Sexism at the Olympics

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Earlier today, Slate reported on Fox News commentators sexist remarks aimed at female Olympians. Speaking on the program Sports Court, media personality Bo Dietl encouraged women to wear make-up during the medal ceremony as he likes “to see a person who wins that gold medal go up there and look beautiful.” For good measure, Dietl also chided a (hypothetical) make-up-free, medal-winning female athlete as being a “washed-out rag.”

Unfortunately, this type of sexism isn’t new, and it certainly isn’t unique to the Olympics. Last year, I reported on a study that found women’s sports as a whole “received a paltry 1.6% of the coverage on TV news, and an anemic 1.4% on ESPN’s SportsCenter.”

Though its been 40-plus years since the passage of Title IX—which prohibits sex discrimination in educational settings—women still face an uphill battle against stereotypical gender roles, as evidenced by this latest Fox News segment. One 2008 study on women athletes’ perceptions of femininity and sports found that they are forced to walk the thin line between societal expectations at large versus their own desired images and ideals. As Kate Wheeling reported:

The study found that the female college athletes interviewed chose to portray their own version of feminine ideals, when and how they saw fit, as opposed to endorsing pre-existing gender norms: For example, in day-to-day appearances, dressing up for class involved “cute sweats” or, at most, jeans. “Many of the athletes seemed to have created their own reality that allows them to view themselves as women who are also serious competitors,” the authors wrote.

The point being: Let the athletes worry about the sports.

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