastic Team to just some friends at the mall:
After Simone Biles competed on the beam (and killed it) she joined her teammates and started talking to them excitedly. As she awaited her score, a commentator remarks that, “They might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.” Oh. So now the entire team of USA gymnasts are reduced down to a bunch of teenage girls shopping at the mall?! They didn’t just all compete with amazing scores in events that are super hard? Because all girls do is go to the mall (which, nothing wrong with doing some shopping, but they’re at the freakin’ Olympics). Sit down, sir. Sit down.
9. But, let’s give a shout out to Andy Murray for calling out the media:
Andy Murray, a member of the Great Britain tennis team, won his second consecutive gold in men’s tennis on August 7th. However, he was in the headlines for slamming a BBC reporter. When being interviewed after the win, BBC’s John Inverdale asks, “You’re the first person to ever win two olympic tennis gold medals, that’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” Obviously, Inverdale neglected to think about the women’s titles, which are just as important as the men’s. Of course Murray points out right away that Venus and Serena Williams have won many more. He responds with, “I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each but hadn’t defended a singles title before.” Even more awesome, Murray declared himself a feminist last year after people criticized his female coach, Amélie Mauresmo.
8. Multiple gymnasts were shamed for their looks, including Gabby Douglas.
Like 2012, Gabby Douglas has been criticized for her hair for being “unkept.” Not only is calling her out on her natural hair super racist (that’s another story), it’s sexist as well. Who cares what her hair is doing? She’s an amazing athlete and she doesn’t deserve the bullying online. You know, instead of people praising her for her three gold medals becoming the first African-American woman to win All-Around? Then, she was bullied for her “resting bitch face,” because you know women have to be happy at every moment possible.
Douglas responds in a Yahoo News interview that, “I’ve been trying to stay off the internet because it is so much negativity. When they talk about my hair or me not putting my hand on my heart or me being salty in the stands and, you know, really criticizing me… It doesn’t feel good. For me, it was a little bit hurtful.”
Additionally, Mexican gymnast, Alexa Moreno, was criticized on Twitter because of her weight. One tweet stated, “Alexa Moreno has the body of two gymnasts, a diet before going to Rio could have been good. “Oh of course it makes perfect sense to shame a woman who can do an incredibly difficult sport because her body’s not “the right shape.” Luckily, her Twitter was soon flooded with positive messages of support like this one:
7. The headline that said Kim Yeon-goung needs a tall boyfriend
South Korean volleyball star Kim Yeon-goung is tall (192 cm). However, a English language Korean newspaper, The Korean Times, ran the headline with “Boyfriend a tall order for 192cm South Korean volleyball star.” Even worse, they concluded their story with, ” The average height of South Korean men is 174.9 centimeters. Regrettably, it would be better for her to look for a boyfriend somewhere outside the country.” Oh, so a tall girl can’t date a short boy? Not to mention, why are they focusing on her dating life when they could be focusing on her athleticism? In the entire article, they focus one line on how she’s captain and the main hitter of the South Korean volleyball team. What’s the rest of the article about? How she apparently wants a boyfriend.
6. BBC Africa tweeted out an article with the headline “Bikini vs Burka”
Although this was a very powerful image, showing that religions and cultures can unite through the game of sport, their caption was totally unnecessary. @LibyaLiberty on Twitter put it perfectly when she tweeted, “Why not just athlete vs athlete?” Why does it matter what one wears in the games? Both outfits are completely legal. It depends on what one athlete feels more comfortable in, such as the fact some ladies wear only a bikini because it allows less sand on their bodies and there’s less places for the sand to go. Sure, maybe the article pointed out the differences in outfits women are allowed to wear during beach volleyball. However, the wording of the tweet is terrible because it pit two different women against each other because of their clothing choices.
5. Then there’s CBC commentator rudely calling out 14-year-old Ai Yanhan
After a 4×200-meter women’s freestyle relay final, Canada’s CBC Bryon MacDonald said “Too excited, [Ali Yanhan] went out like stink and died like a pig.” It appeared MacDonald did not realize his mic was still on. Yikes.
According to his bio, MacDonald swam in the Munich 1972 Olympic Games and placed sixth in the 100m butterfly and is the head coach of the University of Toronto Varsity Blues swimming program. Yanhan is a 14-year-old swimmer from China (yeah, only 14! She’s got some years ahead of her). Her relay team narrowly missed out on the Bronze Medal, with Canada beating them out.
