Aug 12

Are the Comments About Female Olympians Really Sexist?

At this point, I’m sure you have seen the many articles slamming some of the NBC Olympic analysts and other news outlets, as being “sexist” toward female Olympians. Being a woman who is also a competitive athlete, I pay close attention to these stories. I will be the first one to stand-up against sexism, but I think we need to be very careful about who and what we are calling out and, if the person behind the accusation is truly being malicious and intentionally sexist.

I have been a victim of sexism myself. In 2013, I won the women’s division of a local triathlon. My name was only mentioned as being “bested” by the male winner, who was also the winner of the overall race. I was super pissed, wrote a blog post about it (that has a lot of f-bombs) and contacted the paper. It was outright sexism and, unfortunately, par for the course in my small town to only cover races in terms of the men’s division.

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There are several examples of alleged sexism being reported in reference to the Rio Olympics so, let’s take them one by one:

1. The Chicago Tribune referred to a female Olympic bronze medalist as a “wife” — in their headline.

The headline read: “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears’ lineman, Mitch Unrein, wins bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.”

Trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein with her bronze medal.

Trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein with her bronze medal.

So, I don’t really think this one is sexist and here is why: No one knows who this woman is and, no one really knows who her husband is either, but pretty much everyone knows who the Bears are. The story was in the Chicago Tribune, home of the Bears, which is trying to attract readers in their city. Who even watches trap shooting? Be honest, did you even know it was an Olympic event?

Yes, winning a bronze medal in anything is an amazing accomplishment but, I don’t think it’s sexist to say this woman, in some obscure sport is married to some obscure linebacker, who happens to play for a very famous football team. There has to be some grabber in the headline people and that is it.

 

2. NBC called a female athlete’s husband “responsible” for her gold medal

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Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu won gold and also smashed the world record in the 400 medley swim last weekend. As soon as the camera showed her taking her first breaths after the epic swim, the announcers immediately panned to her husband and coach (who is his own sideline show) saying “and there is the man responsible for her victory.”

What the…?

Sexist. Totally.

Perhaps the announcer could have chosen his words a little more carefully. Yes, it takes a great coach and a great athlete to accomplish what Katinka Hosszu did. In fact, I’m sure she gives her husband a lot of credit, however let’s make no mistake about who is actually putting in all the work and whose mind and body won that gold medal and obliterated the world record – hers and hers alone.

Next!

3. When the NBC commentator said the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team looked like they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.”

I think it’s pretty clear the point he was making was how completely relaxed and at ease these women looked on the sidelines of the freaking Olympics! We are talking about teenagers and a few 20ish year-old women, competing at the highest level of competition on national television. I’m certain, had I been in that situation at their age, I would be hyperventilating and looking more like I was in an emergency situation than at a shopping mall with some of my besties.

Come on. There is no harm or foul on this one and I believe it was meant as a compliment.

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Just chillin’ at the Olympics with some of my girlfriends as we dominate the gymnastics world. What?

4. Olympic men are rarely described as fathers while female athletes who have children are always portrayed though that lens.

Um, can I get a hell yes?

Anyone can be a father – good or bad – but when you use your body as a tool of greatness though athleticism it should certainly be recognized for going though the trauma of creating and producing a human life and then returning to Olympian status.

I’ve never come close to the Olympics but I remind anyone who will listen that this triathlete body produced not one but two perfect humans and then came back stronger and with more PRs. Yes, I want that mentioned and recognized every single time I race.

Shouldn’t Olympian mothers be recognized for this? I think it’s extraordinary and puts them in a different (higher) category than their non-baby-having counterparts. As for the men, it’s “rarely” mentioned they are fathers because it doesn’t matter. Becoming a dad most likely had minimal impact on their Olympic training. < – – how’s that for sexist?

Why is this even an issue?

Moving on…

5. NBC commentator Jim Wharton says “I think she might go even higher then some of the men” after seeing U.S. gymnast Simone Biles soar over the uneven bars before sticking a perfect landing.

