Beirut – As the world has been watching the superhuman feats carried out by various Olympians over the last two weeks, somehow, some sports commentators still don’t know how to talk about women.
We’ve witnessed the achievements of female athletes amazingly diminished by the international media. Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu’s coach/husband was credited as “the person responsible for her performance” by NBC, instead of Katinka herself.
Unsurprisingly, Fox Sports commentators had a full discussion on-air about the importance of make-up and how female gymnasts should wear them while competing, because their superficial beauty is what’s going to allow them to fly through the air.
While interviewing Andy Murray, the BBC had to be reminded that the Williams sisters have indeed won 4 Olympic Gold medals each. We weren’t made aware of American Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s name when she won bronze in the trap shooting, only that of her famous husband.
Last but not least, in an American newspaper, swimmer Katie Ledecky’s world record-setting gold medal swim was reduced to a tiny endnote to Michael Phelps’ silver medal win, which was printed as an enormous banner headline.
According to a recent study by Cambridge University Press. Researchers analysed millions of words relating to men and women and Olympic sports in the Cambridge English Corpus (CEC) and the Sport Corpus – massive databases that include news articles and posts on social media.
This study showed that common word combinations for male athletes included fastest, strong, big and great. In contrast top word combinations for female athletes included aged, older, pregnant and married or unmarried. It also revealed that the language around women in sport also focused excessively on clothes, aappearance, and personal lives.
Another study found that the way sports figures are portrayed when they pose in photo shoots differ between male and female, while men are shot in ways that showcase their athletic skills, 64% of women in the media are photographed in sexy, passive poses.
All of this suggests a blatant disregard of women as highly capable athletes, it teaches young girls that however strong and powerful they get, they will still be reduced to their appearance.
However, this is not a new phenomenon, what is the new is the outcry by the masses reprimanding this behavior on social media, by both men and women. The very public disapproval of these actions is giving way for a dialogue to start creating a culture where women’s sports are taken more seriously in mainstream media.
We’ll leave you with the words of the best gymnast of all time:
“I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, I’m the First Simone Biles”
This article was written by Talar Demerdjian