Sexism in the Olympics

by Amelia Curtis


The Olympics have been around for nearly 2000 years, originating from the ancient Greeks and their sport competitions. Despite how long it has been around, women have only been allowed to compete in the Olympics since the 1900s. Ever since then, sexism towards female athletes has been a constant issue. This year alone, there have been many instances where sexism has been displayed. Quite a few news channels and their social media accounts (such as the Chicago Tribune, NBC commentators, FOX news, and many more) have not given women in the Olympics the appreciation they deserve. This was blatantly displayed when the Chicago Tribune referred to bronze-winning Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein as nothing more than “a NFL player’s wife.”

Swimmer Katinka Hosszú beat the 400-meter medley world record by 2 whole seconds, but a sportscaster named Bill Hicks still found a way to credit someone other than Hosszú herself. With the cameras on Hosszú’s husband and coach, the NBC commentator said, “There's the guy responsible for turning Katinka Hosszú... into a whole different swimmer.” Despite the comment being completely unnecessary, people (primarily men) take away the importance of truly magnificent talents of female Olympians.

Women have always been compared to men in the Olympics. When a news anchor observed that Simone Biles, the outstanding 19-year old Olympic gymnast, he stated she “might even go higher than some of the men.” Despite the fact that Biles currently holds four gold medals and one bronze medal in gymnastics, the reporter had to compare her to the male gymnasts instead of appreciating her individual exceptional talent. Biles is also often referred to as “the Michael Jordan of gymnastics” or “the next Michael Phelps,” alluding to her growing popularity because of her outstanding performances. The gymnast herself commented, “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”

Male reporters from all stations discuss the men’s competitions, but plenty still call women ‘girls’, ignoring the fact that most of the female Olympians are grown adults. Sometimes the women are completely ignored or forgotten. Mercury News tweeted a both racist and sexist update about Olympian Simone Manuel, saying, “Michael Phelps shares historic night with African-American,” deciding to completely leave out her name. Even having won two gold and two silver medals in the Olympics already, the amazing swimmer was still not considered important enough to name. Later, Mercury News deleted the tweet and edited their headline to acknowledge the achievements of both swimmers, saying they realized the original headline was “insensitive.”

When Andy Murray won his second gold medal in one of the men’s tennis tournaments, he was praised for being the “first person ever to win two Olympic tennis gold medals.” However, Murray -- who has defended women in the past, including his own coach -- jumped to correct the newscaster who commented this. “I think Venus and Serena [Williams] have won about four each,” he told the man.

Unfortunately, these are only some examples of the sexist actions and comments that happen each year. They show that although women now share the stage of the Olympics, their spotlight is still greatly shadowed by gender bias, something that will --seeing how long sexism like this has existed-- most likely not change anytime soon unless we, as a generation, choose to change it.