There’s no such thing as Rio without Zika mosquitos, and there’s no such thing as a women’s competition in the Olympics without self-described feminists buzzing and stinging about the the supposedly sexist way the winners get covered.
Here’s Salon’s Mary Elizabeth Williams:
Women are taking home medals, but many reports still focus on them as wives and moms.
Wives and moms! We can have women being that!
Here we go, from Williams:
When Corey Cogdell-Unrein took the trap shooting bronze over the weekend, eight years after earning her first medal in Beijing and four years after competing in London, the headlines noted her achievement by placing her in context. The Chicago Sun-Times announced, “Corey Cogdell-Unrein, wife of Bears DE Mitch, wins bronze.” This is the entire second paragraph of the report: “Her husband, Bears defensive end Mitch Unrein, cheered her from his home near Chicago. They have been married for two years.” Last month, the paper similarly declared that “Bears lineman Mitch Unrein’s wife takes aim at gold in Rio.” The Sporting News, meanwhile, reported that “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman, wins bronze in shooting.”
SBS comedian Rebecca Shaw chimed in:
You see, Corey has made the mistake of being a lady-woman athlete who is married to a man athlete, and as such the fact that she is married to him automatically becomes her defining feature. This was made fairly evident by how her achievements have been reported in various places….
Give. Me. A. Break.
Why stop there? Who is her father? Does she have any brothers or uncles that we could mention?
Stocky gymnast Shawn Johnson complained that Olympics reporters actually notice the way female athletes look—unfair!:
Journalists, commentators, and anchors kept comparing my body to those of my teammates. I was told that I was too muscular, that I had too much bulk, that I was too short, that I looked too young. People even said that I had big ears! And when my looks weren’t being criticized, I was being patronized: I was “so cute” and “pint-sized.”
With the commentators and the news reporters focused on a topic that had nothing to do with my sport and my hard work, I felt helpless.
Back to Salon’s Williams:
For further evidence of this confusion, observe how, after Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú took the gold, NBC’s Dan Hicks pointed out her husband and coach Shane Tusup as “the guy responsible” for her performance, adding later that “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.” I wonder if there’s any way possible to comment on a woman’s achievement without immediately saying that a man is responsible for it? I wonder!…
And I could do without upbeat stories on what great moms some Olympians are, like the ones that say, “Balancing family with demanding careers is a constant struggle for many women, but you need look no further than the U.S. Olympic team for proof that you can excel at both.” Because I don’t see a whole lot out there about how new dad Michael Phelps manages to have it all.
Memo to future Olympics journalists: When covering female athletes and their successes, be sure to leave out all material that defines them as female.