Three olympian women compete in hurdles

#Rio2016: Competing While Female

Jamaica’s Elaine Thompson is the fastest woman in the world after winning the gold medal in the women’s 100-meter dash. Jemima Sumgong, of Kenya, dominated the women’s Olympic marathon when she earned the country its first gold in the race. U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky broke her personal record and won first place in the women’s 400-meter freestyle. And in the 100-meter freestyle, Simone Manuel became the first African-American female swimmer to take home a gold medal in an individual race.

Despite the unprecedented accomplishments of female athletes this year, there has been no shortage of sexism in Rio. The Chicago Tribune was rightly criticized for a tweet that described 3-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein as the “wife of a Bear’s lineman.” In the San Jose Mercury News, a headline that reported on gymnast Simone Biles’ uneven-bars performance read “Olympics: Micheal Phelps shared historic night with African-American.” One media outlet referred to Katie Ledecky as the “female Michael Phelps” after her win. And NBC explained away its tape delay by saying that more women than men watch the games, and thus, the majority of Olympics viewers are “not particularly sports fans.”

When discouraging women from being aggressive, competitive, and accomplished is status quo, it’s unbearable to watch some of strongest women have their successes devalued. More women are representing the U.S. than men this year in the Olympics, and more women are expected to take home medals.

As Mary Alice Crim, of Free Press, explains:

Our media system favors profits over people, and there are structural barriers that limit ownership opportunities for women and people of color. This also means that women and people of color are less likely to have access to the tools and formal training necessary to report stories, or to the capital needed to run and sustain media organizations. All of these barriers contribute to sexism in sports coverage.

This is true, and there has always been inadequate and discriminatory coverage of female athletes. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Reporters—no matter their gender, age, race, or sexual orientation—can start by simply highlighting the successes of women in sports without discussing their body, husband, or a male equivalent. It’s not that hard.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

Washington, D.C.

Lauren Kokum researches the intersection of religion and ethics with public policy at a think tank in Washington, D.C. She favors museums, slam poetry, and musings on race, gender, and human rights. | All opinions expressed here are her own.

Lauren Kokum favors museums, slam poetry, and musings on race, gender, religion, and human rights.

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