Thursday, August 14, 2008

World-Class Sexism

As long as I’ve been watching the Olympic Games, I’ve presumed based on the coverage that when it comes to women’s sports, Americans seem to want to watch only swimming, gymnastics, and beach volleyball. Okay, we are a country that wants to watch only the bathing-suit-clad female athletes; fine. (Yes, women’s track and field also gets some action from time to time, depending on star quality.)

But having spent a good many evenings this week watching this, it has been excruciating to listen to the way men and women are covered.

What are we to learn from Bob Costas and company?

1. The most important thing you need to know about a French swimmer is that she had controversial photos taken of her, and she lost her man to an Italian swimmer. (Both are accomplished athletes, and, oh-by-the-way, the Italian swimmer broke her own world record yesterday.)

2. What’s really amazing about the U.S. women’s volleyball team is that they actually get along. Oh yes, and they have both been married since 2004! And one of them almost lost her wedding ring in the sand!

3. This American gymnast is so upset. Let us close up on her face as it nearly tears up.

So, if I’m a 12 year old athlete watching, what I am learning is, no matter what you accomplish in your sport, even if you get to the absolute top of your game by competing in the freaking Olympics, you will only be recognized for tabloid controversy, nuptials, tiny dramas, or crying. And bonus if you are totally BFF with your volleyball teammate. Otherwise there is no way you’ll be able to set for her.

It’s a shame. I’ve always thought that Costas was so classy, and I am really proud of our female American athletes because truly, most of them do set an incredible example for girls. Dave at Organizing Grievances has a post about the ludicrousness of the hype around China’s anthem-singing boo-boo, and MaryAnne Johanson has a good find about the more overt cases of sexism. But sometimes subtle sexism is the most treacherous kind, because of the way it seeps in.


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