Sexism in sports coverage

Column by Sarah Combs, Assistant Sports Editor

With the Rio Olympic games wrapping up on Aug. 21, everyone was talking about USA’s overall domination with a record breaking 121 total medals, 46 of those being gold. Applaud the work but give ‘em the ole 1-2. There’s no doubt those athletes worked day in and day out for many years to get to the biggest stage in all of sports. But, as the American flag was raised above our talented athletes, the media’s degrading, sexist coverage seeped into the games, undermining women before they even stepped off the podium.

The mass media coverage of the Olympic games didn’t waste any time setting the sexist tempo. NBC offered an explanation as to why the opening ceremonies weren’t live streamed. scored an interview with NBC and got a peek at the method to their madness.

“The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans,” the article said. “More women watch the games than men and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one.”

My translation, more women watch the games than men and because of that, they were providing commentary doused in presumptuous ideas of what women are interested in. They took it upon themselves to filter the content because apparently women just don’t actually like sports. Did anyone tell them that Mel Gibson already learned the hard way in “What Women Want” that assuming what goes on in a woman’s head is a bad idea?

And let’s not leave out the media’s obvious male bias in their headlines. One headline that particularly ruffled feathers was by the Associated Press. The headline read, “Phelps ties for silver in 100 fly,” and in a smaller font with a bluntly inferior typeface, “Ledecky sets world record in women’s 800 freestyle.” Journalistic principles are to report information in a fair and just manner. Someone must have confused the athletes gender as a dominating portion of that article, even though the accomplishment was subordinate. Since when did silver beat gold? On top of that, is a world record somehow subpar to a tie for a silver medal? Or, could it really, truly, honestly be a shining example of a woman’s accomplishments being secondary to a man’s? I think we know the answer.

I am man, hear me roar; even though this woman can roar louder and longer than I can.

The twittersphere quickly fired back to one headline in particular from the Chicago Tribune “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics” it was referred to as a “sexist mess” by fellow tweeters and hilariously reworded. Twitter acted as their own copy editing desk, spilling out an unforgettable response: “You spelled ‘3-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein wins second bronze medal today in Rio Olympics’ wrong.”

The overall media (whether oblivious or simply neglectful) can say that women are being sensitive or that women are trying to start a biased movement of feminism. In reality, I am part of the media. I am the media and the media is me. However, I am also responsible for using a platform to convey my thoughts and expose an injustice. Simply, women want the same respect that their fellow male athlete receives. It’s an issue that needs to be talked about. It’s not a bandwagon media ploy for attention. Until you make an appearance at the Olympic games, compete in a competitive manner among zealous athletes and do all of that while receiving sexist coverage with unattainable expectations and never ending physical criticisms, give female athletes the respect they have earned.

It’s time to make a change. The media prides itself on being an unbiased coverage source, but in reality there’s nothing unbiased about male dominance in the 2016 Rio Olympics coverage. Women have been fighting for their equality in the language of sports long enough, it’s time to remove the blindfold and report on a female athlete’s ability rather than her gender.