Olympics: Isn't It Time To Get Rid Of Sexism In Sports Reviews

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Olympics: Isn't It Time To Get Rid Of Sexism In Sports Reviews
Olympics: Isn't It Time To Get Rid Of Sexism In Sports Reviews

Video: Olympics: Isn't It Time To Get Rid Of Sexism In Sports Reviews

Video: Sexist coverage steals the show at 2016 Olympics 2022, November

Alexandra Savina

“To make it easier for you to decide which broadcasts should not be missed in no case, we will introduce you to the sexiest athletes from different countries. Even if their sporting achievements do not amaze the world, it is still a pleasure to look at these girls,”reads the text on the website of Maxim magazine, whose editorial staff launched the“Sexiest Athletes”column for the Summer Olympics. On the Championship website you can find, for example, “Beauty of the Day” - a selection of photos of athletes, and on Sports.ru, one of the most popular Russian-language sports resources, - the “Girl of the Day” blog and the test “Guess the sport by the girl's bottom” …


The debate about sexism and discrimination in sports has been going on for many years, but during the Rio Olympics, it entered a new round. Although women were allowed to participate in the Olympics as early as 1900, and all sports that are included in the program of the Olympic Games must now also include women's competitions, many sports are still traditionally considered a "male" sphere. Sports broadcasts and reviews continue to rely on a male audience (remember how many times during the breaks of match broadcasts you can see advertisements for potency enhancers) and build according to the old canons. But the broadcasts of the Olympics attract the attention of a wide audience, including those who are indifferent to sports the rest of the time - and more and more often cause waves of indignation. The situation in the world is changing, and the usual manner of commenting on sports matches in 2016 seems sexist and inappropriate and raises more and more questions: The Guardian publishes a guide on how to comment on women's competitions and not look like an archaic asshole, but based on comments in sports broadcasts and the media make up sexist bingo, a game we all lose.

Very often, in broadcasts of women's competitions, attention is paid not only to the achievements and successes of athletes, but also to their appearance and attractiveness (try to remember the last time you heard a runner or swimmer called "handsome" or "adorable"?). The habit of evaluating women by their appearance, even where it does not play any role, is sometimes supported by women themselves. A striking example is the situation with the gymnast Simone Biles, who won four gold medals at the Olympics and became a real sensation of the games. At the Russian Match TV, the competition with her participation was commented on by the two-time Olympic champion Lidia Ivanova, known for her memorable commenting style: she always openly and sincerely empathizes with Russian athletes, so sometimes one gets the impression that she is “ill against” other teams. During the broadcasts, Ivanova says that American athletes have disproportionate figures, against the background of which slender Russian gymnasts stand out, that Biles has a clubfoot and does not smile enough - however, later making a reservation about the high professionalism of an athlete who performs a difficult program almost perfectly.

It seems that the only sport where commentators do not focus on the appearance of athletes is fencing

The athlete's body is the tool with which he achieves success. How he looks is largely determined by the sport he is involved in: this, for example, draws attention to the editors of ESPN magazine, which issues an annual issue of "The Body Issue". Famous athletes are filmed for him naked or half-naked - thus the editorial staff shows how different the bodies of people who achieve success in sports are. But athletes are still often faced with body shaming because their bodies do not fit into the stereotypical notions of beauty.Michelle Carter, a gold medal athlete in shot put, says that women are often afraid to play the sport because they don't think it is feminine enough, and her parents and coaches often ask her to talk to young girls to convince them to be strong and muscular is normal. Athletes involved in other sports also feel insecure because of their appearance: for example, in 2013, swimmer Rebecca Edlington, who participated in a reality show, refused to wear a swimsuit in the presence of the winner of a beauty contest.

The prevailing culture of sports commenting only worsens the situation: for example, in the broadcast of athletics competitions on Match TV, commentators, speaking about the athletes participating in the race, note that their manicure is combined with the color of the uniform, and allow themselves statements like: “Nobody, excuse me, chuvyrloi does not go to the distance."

A recent study by Cambridge University Press found that sports journalists and commentators are more likely to talk about their appearance, clothing and personal life when talking about women participating in the Olympics. Among the words that most often describe athletes: "age", "pregnant", "married" or "not married". Men are often spoken of with the words "fastest", "strongest", "big" and "great". It seems that the only sport where commentators do not focus on the appearance of athletes is fencing, and then only because women perform in a completely closed form.


The idea that a woman playing sports should first of all be beautiful and pleasing to the eye and only then show excellent results is fueled by some sports rules and traditions: gymnasts, for example, always perform in swimsuits and with bright stage make-up, and in women play beach volleyball in a much more open form than men. According to the rules established by the International Volleyball Federation, volleyball players are much more free in choosing their form: they can compete in separate or one-piece swimsuits, as well as in T-shirts and shorts or long-sleeved tops and leggings - while men are required to wear a T-shirt and shorts. But the opportunity to choose a uniform appeared for volleyball players only in 2012 and is primarily due to the fact that athletes were allowed to dress more modestly - before that, sports bikinis were mandatory for everyone.

