Sexism in the 2016 Olympics

The commentary of the 2016 Olympics has been a cesspit for sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism. Nearly every day since the games started, it feels as though there is another person who has made an offensive comment about the female athletes, proving that institutional sexism is still a dominant force in sport.

During the artistic gymnastics events broadcast on NBC, Simone Biles was routinely compared to male gymnasts, and the most talented US women's team reduced to comments like "they might as well be standing in the middle of a mall." The same channel were also responsible for crediting swimmer Katinka Hosszú's husband for her success after she won a gold medal.

The Chicago Tribune also created a shit storm after they tweeted this headline:

UK Feminist zine Parallel Magazine - Sexism in 2016 Olympics Rio

Time and time again women are referred to as only existing through their relationships with men, and not as individuals, and this one of the worst examples ever.

Over on Fox News, two male commentators decided to take it upon themselves to discuss the use of makeup during the women’s gymnastics, as though that's what's important and as though their opinions matter anyway.

It’s no surprise that people are getting incredibly tired of this,  and it is now getting to the point where a man achieving silver is more important than a woman winning gold AND breaking a world record in the swimming events.

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These examples may be from over the pond, and we might like to think that the British media isn’t that bad. But we’d be wrong.

BBC presenter Helen Skelton has been on the receiving end of a lot of sexist abuse; first for wearing a dress that was too short, and then for wearing a dress that showed too much shoulder.

UK Feminist zine Parallel Magazine - Sexism in 2016 Olympics Rio

Never mind the fact that she is a grown woman who can dress herself, or that she is simply wearing a dress in a hot country, what’s even more ridiculous is that her co-host, Mark Foster, was showing just as much leg as she was! This blatant objectification should have no place in 2016, and yet a woman wearing a dress in a hot country has been one of the biggest stories to come out of the games.

Sticking with the theme of policing women's bodies, BBC Africa referred to the Egypt VS Germany volleyball match as “bikini v Burka”. Despite the fact that nobody was wearing a burka, the match, and particularly the image below, caused controversy in the media as to what clothing is and isn't repressive for women.

UK Feminist zine Parallel Magazine - Sexism in 2016 Olympics Rio

How about a vision where men don't decide what women wear, hey?

The BBC also decided that diving silver medalist, He Zi, got “an even bigger prize” after her boyfriend proposed to her at the games. You know, because the biggest prize for a woman is always marriage.

And finally, perhaps one of the most blatant instances of misogyny so far at the games was when John Inverdale congratulated Andy Murray on being the first person ever to win two gold medals in tennis, seemingly forgetting that Serena and Venus Williams exist and have four gold medals each. Murray did correct him in the interview, and has been lauded with praise for it.

So when Simone Biles iconically declared 'I am not the next Michael Phelps. I am not the next Usain Bolt. I am the first Simone Biles’, what we should really be considering is why women feel they have to say things like this in the first place. The fact that women are still not being credited for our achievements, on our own terms, with our own names, speaks volumes on how prevalent institutional sexism in sport, and how far we still have to go.

Words by Amy Walker