Casual sexism apparent at Olympics, Tulane Athletics

Robin Boch, Contributing Writer

This is an opinion article and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Tulane Hullabaloo.

In a country with a female presidential candidate and where women have won the majority of American medals for two consecutive Summer Olympic Games, it is shocking that much of the media coverage regarding female athletes who competed in the 2016 Games is overtly sexist.

Media pundits focused more on men than women, failed to give women credit for their achievements and compared them to men. Tulane’s own female athletes experience similar sexist treatment. Men’s less successful teams continuously overshadow successful women’s athletic programs on campus, gaining more support and bigger audiences. Both in the Summer Olympics and regarding athletics at Tulane, society generally views female athletes as less athletic and strong than their male counterparts, resulting in a lack of hard-earned recognition and attention.

The first major sexist coverage occurred just one day after the opening ceremony. Corey Cogdell-Unrein won her second bronze medal in women’s trap shooting, though she received little acclaim for her victory. 

“Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics,” the Chicago Tribune tweeted, not even stating her name.

Similarly, when swimmer Katinka Hosszu broke a world record in the 400-meter individual medley, NBC announcers attributed her success to her husband, who is also her coach. Even when women have proven their athletic capabilities, the media continues to accredit men for their accomplishments.

Possibly the most notable interview with tennis star and now two-time Olympic medalist Andy Murray occurred on Aug. 15. 

“You’re the first person ever to win two Olympic gold tennis medals,” BBC reporter John Inverdale said to Murray. This claim would have been valid had Inverdale restricted his statement to men. Instead, however, he ignored the fact that famous female tennis players Venus and Serena Williams are also people.

“I think Venus and Serena have won about four each,” Murray said.

A number of sexist comments have actually come not only from the media, but also from male athletes. Swimmer Ryan Lochte exemplified this when interviewed by Sports Illustrated about Katie Ledecky.

“She swims like a guy,” Lochte said. “Her stroke, her mentality. She’s so strong in the water.”

Lochte’s statements seems to allude to a belief that it is so abnormal that a female athlete could be as strong and successful as a male athlete, much less stronger.

These instances represent just a few of the many sexist occurrences throughout the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games this summer. Some may argue, however, that this is one of the most respectful stages for female athletes. The media, fellow athletes and the public are actually much more sexist during other less popular athletic competitions.

The scope of the Olympic Games simply highlights sexism more because it gets more media attention.

Though this may be true, this is no excuse for anyone to imply that female Olympic medalists are not “real” athletes. They are just as competitive, skilled and valid as male athletes, and they deserve the same acclaim for their athleticism.

Sexist media attention only perpetuates modern gender stereotypes and encourages sexism among the general public. Members of the Tulane community have consistently overlooked one of the school’s most successful athletic programs, the women’s basketball team.

At Tulane, it is no secret that women’s athletic teams are much less popular than men’s. The women’s basketball team, however, has made it to March Madness twice in recent years while the men’s haven’t since 1993. Ironically, the men’s games regularly have a much higher attendance and are talked about more. Sadly, our community follows a global trend by discounting these more successful teams because the athletes are women.

Sexism is a relevant problem in today’s society. Though it is not surprising, it is disappointing to see that even some of the most respected Olympians and college athletes have to deal with it. Title IX, a federal law that prevents gender-based discrimination in institutions of education, has supposedly given women equal opportunity to train and compete in athletics.

Until our society views female athletes as just as strong and capable as male athletes, there will be nothing fair and equal about media coverage and the public’s general perception of these athletes.

Robin is a freshman at Newcomb-Tulane College. She can be reached at [email protected]

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