The 2016 Olympics Could Already Win A Gold In Sexism
By Gwendolyn Purdom in News on Aug 8, 2016 4:54PM
Olympic bronze medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
The 2016 Summer Games in Rio are packed with some seriously badass women. There's 19-year-old Katie Ledecky who blew everyone's mind Sunday night when she shattered the 400-meter freestyle world record; Uzebekistan’s 41-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina schooling competitors 25 years her junior; Serena Williams bringing her signature slaying abilities to the tennis court; 19-year-old U.S. gymnastics star Simone Biles exceeding her mythic hype.
But you’d probably miss that obvious conclusion to hear some commentators tell it. They’re more focused on important stuff like the record-breaking female Olympians’ husbands, or how the ladies might as well be hanging at the mall. Sexism, it seems, is alive and well at this year’s competition—thankfully, there's a trusty team of social media watchdogs calling out the perpetrators.
Three days into the Rio games, NBC (a few times over) and the Chicago Tribune are just a few of the media outlets already catching the ire of viewers. Saturday night, NBC’s Dan Hicks kicked things off by referring to Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu’s husband and coach as “the man responsible” immediately after Hosszu’s world record-breaking 400-meter individual medley swim. (A classification that’s even more unsettling when accusations of Hosszu’s husband’s potentially abusive behavior are factored into the conversation.)
OK, so Hosszú (swimmer) shatters a world record by 2 seconds, and NBC's broadcaster gives the credit to her husband and coach. WTF? #Sexism— Tim Gibson (@timgibson) August 7, 2016
On Sunday, NBC’s hosting team may not have exactly thought things through again when one of its ranks reportedly described Team USA’s excited huddle post dominating the gymnastics qualifying round as appearing as if the women “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall,” instead of, you know, having just crushed the competition by an insane margin. In Chicago, the Tribune got flack Sunday as well when—in an apparent attempt to localize a story—it put too much emphasis on the fact that trap shooting bronze medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein is the wife of a Chicago Bear , rather than focus on her many standalone achievements.
when u literally have an OLYMPIC MEDAL and yet all u are is someone's wife (her name is corey cogdell-unrein BTW) https://t.co/Aunna4z91y— felicity (@h0ldmedown) August 8, 2016
But how's her beef stroganoff? https://t.co/toPfZUTRe6— Rachel Sklar (@rachelsklar) August 8, 2016
NBC’s Hicks, for his part, defended his comments Sunday while acknowledging he could have maybe worded things differently. Hosszu’s husband and coach is a vital part of her story as an Olympian, the AP reported Hicks’ as having said, and that Hosszu herself has credited her husband for her success.
Sexism at the Olympics is nothing new. In fact, the women competing in the summer games might not even get the worst of it. Back in 2014, the Atlantic rounded up questionable comments and coverage choices female Olympians have endured at the winter games going back to 2000, a collection that includes being referred to as “girls,” having their appearance analyzed and getting less screen time than their male peers, among other offenses.
A new study published by Cambridge University Press also seems to back up the media’s tendency to celebrate male competitors’ athleticism and achievements, while focusing on females’ appearance, age or marital status. After analyzing decades worth of coverage and conversation, the research found male athletes are three times more likely than females to be framed in a “sporting context,” CNN reports.
And it’s not just the women athletes who are subjected to the lady-shade the Olympics seem to bring out. During a BBC telecast Sunday, haters flocked to Twitter to admonish (or leer at) female presenter Helen Skelton-Myler for the length of her skirt. And then of course, there was NBC’s chief marketing officer, blaming female viewers whom he characterized as “not particularly sports fans” for delays and commercial breaks in the network’s Olympic broadcasts.
So far the Olympics is a festival of nice female thighs. Helen Skelton now contending ....— PercyToplis (@PercyToplis) August 7, 2016
This year’s female Olympians are already raking in the medals, but it looks to us like they deserve a few more for putting up with sports coverage that still seems to view their achievements as secondary.