Sochi and the Sexism Olympics

In a tweet Yesiris  posted a few days ago, she linked to an article about the screen time between male athletes and female athletes in the Sochi Winter Olypmics. It’s the Olympics! What better way to show off how great every country is by showcasing our most talented athletes in everything they do! Oh wait, except they don’t show us every athlete. While TV’s primetime only lasts for so long during the day, cable networks are stretched for the amount of coverage you can give to each event. That’s all fine and dandy, but in the article, it’s said that men receive almost twice the amount of screen time that women do!

I know what you must be thinking. “But more men probably compete!/Men are more likely to win and bring home medals!/They’re stronger and better suited for sports!/It’s a man’s game!” WEEOOOWEEEOO. That’s my sexist alarm. In 2008, 42% of all athletes were women. That was in 2008. In 2012? 44%. Women brought home 58 medals that year (29 of them were golds!)– which was more than what men ended up winning in London. The gender gap between athletes has gotten much smaller since women were first able to compete in the 1900 Olympics, where only 22 women competed in total.  That’s quite a jump.

But what’s so wrong about the screen time female athletes do receive? Other than it being much less than what men receive (who are not only televised while they’re competing but they also have a higher chance of being interviewed and able to talk about their performance afterward), when women compete, it’s usually in the more “socially acceptable” sports for women – i.e., figure skating. (Which, even then, according to the article, men received 2/3rds of the total screen time for figure skating than women.) But there’s also a problem with the way the commentators react to the women competing. NBC commentators would refer to the women in the skiing halfpipe as “girls”, but all the men would be referred to as “men” or by name. When in regards to other sports women competed in, they were said to be doing that and “all of that while in a Lycra suit, maybe a little bit of makeup—now that is grace under pressure.” As if women’s sole purpose in the Games are to be visually appealing and not kickass and victorious in their sport.

Image credit to Matt’s Gifs

So why the sexism, friends? Why not give half the screen time to women, especially if they make up half the athletes? Why not show off wonderful athletes in their element and focus on their technique, execution and effort put into perfecting it?

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3 comments

  1. Interesting post and you make a good point. We have come so far and we’re still finding sexism even in subtle ways. Who would have thought to research that? Or even write a post on it? But it needed to be done!

    My favorite event was the ice dancing. Both a male and a female on screen together. And it was very entertaining. 🙂

  2. Ooh, men referring to grown women as girls really steams my brocolli. It’s such a common microaggression and it is really frustrating to hear all the time. And it’s absolutely appalling that these accomplished female athletes are having their appearances commented on. They aren’t 2014 Olympics Barbie, they’re trained athletes there to perform and compete.

  3. I never knew much about gender roles in the Olympics. It was never something I would have though much about before. I really thought this blog was eye-opening. I always assumed that the announcers called the athletes ‘girls’ because they were young, but I realize now that it is more of a generalization to all of the female athletes. As far as figure skating and gymnastic goes, I have always admired their looks. They always have perfect make-up and their outfits are often very beautiful. It is true that women in the Olympics seem to be sex objects and not just athletes. For instance, in women’s volleyball, they are always wearing sports bras and short shorts. Is that really necessary for performance? Our society still has trouble getting rid of these gender roles that we have established for centuries.

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