Olympic-sized inequality

Columnist Amira Dabbas

Columnist Amira Dabbas

Stanford swimmer Katie Ledecky won three gold medals in the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but who cares? What we really want to know is how she keeps her nail polish from chipping. 

Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú won a gold medal in the 400-meter individual medley and broke a world record. Clearly that accomplishment wasn’t possible without the help of her husband, who also happens to be her coach.

Sexism towards women is nothing new to the Olympics, but it’s 2016 and something needs to change. 

We now have a woman running to be president of the United States, so why is it so hard to have a fair representation of women in a sports tradition that is supposed to honor all athletes equally? 

When our first instinct watching the Olympics is to belittle a woman’s accomplishments by comparing them to a man, something is very wrong.

American women won 27 of the 46 American gold medals at this year’s Olympics. According to the Torch, NPR’s Olympic coverage, if the United States were divided into two countries, men one country and women the other, those 27 gold medals would tie them with Britain for most golds from any country.

Before the start of the games, data from the International Olympic Committee showed the 2016 Olympics would have more women competitors than any other year in history. This only seemed to result in an increase in remarks and subtle slander that degraded women and their skills.

 Michael Phelps made a bigger headline with a tie for silver during a 100-meter fly than Katie Ledecky did for her world record. Nancy Leong, a professor at the University of Denver Law, has been famously quoted for her tweet about the headline, “This headline is basically a metaphor for the entire world.” 

This needs to be our wakeup call. It’s time to step back and think a little harder about the way we represent women in the media and why we keep making these same mistakes.

Majlinda Kelmendi won gold in the martial arts sport, Judo, becoming Kosovo’s first ever medalist. However BBC Sport’s commentator was quick to call her battle against Italy’s Odette Giuffrid a “catfight.”

Why do these comments come so natural? It’s as if they’re so deeply ingrained into the subconscious of our society that a word such as “catfight” is the first thing to come to mind during a martial arts battle with two women.

Some athletes seem to recognize this pattern and are speaking out against it. BBC presenter John Inverdale said to Andy Murray, “You’re the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis gold medals, that’s an extraordinary feat, isn’t it?” 

Murray replied, ”Well to defend the singles title, I think Venus and Serena have won about four each … it’s obviously not an easy thing to do, and I had to fight unbelievably hard to get it tonight as well.”

The world is just sitting back and letting this happen. It’s so important that we change this dialogue surrounding women and the Olympics instead of just ignoring how uncomfortable these comments makes us. 

Everyone must be recognized by their skill set. Not by their gender, what they are wearing or their relationship status. They are Olympians for a reason and nothing should ever take away from that. 

Let’s just hope that by the time 2018 rolls around we’ll see more equality and less gender bias in the winter games.