There are two things going on here. One is that the commentator is himself a man and the other is science. As far as I know, men and women are competing in separate categories for every conceivable event because we are different. And yes, unfortunately ladies, men are physically capable of greater speed and strength.

However, I’m not sure the very first comparison out of Wharton’s mouth to Biles’ incredible performance should have been to a man.

What I do know is I love beating men in races and I also don’t care when they beat me. Would I mind if someone told me I race better than some men? No. But that’s just me.

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Ok, let me have it. It’s time for you to express your opinions…

Also please note that I am currently in Omaha, competing at the USA Triathlon National Championships, trying to beat as many men and women as I possibly can! There may be a delay in my response time…

 

 

 

 

25 comments

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  1. Ah, I’ve been saying this all week! I agree with fighting the good fight in response to inappropriate sports reporting for women (and men, of course), but you can’t cry work and expect everyone to feel bad for you. The one about the trap shooter/Bears is right on. Still can’t tell you what trap shooting is, but go Bears!! The headline was to draw you in, which it would t have done if it was about trap shooter because I honestly don’t care about it. I’m not bothered by Hosszu either – she took on her coach (now husband) after falling apart in 2012, and he brought her back. Did she do the work? Of course. Maybe “responsible” isn’t the best word, but I think we have to remember that these live reporters aren’t reading scripts – they’re live, and not every word is going to be perfect. And plenty of people give tons of credit to their coach. If they said the same thing about a man, no one would care.

    Both Simone Biles and Katie Ledexky have been compared to men, and I don’t see the big deal. It is a feat fly higher than the men. Ledecky was called “the next Michael Phelps” because he’s the most decorated swimmer ever. Saying she “swims like a man” is off, but comparing her to greatness is t. (Although I’m not sure if she’s even worthy of the comparison, time will tell. But Simone Bikes coming out to say she’s “not Michael Phelps, she’s Simone Biles” is missing the point.

    I understand why some people are upset. Women have come a long way in sports, and we still have work to do. But getting upset over every little thing doesn’t help the cause.

    But be sure to kick everyone’s butt (men and women) in Omaha!!

  2. I had the same thoughts on a lot of these. Although I thought the Chicago Bears one was a little off. Maybe they should have mentioned it in the second sentence rather than right away. But you are right – trap shooting. Who knew?

    The swimmer one – definitely not the right thing to say at that time.

    And I’m happy to hear the announcers point out that women are mothers because it gives them an extra bad ass-ery. It means they don’t take any shit!

    Now go make some announcers and reporters say some stupid sexist stuff tomorrow! 🙂
    Angela @ Happy Fit Mama recently posted…High Five Friday + Giveaway!My Profile

  3. I think some of the comments are a little off but are they sexist? No. Many people are looking for excuses to create an issue when honestly, there is not a lot to say. I do think people are blowing it out proportion.
    Hollie recently posted…The Differences of Non-runners and RunnersMy Profile

  4. Honestly, I think everyone has gone a little overboard on this whole issue. AND–we are hypocrites. Remember the Tonga flag bearer? Any idea what his name or sport is? Nope b/c we were all focused on his shiny, oiled up abs. How about Ryan Lochte’s hair? (or body for that matter). We as women can’t really cry foul while we do the same types of things, IMHO.

    I like your points, too. Perhaps we’re all a bit too sensitive?

  5. Some of the comments were sexist, like referring to Katie Ledecky as the female Michael Phelps. Really?

    The book I’m featuring for my book club next month was written by the wife of a Minnesota Twins pitcher. And actually, that’s how the author presented it to me. I didn’t consider it sexist, I thought it was kind of sad that she had to pitch it to me (pun intended) like that. But the book is all about her finding her own identity through running. Maybe the obscure Chicago Bears lineman will now be referred to as Olympic medallist Corey Cogdell’s husband…
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…Book Review: Boston BoundMy Profile

    1. Yes, I have to agree with that one and did not include it because I feel like it’s so blatant and, pretty everyone thinks badly of that…hopefully even the announcer!!
      I actually read that book and did a review on Women’s Running of it. She is such a sweet, funny woman and yes, I think she probably knows she will sell more books with her husband’s fame attached to it…