A long tradition, which is not so easy to get rid of, generates a corresponding style of broadcasting, thanks to which, for example, a selection of the sexiest moments of the competition appears. It is not surprising that women's beach volleyball is perceived by a wide audience not as a sport, but as an entertaining semi-erotic show, as Alexei Belyakov, editor-in-chief of Allure writes, for example, in his column: “I am sure that the spectators were all men. Because it's wildly sexy: girls in swimsuits are jumping, strong asses are sparkling, a sight for sore eyes. And normal girls: not pitching like swimmers, not withered like runners. Let this one species remain in the Olympic program. I'll turn on the TV myself for the sake of these devils."

The appearance of male athletes is also discussed (remember at least another sensation of the Olympic Games this year - Pitu Taufatofua, who carried the Tongan flag at the opening ceremony), but much less often. And although on the Internet you can find listings like "36 penises deserving a gold medal" or "Guide to the objectification of the Olympians", it is difficult to imagine that these materials will not contain a whole portrait of an athlete, but only part of it - groin or butt, as in the Sports test.ru. “Men know that they have already achieved success as athletes. In addition, in our society, men are rarely valued for looks alone,”writes Michael Kimmel, director of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinity at State University of New York at Stony Brook.- So I was not surprised when the men's part of the American gymnastics team asked to be objectified - because they know that this is how fame and, as a result, money comes. And unlike women, men do not need to constantly prove that they are worth something."

Often claims to athletes who show outstanding results are based on the fact that they are not feminine enough

Beauty standards put pressure on men, although in their case it is not a specific type of figure that is condemned (triathletes will not be told that they are too thin), but rather insufficient "sportiness". This happened, for example, with the Ethiopian swimmer Robel Kyros Habte, who took the last place in the competition. He was dubbed "a swimmer with a big belly" - but, despite his "unsportsmanlike" figure, Habte is praised for his athletic spirit and desire to participate in competitions at all costs.

In addition, male athletes are condemned for paying "excessive" attention to their appearance: it is believed that a "serious" athlete has no right to monitor and take care of himself and must devote all the time to training. Alex Ferguson, the former Manchester United coach, for example, criticized athletes whose hairstyles did not seem serious enough to play football - and, as David Beckham later admitted, he somehow made the athlete shave a mohawk before the match.

No less often than the appearance of athletes, their age is discussed. A logical explanation can be found for this: in many sports, careers end early enough, and athletes who manage to continue to perform successfully are always admired. But the age of men and women is discussed in different ways: if the 41-year-old gymnast Oksana Chusovitina, performing at the Olympics for the seventh time, is called a "grandmother", then Dmitry Sautin is considered simply an "age" athlete, and in the case of Ole Einar Bjoerndalen they say respectfully about the "veteran" age.

Another problem of the culture of sports broadcasts both in Russia and in the world is that the successes of athletes are viewed through the prism of men's sports: Kommersant notes that Russian gymnasts performed “like a man” (that is, like the male part of the team, they took team silver), NBC commentators recently said about Simone Biles that she spins on the uneven bars "taller than some men," and 19-year-old swimmer Katie Ledecky has been called "the female version of Michael Phelps."


Simply put, women's sports are perceived as a weaker version of men's sports. At the same time, sports achievements cannot be the main ones for a woman - for example, telling how the two-time Olympic champion Qin Kai made the diving he Tzu an offer on the Olympic podium, Sports.ru stipulate that "silver was not the main award for He Tzu."

In this paradigm, a woman can achieve success in sports, but they will always be lower than men, or, in extreme cases, equal to them - otherwise she will be a "man in a skirt." And often claims to athletes who show outstanding results are based on the fact that they are not feminine enough.

Very often commentators and sports journalists, albeit unintentionally, emphasize that the athlete is not able to achieve success on her own: NBC commentator Dan Hicks, for example, speaking about the swim of Hungarian Katinka Hossu, who won gold and set a new world record, said: the person responsible for the victory,”when the camera showed Shane Tusup, her husband and her coach, although he later apologized. A patronizing and condescending attitude towards women in sports is characteristic of journalists in various countries: the other day in Italy, the editor-in-chief of the Quotidiano Sportivo publication Giuseppe Tassi was fired; The reason was the headline "Fatties Trio Misses the Olympic Miracle" about Italian archers who finished fourth in the team competition.And when Dutch cyclist Annemieck van Fleuten tweeted about the injuries she suffered after the accident, the stranger did not find anything better than explaining how to ride a bike: “The first lesson in cycling: your bike must be steady … no matter how fast you go ".

Change will not come overnight, but a start has already been made. In order to defeat sexism in the sports field, you need to notice its manifestations - and speaking of athletes, discuss their achievements, and not appearance, age, marital status and what male athlete she can be compared to.

Photos: Getty Images, Mikhail Vorotnikov - stock.adobe.com, José 16 - stock.adobe.com

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