How Olympic Coverage Has Been Unbelievably Sexist

Do you know what drives me more than anything? People telling me I can’t do something. People undermining my success or achievements for trivial reasons. Looking down on me, focusing on irrelevant factors. Those are the things that really get to me. These things only make me want to work harder, and prove those people wrong.

If this is how I feel about pursuing my passions, then I can only imagine how Olympic athletes feel about theirs. Not to mention the fact that their successes or failures are broadcasted for the entire world to see. Anyone in the limelight faces ridicule but to be in incredible shape, having worked for years to get where you are, performing some of the most physically demanding tasks imaginable and still face criticism for the most mundane, superficial reasons? Well, I can’t imagine that.

In the year 2016, at the games of the 31st Olympiad, we are still witnessing horribly sexist reporting. It frustrates me that nothing has changed. Apparently we still fail to hold our female athletes to the same standard as male athletes. Their successes are great, and reporters try their best to acknowledge that. But not without the constant comparison to male athletes, as if the achievements of female athletes aren’t enough to stand alone. USA swimmer Katie Ledecky has rarely had her name spoken in a sentence that didn’t involve a comparison to Michael Phelps. She is often described as his “female counterpart”. Which would be fine, if she was ever acknowledged separately. I guess winning four gold medals and breaking your own world record isn’t enough to have Phelps compared to you for a change. These athletes aren’t “the next (insert successful male athlete’s name here)”, they’re the current badass female.

And how about the constant superficial comments? I’d love to know how a gymnast’s pink leotard not complimenting her skin tone is at all relevant to the incredible skill she is performing. I’d also like to be enlightened as to why the discussion of makeup on female athletes is necessary. Especially by male announcers. I think most of us were pretty shocked when the six minute debate between Bo Dietl and Mark Simone aired. The debate in which Bo Dietl literally says:

“When you see an athlete, why should you have to look at A chick’s zits, or some guy’s zits on his face? Why not a little blush on her lips, and cover those zits!”

I mean, at least he insulted both genders, right? The female host who questioned them continuously pulled up empowering quotes from the athletes who do wear makeup, to which the men had no valuable or non-offensive comments to contribute. They also threw in some casual objectifying of the host. Nice.

The fact that this is what’s being focused on instead of skill baffles me beyond belief. Who cares what an athlete looks like? The only time makeup on athletes should be talked about is to comment on how awesome they look. The athletes who want to wear makeup can wear makeup. The athletes who don’t, shouldn’t have to. It’s as simple as that. How is this an Olympic-related issue?

Maybe it’s naive of me to think that these games can ever exist without the repetitive objectification and lack of credit to female athletes. Maybe this is the way things have always been, and will continue to be. All I know is that we can’t continue to have such great progress with the same sort of injustices in our everyday lives, only to forget about them when it comes to events such as the Olympics. Is it because discussing attractive, physically fit and capable individuals causes us to act differently? What is it about athletes that makes any sort of commentator report as if they can’t separate sexuality from skill? The emphasis and credit should obviously be placed on capability over anything else, but no Olympic reporter really needed me to tell them that.

Featured image via “London 2012 Olympic Games” by amsr_photography / CC BY 2.0


  1. What an idiot! You are the only one looking to make a sexist issue out of it. I’m sure Ledecky is honored to be mentioned in the same sentence as Phelps and his 23 (count them) Gold medals. As far as being called “a female phelps”…well she is a great swimmer and she is a female. To be compared to the greatest swimmer in the history of the planet?
    I’m sure she is proud!


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