  6. Hmmm. I was a bit upset at first about the Chicago Bears lineman’s wife…at first–then I realized that it is all about the click through game and people who read the Chicago Tribune would only care if they have a connection. I didn’t see the standing in a Mall comment but I don’t think that is very offensive either. Imagine the olympics before there was social media?? haha. Enjoy your trip and good luck this weekend!
    Nellie recently posted…Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot – Week 8 Marathon Training RecapMy Profile

    1. late to this but YES YES YES ON THE MALL ONE.
      I really think there was absolutely no intent of malice there—just a descriptor.
      CARLA recently posted…Starting a Solitary Reading Club.My Profile

    2. I remember at time of Olympics without social media! It was amazing! 🙂

  7. Hmm… I’m thinking. And it hurts lol. I definitely agree with your points about us women having babies and then competing. Pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding take such a toll on our bodies and doing it FOUR TIMES should earn me a medal, seriously! But yeah, like what did the father do to contribute? A little rug burn on his knees one night??!?! Hmph.
    Suzy recently posted…Hips Don’t LieMy Profile

    1. So many things should earn you a medal woman! Sorry I made you think…I hope it passed quickly 🙂

    • Ana on August 12, 2016 at 11:13 AM
    • Reply

    The first I heard about Corey Cogdell, the Chicago Tribune had not included her name on their headline, only that she was the wife of a Bears lineman. They edited it and put it out again. Personally, I would hate for somebody to include my fiancé to any of my accomplishments… like I would hate to see “Fiancé Of Drexel Professor wins 1st on Her Age Group at local Race’ I don’t get what who her husband is has to do anything with her huge accomplishment, for an obscure sport or a popular one.

    And on comparing Simon Biles to a man… that was an absolutely unnecessary comparison, especially because Simon Biles and the Women’s gymnastics team is kicking ass! while the men haven’t gotten any medals.

    The one comment that irritated me the most was the “Katie Ledecky is the Female Michel Phelps” Absolutely unnecessary!
    Ana recently posted…Friday Five RandomsMy Profile

    1. Thank you for countering here! This is exactly what I wanted. Obviously we disagree about a lot of these points but, that is what makes it so interesting. And, I absolutely agree about Katie Ledecky being the female Phelps – that is just the worst! I left it out, assuming we can all agree on that one!!

  8. Love this post… you’re killing it lady!!!!
    Paria@momontherunsanity.com recently posted…EvolveMy Profile

    1. Oh… your next career….. sports commentator, media analyzer, expert on calling bullshit when she sees it….
      Paria@momontherunsanity.com recently posted…EvolveMy Profile

      1. Would that be the best job ever or what? Do you think I can create it? 🙂

  9. What a great topic! And totally excited for your big race weekend!! Go and kick some booty!!! Make and female lol.
    There is definitely sexism going on, but I agree not all the comments are sexist in my opinion. People seem to be either hyper sensitive or totally offensive. What’s wrong with recognizing mothers??? Being pregnant and delivering a child is no joke. It’s fucking extraordinary shit that no man can handle, no offense. Moms are amazing. I’m proud to be one gosh darn it!!!! Now saying the husband was responsible for her success is just a very dumb choice of words. No tact. I don’t think it was malicious. I like to think most men have decent intentions, they are just dumb and say the wrong thing sometimes. I like to give all people the benefit of the doubt, I hate to think the world is out to get me. No screw that! I wanna think men and women are on my side, we’re all brothers and sisters after all, right?
    Now there are always assholes and exceptions. These special people are just poor examples. They can bicker by themselves in my opinion 🙂
    You rock Ali!!!
    Danielle recently posted…self help thursdayMy Profile

    1. I agree that MOST men have good intentions, they just sometimes lack the transference of those to their words 🙂 And, having just experienced child birth and now getting back to fitness (which you are rocking BTW!) you know exactly what I am talking about. There should almost be a separate category for competing moms!
      Thanks Danielle – love your points.

  10. Such ridiculousness and hypocrisy! This political correctness, which invades every expression of society, does nothing but radicalize groups that insist on being outraged because it’s such a trendy thing to do.

