“If only she had a name or something like a man”: people are hitting back at sexist Olympics coverage

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Harriet Hall
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Isn’t it refreshing that it’s 2016 and finally sportswomen can enjoy competing on an equal footing to men? How far we’ve come from the 19th Century days when women were forced to wear corsets, thus hindering their chances of taking part in sport at all.

But apparently, we’re mistaken. Despite women making up 45% of competitors at this summer's Olympic games, they are still held back by tired old sexist clichés when they compete side-by-side with men. 

At least that what it appears, from seeing much of the coverage and comments surrounding Rio 2016.

So far, we’ve seen TV presenter Helen Skelton criticised widely on social media for revealing her legs on air.

And the latest offenses - while admittedly not intentionally snarky, but ignorant, thoughtless comments - see Olympians and female viewers alike facing discriminatory remarks which expose the deeper problem of sexism in sport. 

The tea-maker

Laura Trott became Britain’s most successful female Olympian in history on 16 August, when she won her fourth gold medal for cycling at Rio 2016.

Meanwhile, Trott’s fiancé, Jason Kenny, won his sixth gold medal on the same day, in the same sport.

As the ecstatic pair celebrated their wins, the BBC commentator, former Olympic cyclist, Chris Boardman, made some comments that sent many viewers into a state of despair.

“She’s doing all the emotion for him – he’s looking at her wondering what’s for tea!” he exclaimed.

For many, the comment was another example of casual, ingrained sexism, highlighting traditional gender roles.

Boardman later clarified his comments in a tweet, saying:

Boardman’s wife also chipped-in to the debate, clarifying that her husband has never asked her to make the tea.

The wife

This weekend, Olympic athlete Corey Cogdell-Unrein won the bronze medal for the USA in the women’s trap shooting event. Rio 2016 marks her third Olympic games and second bronze medal for her country.

Additionally, Cogdell-Unrein is married to the Chicago Bears lineman, Mitchell Unrein.

Unfortunately, when reporting on Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s Olympic success over the weekend, The Chicago Tribune decided to ignore her achievements, referring to the athlete only in reference to her marital status, opting for the headline:

“Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman Mitch Unrein, wins bronze in Rio”

The article made no reference to Cogdell-Unrein’s previous achievements, and in the accompanying tweet, the paper didn’t even include her name. This Olympian was known only by the status of the man she chose to marry.

Luckily, thanks to the internet, people were not about to let the paper get away with this disgraceful reporting, with comments flooding in:

The husband who gets the credit

When Hungarian swimmer, Katina Hosszu scored a world record-breaking win in the 400 metre individual medley on Saturday, NBC commentator, Dan Hicks, decided to turn the focus away from the athlete and onto (you’ve got it) her husband.

When the cameras panned to Shane Tusup, Hosszu’s husband and coach, Hicks said: “and there’s the man responsible for turning his wife into an entirely new swimmer.”

Again, Twitter erupted at the injustice:

Hicks later apologised for his comments, saying he “wished [he had] said things differently,” but then added: “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.“

The athletes who belong in the mall

NBC faced criticism once again during its coverage of Sunday’s women’s gymnastics heat.

When members of Team USA slayed their competitors in a qualifier, and were standing in a group having a laugh (known in male sports as team bonding, or well-earned celebration), the commentator announced that they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall.” 

The Female viewers who don’t care about results

Making a hat trick of sexist comments, NBC announced that apparently, women don’t watch sports for the results.

Following a series of complaints about its delayed Olympic coverage which had led viewers to find out the results on social media before actually seeing it, the channel’s chief marketing officer, John Miller, released a statement explaining their motive for the delay. Apparently:

“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.”

And why does he believe this? Apparently women consider the Olympics as:

“Sort of like the ultimate reality show and miniseries wrapped into one.”

A sad state of affairs, indeed. We can only hope that those in charge of the remainder of the games – and the Paralympic games – coverage, try a little harder.

The news comes shortly after a study by Cambridge University Press, that found the media’s coverage of sports to be steeped in sexism. Men, the study found, were three times more likely to be mentioned than women, when it came to sport, while women were usually referred to in terms of their relationships and age. 

Images: Rex Features, Getty