CBC later apologized on Twitter, stating it was “an unfortunate choice of words. We are sorry it happened.”
MacDonald apologized on CBC’s Olympic broadcast with, “I would like to take a moment to apologize for a comment that I made last night after the women’s relay. I was referring to a swimmer’s performance, and not to them as a person. Needless to say, there was no disrespect intended and I’m very sorry.”
4. The golden couple – Laura Trott and Jason Kenny
Laura Trott, a British Olympic Cyclist who’s won four Olympic Gold medals, is engaged to Jason Kenny, a track cyclist who’s won six gold medals and a silver in the Olympics. They’ve been dubbed Britain’s “Golden Couple,” which is appropriately fitting. However, BBC Commentator Chris Boardman ruined everything when he said, “She’s doing all the emotion for both of them really — he’s looking at her wondering what’s for tea!” Not only does this imply that women are the only humans to have emotion (God forbid a man to cry!), but it also implies women are the ones who make tea (or other drinks/food) for their husbands. “What’s for tea” is commonly used to suggest a “laid-back attitude,” but it gives a warning to commentators to watch their language before they speak-even if they meant to be innocent. Boardman responded with a tweet that says, “Just to clarify, ‘what’s for tea’ is often I question asks me! It’s nothing to do with gender!!”
3. Oh, and here’s a BBC commentator calling Majlinda Kelmendi’s Judo final a “cat fight”
Majlinda Kelmendi won gold in the Women’s Judo Final, making her the first athlete (male or female) from Kosovo to win ANY medal ever. Kosovo only declared independence from Serbia in 200 following years of war. She won the 52k event against Italy’s Odette Giuffrid. But of course, a male BBC commentator had to ruin it and called the match a “cat fight.” No, this sport isn’t a sport of strength and smarts, it’s just two girls fighting over a dress at the mall right?! Or two girls fighting over a boy!? What the commentator implied is that women can’t fight each other in sport seriously without being judged for being, well a woman.
2. When Mercury News shared Simone Manuel’s win-without saying her name in the headline.
Oofta. Mercury News tweeted out an article with the headline, “Olympics: Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American.” Wait, what? Seriously? You know she has a name, SIMONE MANUEL. And of course, it’s super important to note she’s the first African-American woman to win an individual gold in swimming. She’s setting an example to all young girls of color who want to follow their dreams, because they may not see many girls who look like them in their sport. But to just be called “African-American” without her name? She doesn’t deserve that. Mercury News later tweeted, “We apologize for an insensitive headline earlier on a story about Simone Manuel and Michael Phelps’ medal wins.” They changed their headline to “Olympics: Standford’s Simone Manuel and Michael Phelps make history.”
1. When the media focused on Dana Vollmer being a mother:
The Huffington Post announced US swimmer Dana Vollmer had won bronze “17 months after giving birth.” Dana Vollmer won three gold medals in the London 2012 Olympics (two of which were world records) and another gold in Athens 2004 (on the 4x200m Free Relay where her team broke a 17-year-old record). But you know, it’s only remarkable she won another medal because it was 17 months after giving birth, not because she’s an incredible athlete. Her first child, Arlen was born in March 2015 and she started training for the Olympics soon after. Of course, it’s amazing she quickly got back into training for the Olympics and that she’s a mom, but where the Huffington Post went wrong was making the fact that she could get in shape so fast after birth the focal point of her accomplishments through an attention-getting headline. Dana, however, embraces her role as a mother and an athlete with her hashtag #mommaonamission. She tweeted on August 7th: “The final of the 100m butterfly is tonight!! No matter what-I’m so proud of this journey!#mommaonamission.” She also proudly tweeted out that she is “First swim mom to win a gold medal!”
— Dana Vollmer (@danavollmer) August 7, 2016
Of course, the sexism doesn’t stop there. There’s been other examples, like when CBC tweeted that China’s He Zi’s engagement was “better than a silver medal.” Yeah, because marriage is way cooler than winning an Olympic medal (of course marriage is cool, but come on AN OLYMPIC MEDAL).
@CBCOlympics But to imply a proposal is, especially for a woman athlete, "better" than a medal–just no.
— Truly S. (@hotincleveland) August 14, 2016
And then there was the time when people shamed host Helen Skelton for wearing a mini-dress. Ugh. MAKE IT STOP.
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