Women face sexism even in Olympic games
The 2016 Rio Olympics have certainly been notable for Americans, especially American women. From Simone Manuel becoming the first African American to win gold in an Olympic swimming event to Michelle Carter becoming the first American woman to win the shot put event, women came to Rio not just to win, but to make history. Despite all the success of women in the Olympics, sexism continues to rear its ugly head.
Katie Ledecky has become a household name since she first stepped into the aquatic arena in Rio. Not only has she won gold medals, she has broken records and started to celebrate her victories long before her competitors have even reached the wall. There’s no doubt that she’s probably one of the fastest women in the water, but fellow Olympian Connor Drywer confessed that male swimmers have been pulled out of training because Ledecky beat them. The exact term he used to describe men she had beat was “broken.” He even spoke about how much being beat by her ruined the morale of the men on the team to the point where they couldn’t even finish practice.
As athletes, they’re sure to experience loss, and that the men on the U.S. Olympic swimming team do not necessarily want her to fail. It just seems like they don’t want her to succeed more than they do. It’s okay to be the best in the world, as long as you’re only the best woman in the world. Sports as a whole so often diminishes the accomplishments of female athletes to feed men’s egos. Ledecky once again got the short end of the stick when the sports section of The Eagle, a newspaper in Bryan-College Station, TX, made Ledecky’s record breaking 800 meter freestyle win the subheader to Michael Phelps’ threeway tie for silver. While Ledecky’s accomplishment was objectively more successful, she had to ride on the coattails of Phelps’ success to make a headline.
I wouldn’t even say this is the fault of the newspaper. Men in certain sports tend to gain more attention than women due to exposure. I bet we’re all guilty of being able to name way more NBA players than we can WNBA players. This is not to say that female athletes don’t get exposure, but when it does happen, there always seems to be more to scrutinize. Most people have noticed that Gabby Douglas does not appear to be as enthusiastic as she was in London in 2012. There could be several reasons for this such as the fact that she isn’t sixteen and a first time Olympian anymore or maybe she wasn’t personally satisfied with her performance. Whatever the reason may be, it isn’t really anyone’s business what’s going on in her personal life. She’s an athlete, not a reality TV star. However the headlines slammed her as being an unsupportive and jealous team member. I’ve yet to read a headline about Ryan Lochte being jealous of Michael Phelps and they’ve been competing with each other since 2003. It seems though that if you’re a woman and you aren’t smiling the entire time your teammate is competing, it must be because of jealousy.
It also seems like women have a much harder time being able to take credit for the things they've achieved. Katinka Hosszu is a Hungarian swimmer whose husband is also her coach. After breaking the world record for 400-meter individual medley, NBC announcer Dan Hicks credited her husband as being responsible for her record-breaking victory. While I’m sure Hosszu’s husband’s training did have an impact on her swimming, he is in no way responsible. She was the one in the pool. Coaches can only do so much, a large part of an athlete’s success is their dedication and willingness to put in time to their sport. His coaching helped her, but her dedication and talent is what got the job done.
This type of unfair treatment extends beyond the Olympic arena. Even at the college level, male sports teams often get more attention than their female counterparts. Think about March Madness — there is not really an equivalent for female college basketball. Although the sports culture at Carnegie Mellon is hardly comparable to that of a Division I university, it’s important to remember that our female athletes train just as hard as our male athletes. Sportsmanship is such an important quality and just because a man gets beat by a woman doesn’t mean he is bad at the sport, it just means that a woman is better than him at the sport. The Olympics is supposed to be about sportsmanship and coming together more than anything, but if some male athletes can’t even finish a race after being beat by a woman, I’m not entirely certain that’s who I want representing my country.