Watching the Olympics is always fun, I mean they only happen every 4 years. However, just as with other sports, there has always been some degree of sexism when men and women are competing together. While watching a few swimming events with my boyfriend and his family, his mother made a comment about how the female swimmer’s muscles were too big and it makes them look intimidating rather than attractive. His father later chimed in about how the gymnastics teams “look ridiculous with all that make up caked on”. As a woman, it is difficult to hear these remarks, especially from people I really like and respect. Unfortunately, the sexism was not limited to just the living room; it was broadcast worldwide by NBC commentators and many other news outlets too.
The Rio 2016 Olympic Games have been eventful to say the least. Athletes from all over the world have won medals and broken long standing world records. However, for the amazing women competing in the Games, some of their accomplishments have been greatly undermined. The (mostly male) commentators have had quite a few slips of the tongue.
Simone Biles, a 19 year old who has been labeled the greatest gymnast in the world, had an impeccable performance on the uneven bars with an almost perfect “stick it” landing. However, despite the amazing strength it took to complete the event, as she is about to go in for her landing, the commentator says “I think she might even go higher than the men”. Really? Is it so impossible to focus on her and only her without comparing her to the men’s team? Instead of giving Biles the immense praise she deserves after that, the NBC crew decides to belittle her years of hard work (not to mention that she is already a 3 time world champion) by saying that she might go higher than the men. Here are a few comments that would have been more appropriate than what was said:
“Wow, what a performance by Biles! The 4 foot 8 gymnastics prodigy has done it again!”
“Simone Biles continues to impress the world with her incredible performance on the uneven bars. With only a slight hop at the end, we’re expecting a great score.”
Even a measly “Good job, Biles.” would have been better.
This is not the only instance of sexism that took place in Rio. The Hungarian swimmer, Katinka Hozzsu, broke a world record in the women’s 400 meter individual medley. She had an amazing race and finished what seemed like ages before the other swimmers. Shattering a world record didn’t seem impressive enough to the commentators though—the announcer, immediately following her victory, stated that her husband, Shane, is “the man responsible” for her success. Attributing her success to her husband’s intense coaching completely took the credit away from Hozzsu and gave it all to her husband. Might as well given him the gold medal since she couldn’t have gotten there without him, right?
Another gold medal for the United States went to Katie Ledecky after she repeatedly blew the competition out of the water in several swimming races. She even broke a world record by almost 2 full seconds and she is only 16 years old. Talk about impressive; at 16 I was just happy to finally pass my driver’s test. But, no surprise, news media outlet The Daily Mail called Ledecky “the female Michael Phelps”. Yup, that’s right. Apparently she is not Katie Ledecky; Olympic gold medalist, world-record-breaking 16 year old. She is simply the female Michael Phelps.
Thankfully, NBC’s Rowdy Gaines called out the many sexist comments about Ledecky (and all other female athletes who experienced this) when he said “Some people say she swims like a man. She doesn’t swim like a man, she swims like Katie Ledecky!” Thank you Mr. Gaines for pointing out that Katie Ledecky is, in fact, Katie Ledecky and not the female Phelps.
Please, speak up when you hear or see sexism, it is the only way it will ever come to an end. The amazing athletes, male and female, competing in the 2016 Olympic Games are there for a reason—because they are the best in the world. Let’s end the female-male comparisons and start focusing on each individual’s incredible accomplishments.