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.
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.”
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
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.”
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.
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.
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?
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.
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…
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