Casual Discrimination in Olympics Coverage Is the Worst

RIO DE JANEIRO - AUGUST 12:  (R-L) Simone Manuel of the United States, Cate Campbell of Australia and Francesca Halsall of Great Britain compete in the Women's 50m Freestyle heat on Day 7 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Olympic Aquatics Stadium on August 12, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Adam Pretty/Getty Images)
Female Olympic athletes like Simone Manuel (right) continue to suffer casual racism and sexism. (Image: Adam Pretty/Getty Images Sport/Getty Images)

The internet is clapping back at media outlets, commentators and tweeters alike for their casual yet atrocious discrimination of female Olympians this summer. And it’s no wonder: New research shows that men are almost three times as likely to be mentioned in relation to sports as women. What’s more, when women are mentioned, it is often in association with words like “aged,” “older,” “pregnant,” “married” and “unmarried.”

But this is 2016, and people are doing something about it.

The Twittersphere recently slammed NBC commentators for referring to Olympic female athletes as “girls” instead of “women.” NBC is joined in the hot seat by the official Australian Olympic Team’s Twitter, which used the patronizing term on multiple occasions. And the bill doesn’t stop there.

Below are some female Olympians who won’t be stifled by casual discrimination.

Katinka Hosszu

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu demolished the world record by nearly two seconds in the 400-meter individual medley early on in the games. When NBC later telecasted the event, sportscaster Dan Hicks attributed her win to her husband and coach Shane Tusup, naming him “the man responsible.”

Viewers took to Twitter to call Hicks out, shouting in all caps and gesturing with emojis. Hicks responded with a “sorry, not sorry” by saying: “It is impossible to tell Katinka’s story accurately without giving appropriate credit to Shane, and that’s what I was trying to do.”

Making Hicks “the man responsible” for an incident of casual sexism.

Simone Manuel

Some female Olympians face an additional competitor: intersectional discrimination — or the kind of discrimination that affects people who have intersecting identities, such as female and African-American.

Olympic swimmer Simone Manuel has won two gold and two silver medals in this year’s Olympics. She recently made history by winning the 100-meter freestyle, becoming the first African-American woman to win an individual Olympic gold medal in swimming.

Though it may seem as though her accomplishments warrant name recognition, The San Jose Mercury News thought otherwise when they published an article with the headline “Olympics: Michael Phelps Shares Historic Night With African-American” — a headline which has even more problems than just its casual racism.

After a wave of criticism, the newspaper apologized and edited the headline to include Manuel’s name. And although the editor responsible for publishing that travesty didn’t seem to get her importance in history, at least the Olympian does:

“This medal is not just for me,” Manuel said in the story. “It’s for a whole bunch of people that came before me and have been an inspiration to me. It’s for all the people after me, who believe they can’t do it. And I just want to be inspiration to others that you can do it.”

Corey Cogdell-Unrein

Corey Cogdell-Unrein seized her second Olympic bronze in women’s trap shooting in a nail-biting tiebreaker on August 7. To congratulate her, the Chicago Tribune tweeted, “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.” The Twitterverse reacted aversely to the media outlet’s complete erasure of Cogdell-Unrein. User Erin Ruberry, for one, suggested that the tweet had a major typo: “I think you spelled ‘Three-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein wins her second bronze medal’ wrong.”

The Tribune later apologized, citing its intention to make the story relevant to Chicago readers: “[Corey Cogdell-Unrein is] awesome on her own. We focused too hard on trying to emphasize the local connection Cogdell-Unrein has to Chicago.”

If you’re feeling skeptical about their apology, read this article of theirs, which might be more aptly titled, “Bears lineman Mitch Unrein trains for season, has a wife.”

He Zi

Chinese diver He Zi earned a silver medal in the women’s three-meter springboard on August 14, though it is safe to say that her massive achievement was hijacked by the arguably more banal “achievement” of being publicly proposed to by her boyfriend and fellow Olympian, Qin Kai.

While many were smitten with Qin’s romantic offer to take the plunge, others are calling it sexist and saying that he stole the spotlight. And they could be right: The first Google suggestion — which indicates the current most popular search — when inputting “Chinese Olympic” after her medal ceremony was “Chinese Olympic Proposal.”

Shawn Johnson’s (Sponsored) Crusade

Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson has been speaking up about the media’s excessive and disproportionate need to critique female gymnasts’ bodies. She describes being constantly compared to USA gymnast Nastia Liukin.

“We were always told that if we were like the other, we’d be stronger, but it doesn’t work that way,” Johnson tells Huffington Post. “And I remember always hearing that I had to be taller and leaner and more flexible, and a lot of that was impossible. I obviously can’t be taller. It was always in the back of my mind.”

Johnson’s stance is linked to Dove’s #MyBeautyMySay campaign, evidence that, in today’s environment, corporate America is even willing to pay to counter all that awfulness.

What Do YOU Think?

Did you think any of these cringe-worthy moments were casual discrimination when they first happened? What do you think of the social-media uproar? To what extent should comedians practice discretion in order to avoid offending groups of people? Care to share a story about casual discrimination you or a friend might have experienced at the gym or during a sporting event? Tell us in the comments!


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