Sun, sexism, & suspicious parades
If you’ve been following the Olympics at all this year, you’ve more than likely seen some incredible feats of sporting prowess. Whether its Simone Bile’s faultless 3 gold medals in the Gymnastics or Usain Bolt’s effortless success in the 100m final for the third Olympics in a row, there’s no doubt that this year’s games have been an absolute spectacle to behold. Unfortunately, if you have been following the Olympics you’ve probably also been subjected to some pretty horrendous sexism from the way in which the games have been reported.
Just take this tweet from the Chicago Tribune as Example A of what could be a whole alphabet of examples:
If you don’t see anything wrong with that Tweet then you likely need your eyes checked. In fact, with eye sight so poor we doubt you’d be any good Olympic trap shooting – a sport which requires patience, co-ordination and a whole lot of skill to be able to succeed at. Though obviously not as much skill as it takes to nab an NFL player for a husband. The fact that Corey Cogdell, a now two-time Olympic bronze medallist in the Trap shoot isn’t even mentioned within the Tweet highlights a worryingly prominent trend within the media where a woman’s success nearly always plays second fiddle to that of her male counterpart. We’re guessing that ‘WIFE OF VASTLY SUPERIOR MALE SUPERSTAR ATHLETE ACHIEVES SOMETHING NOT AS NOTEWORTHY AS HER HUSBAND’S SUCCESS’ just missed out the cut, then.
In light of this inequality we bring you Example B (sponsored by The Patriarchy™:The Best a Man Can Get):
Yes, you read that right (your eye sight seems to be getting a little better) Katie Ledecky is listed here as Bruce Gemmell’s ‘latest project’, you know, like something you made in your Grade 8 Science Fair. Except of course aside of the fact that Katie is a five-time Olympic gold medallist, nine-time world champion, current world-record holder in the women's 400, 800, and 1,500-meter freestyle, and not a Papier-mâché of a solar-powered beet farm. The year is not 1625, and we are pretty sure that Ledecky does not, in fact, belong to Mr.Gemmell, nor should her own achievements be swept aside as yet another patent of a man whose primary oeuvre includes toilet paper products. Yes, her coach likely had a hugely positive impact on Ledecky’s training and performance but to objectify her success as merely another trophy for Gemmell to put on his shelf is simply irresponsible and pugnaciously condescending.
If that’s not bad enough, Ledecky has also had to face being referred to time and time again in the media as the ‘female Michael Phelps’.
We’re pretty sure that referring to anyone as the inferior equivalent of someone else is a little demeaning, just imagine if Odie was constantly referred to as the “canine Garfield”. Admittedly it’s not the best example, but the suggestion from the media certainly seems to associate the male athlete with Garfield and the female athlete with Odie. In their eyes: one is the real star of the comic-strip and the other is just there as a little bit of filler. We don’t know which minority group is the Jon Arbuckle in this hypothetical situation but it surely doesn’t spell well for them either.
Standing in the shadows of other great athletes can be incredibly difficult, but you won’t hear Roger Federer being called the ‘male Serena Williams’, and it’s no coincidence that the gender dynamic primarily works this way round. Even Marta Vieira da Silva, who at of the time of writing has successfully lead the Brazilian women’s soccer team to the Olympic Semi-finals with some scintillating performances, has still had to deal with these comparisons.
Unfortunately, even those attempting to praise Marta have also inadvertently placed her in the same bracket. Juca Kfouri, a well-known Brazilian sports columnist, spoke out on Marta’s inspirational achievements quite recently, stating “Do not compare her with Neymar.” Which is great. He’s right, we shouldn’t compare her with Neymar. She’s her own woman. Before following that statement up with “If you’re going to compare, compare her with Pelé.” Ah. Juca, you were so close. Now, we’re sure Mr.Kfouri meant well, but the fact that he is encouraging Marta’s worth to be judged in comparison to the achievements of a male footballer (let alone one who retired in 1977) isn’t what he should be trying to convey. She is Marta, not “Pelé in a skirt” as Pelé himself so ignorantly dubbed her. Then again, Marta is competing at the Olympics and the most relevant thing Pelé has done in the last few years were those Erectile Dysfunction awareness adverts.
Thankfully Marta seems to be taking a stand on this issue herself, as when asked by a journalist whether she thought was better than Neymar, she responded with “Marta is Marta, Neymar is Neymar”. We couldn’t agree with Marta’s response any more.
Now, it’s about that sort of time where we can hear a Greek chorus of voices imploring us to look at the other side of the coin, to see some of the “sexism” that has been thrown towards the male competitors and that the boys have got it just as bad as the girls. Now, we’d like to take this opportunity to firmly state that: no, the males do not have it worse than the females nor do they have it just as bad. We’re sorry if that hurt your privilege.
First of all, a man’s appearance does not define him. It does not dictate his worth within society nor how valued he is by his peers and colleagues (Though sometimes we sort of wish it did considering how impeccably we dress and how less impeccable are personalities are). But no, despite the outcries from Twitter regarding issues like the response to the oiled up Tongan taekwondo competitor and flag bearer, Pita Taufatofua, the supposed sexism towards the male athletes has not been equivalent to that received by the females. The very fact that there has been an uproar at all from the admittedly quiet crowd of meninists says it all really.
Yes, the above hosts of the Today show may have been fawning over Tongan flag bearer rippling muscles a little too eagerly, but this isn’t anything different to the experience that females of all shapes and size face every single day. And that’s the sad truth of the entire situation. It might be a bitter pill to swallow but this two week period of women tweeting about the great bodies that the male swimmers and gymnasts have doesn’t equate to what has been a lifetime of objectification and constant sexualising.
Just put yourself into a woman’s shoes for a second now, boys (we don’t mean literally, however that’s also completely okay) and imagine what it must be like to be a woman. Imagine what’s like to be treated and hunted like a piece of meat on an almost daily basis, seen as nothing more than a gold medal to be won in the stadium of a seedy nightclub. It doesn’t sound very enjoyable, does it? Having to constantly worry about how one looks 24/7 – in fear of being cat-called for wearing a skirt that make your legs look too nice or ridiculed for an outfit that doesn’t make them look nice enough. There is an increased pressure on males to look good and dress well, but simply not to the same extent to which that is a problem for the female gender.
It also doesn’t help that the media is also almost entirely run by men and almost solely caters towards the “male gaze”. So sorry, guys, we hate to break it to you but maybe the reason you’re so salty over this whole supposed reverse sexism ordeal is the fact that maybe you aren’t as ripped as the Tongan flag bearer and maybe you wish that countless women were fawning over you instead. Unfortunately, the reason women aren’t falling head over heels in love with you is more so due to the fact that you refer to your religion as ‘meninist’ on your Facebook account rather than having anything to do with your physical appearance.
So unlike Chinese athlete Qin Kai who recently made headlines after proposing to fellow diver He Zi at the podium after she had just won a silver medal (way to hijack the biggest moment of her athletic career, buddy), maybe it’s time you let the women who have worked so hard to get where they are actually enjoy their accolades, for once. God knows they’ve earnt it.