Posted on

The Female Perspective: The Rio Olympics and Feminism

Welcome! This is a weekly blog* by Author J.L. Metcalf where I discuss anything and everything that strikes my fancy. If you have ideas on what you think I should write about, please send me an email via my website!

For now, sit back, relax and enjoy the blog!

*All views expressed in “The Female Perspective” are those of J.L. Metcalf, not Great Stories, Inc


When I was a kid I adored the Olympics. The pageantry, the excitement, the athleticism was so impressive when I was younger and full of dreams. I thought, wouldn’t it be amazing if I could be that dedicated to something, to anything. The 2 weeks would fly by and then it was all over for another few years.

Rio-Olympics-2016-logo-640x360

I haven’t actively watched the Olympics in a few years now. I simply find it difficult to find the same excitement I did when I was a child. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to hear about Phelps winning his 27,000 gold medal, but I simply don’t get excited about the Olympics anymore.

This year was different though, I felt actively angry and insulted about the Olympics. First off, with them being in Rio, a country that is extremely poor and in desperate need of financial stability, seemed in poor taste. Sure, it will bring money in, but the fact is they had to borrow millions of dollars to create the venues needed to host the massive events. The water is practically poison and even though it’s technically winter there, Zika was  a fear on many people’s minds. Not to mention crime that runs rampant through the streets. But I don’t make the choices over who hosts the Olympics so like many, I shrugged it off as “better minds know better”.

What really got me peeved was the blatant sexism being expressed by the commentators and news outlets. From the female athlete’s being referred to as “girls” even though they are grown women, to the news headlines in print and social media that state things like:

I don't know about you, but it would seem to me that someone breaking a WORLD RECORD is a bigger deal than a TIE.
I don’t know about you, but it would seem to me that someone breaking a WORLD RECORD is a bigger deal than a TIE.

AND…

With the headline: "Wife of a Bears' lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics"
With the headline: “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics”

These 2 examples are perfect as to what’s wrong with the world in terms of feminism and sexism today. First off, a woman breaks a WORLD RECORD and she gets the smaller, less impressive headline while Phelps, who TIED for silver, gets the big headline. There could not be a more perfect example of sexism if someone actually tried. To essentially push someone to the side who broke a world record is insulting to her athletic ability. Besides the fact that hey, Phelps has won like a gazillion medals, let’s let someone else have the spotlight shall we?

When I saw the Twitter post from the Chicago Tribune regarding Corey Cogdell winning bronze I wanted to scream. Not only does the post not even mention her name, but it also puts her neatly into the box of someone’s wife. Not bronze medal winning athlete. No, we wouldn’t want to let her have her own achievement. Her husband has to be in there as well. It’s unfair and it’s also ludicrous.

There have been other examples of this, commentators praising another female swimmer by giving all the credit to her husband for her ability to perform.

NBC credited Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu’s coach/husband as “the person responsible for her performance”. ~News.com

That one stunned me as well, I’m sorry, is he in the pool pushing her along? Is he paddling along beside her? Because it would seem to me that she did all the hard work. She was in the pool. She is in the Olympics. Not him. Why does it seem to be impossible for the media to give credit where it’s actually due when it comes to the women? Why do their achievements have to come tied to some man in their life? Why can’t these women be praised the same way that their male counterparts are?

Sadly, there are quite a few examples of this type of sexism that have run rampant through the 2016 Rio games. From commentators discussing the importance of makeup on the female gymnasts during their gymnastics routines to NBC completely botching the coverage of a HISTORY making swim by Simone Manuel when she became the first African-American woman to win a swimming medal in an individual event. They did air the medals ceremony eventually, but an hour after the historic moment occurred rather than airing it in real time (as the BBC did).

The fact is, our country is going through a massive period of change. A huge paradigm shift. From racial tensions to sexism to financial inequality, we are all watching our world shift and break apart in ways we never though we’d see. Donald Trump spews hatred and bile everywhere he goes while Hilary Clinton makes history, only to be overshadowed by her husband in the press coverage. It’s a strange world and the Olympics is simply putting a magnifying glass on that strangeness and showing us how the things we thought were gone (racism, sexism, etc) are still very much here and they are no longer as subtle as they once were. Now they’re right in our faces. It’s painful and it’s infuriating to watch women talked about as being “girls” and to have their accomplishments, in many ways, shrugged off or obscured by a male figure in their lives.

The fact is, women have been competing in the Olympic Games for 116 years;

Female athletes have been a part of the Olympic tradition for a whopping 116 years, since they first competed in the sufficiently ladylike lawn tennis at the Paris Games in 1900. –News.com.au

And yet, even after over 100 years of competing, the women still have far to go in terms of finding equality in their sports, but I will admit, progress has been made. I don’t want to deny that fact. I am hopeful though that it won’t take another 116 years for us to get to a place where female athletes are treated as equals to the male athletes and we will no longer talk about them in terms of their husbands or boyfriends, but in terms of their accomplishments and athleticism.

441e1bd3-939c-4a7f-9b3e-adf9b5c83663

What do YOU think of the Olympics? Are you watching?

Tell me your thoughts!

0 thoughts on “The Female Perspective: The Rio Olympics and Feminism

  1. I see some very real issues with some of the reporting around the event. Then again, I am not at all surprised since it is NBC.

  2. You make really good points about it being very sexist. How is responsible for that, it’s disgusting.

Leave a Reply