    #5 was a compliment! How do you not get that? A lot of male gymnasts just got ‘chicked’, and she likely soars higher than most men. You just addressed this very subject a few posts ago.

    At 4’9″ only, where all parts of her body are very close to her center of gravity, where all her limb levers are designed for blinding acceleration and reduced gravitational forces, and where she has a fantastically muscled feminine body with incredible horse power to weight ratio; she has the perfect body to express such a feat. I know she also has an incredible work ethic to make this all come together, she’s tough as nails. She’s the perfect storm of human gymnastic performance.

    Makes total sense to me, and I can only marvel at her ability and be in awe of her performance!

    Stop overanalyzing everything, making mountains out of speed bumps, stop going overboard with such hypocricy, you’re killing so many brain cells upsetting and fretting over this!

    This view only insures that men and women will never see eye2eye, the chasm is only getting deeper and wider!

    Seems to me I detect a lot of anger, animosity, and rebellion in your last italicized sentence above, right before the Omaha reference? Sounds to me like you’re guilty of the very same issue you condemn!

    Personally, I don’t give a rat’s ass about ‘how many men or women I beat..’ in a race, actually I don’t give a flyingfuck about my competitors (politically correct term, non-sexist, all-inclusive, non-indicative and antiseptic); I compete to be better than I was, and if I am, my training was justified and my ability is true, that I can be proud of and I’ll pat myself on the back:)

    Don’t rise to the level of the trolls you despise, don’t be sucked in by the mindless stupidity of the self-serving divisiveness of radicalized groups. Life is easy if you try, really!

    Besides, you’ve got better things to do, like get ready to kick some ass in Omaha!
    Claude recently posted…Cycling weeks 9-12My Profile

  11. Oooohhh what a great post, Allie! I agree with you on many of the points. I think the announcer phrased the point about Hosszu’s husband being “responsible” very poorly and hope that’s not what he meant, but just that he was being imprecise in his language (to give him the benefit of the doubt). A great coach can make a significant difference especially at that level, but Katinka is an incredibly talented athlete as well. It’s like Tina said in her post the other day – athletic accomplishments take a village. I loved how ecstatic Hosszu’s husband was over her victory.
    But also, I think women as a whole have gone overboard in reacting against it. Sexism is alive and real, but calling wolf on every little thing isn’t going to help our case.
    The Chicago article didn’t surprise me. Having once lived in the Chicago area, Chicagoans really are only interested if it relates to them or, especially, to DA BEARS.
    Good luck in Omaha – enjoy your race and go kick some butt!!!
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Recipe Challenge: Sweet Potato Pizza CrustMy Profile

    1. I loved how enthusiastic her husband was too! I told mine I wanted to see that kind of cheering from him at Nationals 🙂
      Yes to “wolf” calling which is why I had to write this! Please only call out sexism where is it actually happening people or we are just moving backwards.
      Thanks so much Laura!

  12. I love that you broke each of these down. There are definitely sexist overtones or undertones in many statements but there are also many that are innocent or poorly worded. It’s still amazing to me that it wasn’t that long ago that women were not even allowed to compete in many of these events… we’ve come a long way, but we still have work to do.
    Laura recently posted…Steamtown Training recap + Meal planningMy Profile

    1. OMG yes! A friend of mine, during April and the Boston marathon media frenzy, asked me if the story about Katherine Switzer was really true because she could not believe it. She couldn’t get over that it happened such a short time ago! It was shocking all over again to me to get an “outsider” perspective so yes, we have come a long way!

  13. So… I agree with you on EVERYTHING here! I definitely think that there’s sexism in sports, but I also think that people can be oversensitive to it and try to find issues where there are none. I’m loving watching the Olympics, and am watching track at this very moment!
    Nicole @ Foodie Loves Fitness recently posted…Workout Gear Review: Beats Powerbeats2 Wireless Bluetooth HeadphonesMy Profile

    1. Yes! That is exactly the problem. There are some sexist remarks for sure but not nearly as many as the media would have us believe.
      I love watching too and was so shocked at the women’s 400 meter outcome!!! Holy wow!

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