Rio 2016: Olympian Level Of Sexism

Women in sport have never been far away from the Olympian level of sexism which follows them in their chosen industry. They are never allowed to forget that they are competing in a man’s world; in a man’s game.

The Olympics are no different.

From London 2012, athletes were criticised on the medal podium over their hair, and Boris Johnson reducing the volleyball teams to ‘semi-naked women, glistening like wet otters’.

Flash forward four years, and the hope of progress in the wake of the supposed new wave of feminism is palpable across social media, but sadly Rio 2016 has been no different. With multiple commentators across the board attempting to win the gold medal of misogyny.

Olympian Level Of Sexism: Wins Gold

The level of sexism crosses all boundaries in this games, stemming from commentators, athletes and the general public. Female Olympian athletes are facing a larger struggle than excelling in their chosen sport; facing the crippling sexism of the industry.

One of the most notorious, and frankly ridiculous examples, was when the Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu swam the 400-meter individual medley and smashed the world record – easily winning gold. Of course, NBC immediately owed credit to her coach – her husband. Once again women’s accomplishments are owed to their men, as they can’t be seen as successful at anything other than ‘shopping’ or being a mother.

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NBC refuse to quell their choking sexist behaviour to their country’s great female athletes. An unnamed commentator criticised the USA gymnastics team who were laughing and talking after winning easily in the qualifier, and saying they ‘might as well be standing in the middle of a mall’. Not a word of congratulations on their success as world class athletes in a competitive sport, but another sexist attempt to control women’s behaviour in spite of their success.

It was only last year that Serena Williams was questioned at her press conference after her U.S open win against her sister, Venus, why she wasn’t smiling. Although not at the Olympics, it shows the impossible standards athletes are expected to meet in how they present themselves as women full of humility and modesty, while training and competing strenuously.

And it’s not merely the press who perpetuate this level of sexism towards athletes. Ryan Lochte commenting on USA peer Katie Ledecky’s impressive swimming skills and prowess as ‘like a man’. As what else can be the strongest compliment for a woman? That you’re almost as good as the men – i.e the real athletes out here.

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However, thankfully there is some consciousness out there – with Andy Murray shutting down the sexism of BBC presenter John Inverdale. When asked how it feels to be the first person to ever win two Olympic tennis gold medals, he responded ‘Venus and Serena have won about four each’. Despite Murray’s golden response, this purely underlines how the whole industry surrounding sporting defines women’s accomplishments as being a ‘lite’ version of the real events of the men.

Women can’t escape the permanent male gaze, even when they are on a world stage to show their amazing determination and skill to reach this level of competition. Fox news anchors discussed whether or not female Olympians should be wearing make-up or not, as it detracts from the sports. With sports commentators proven to comment on women’s appearances twice as much as with men, the standards for women are much higher – and go outside the boundaries of their sport. With sometimes their sport being ignored entirely.

Such as the ever reputable news source The Daily Mail writing a piece on the best and worst fashion choices of the gymnast’s leotards. Managing to read almost as a parody piece by the Daily Mash than an actual news source, it discusses how the German’s uniform looked ‘more Rocky Horror than Rio’.

With these incredibly fit and athletic women still being subjected to body shaming tactics. We are all used to hearing the disgusting comments about swimmers and tennis players alike being shamed for looking like unfeminine ‘men’, but this year Mexico’s Alexa Moreno was taunted for being fat. Many from twitter criticised the 99lbs 4ft 11 gymnast (a healthy BMI of 21) removing her accomplishments and reminding her that she is there for her body and not her sport, jibing her with comments such as ‘pig’. Once again, ignoring her skill, and reminding her that the most important life skill is to remain desirable to men.

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Women are described as emotional in the face of men’s paralleled courage and strength. It doesn’t help that only 21% of sporting media is taken up by female commentators, but the indulgent level of sexism that is allowed to live and breed in the sporting world is unacceptable and toxic.

2016 shows the year with the highest ever rate of women athletes, making up 45% of all competing members. Yet there is a long way to go to eradicate this pressing issue to reach a level and equal playing field for all athletes.

It is instead Simone Biles’ commentary on her experience of sexism in the wake of her medal winning performance that I’ll end upon, rather than the endless streams of sporting sexism. In her comparison to the other (male) athletic greats, Biles said ‘I’m not the next Usain Bolt of Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.’

In the face of this archaic sexism, we need this unapologetic level of self-belief and confidence to trump the patronising words of the many. Before we have even come to the end of the 2016 Olympics, we can see sexism is very much alive.

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Why Police Nationwide Should See Misogyny as a Hate Crime

Misogyny Is A Hate Crime

Recently, Nottinghamshire Police recorded misogyny as a hate crime, and the reaction has of course been mixed.

The argument being, misogyny no longer exists and wolf whistling and catcalling doesn’t warrant calling the police when other more serious crimes may be occurring. With the woman who started the movement ironically getting misogynistic abuse online for highlighting the need to class this as a police issue.

This argument seems flawed from the outset, saying there is a limit to what can be classed as a crime or what can be labelled as a crime. Being splashed by a vehicle can be reported as a crime and is regularly thrown about as ‘common knowledge’, yet misogyny isn’t crime enough for some people?

Now we all know why, anyone can be splashed by a puddle by a moving car and see this as an inconvenience and unjust, but only women are on the receiving end of misogyny.

Men are socially trained to understand that the concept of catcalling and wolf-whistling is to express desire and appreciation of a women’s form, or is even in the more ridiculous arguments sake, being ‘friendly’ and saying ‘hi’.

But then why does this tend to mostly happen when men are in a group, or driving past in a car or while a woman is alone? Has anyone ever started a relationship, or even a friendly conversation that began with this form of interaction? I very much doubt it.

Street harassment is a representation of men intimidating women and reminding them that they own the rights to their bodies, and it is the embodiment of rape culture and patriarchy itself.

Street harassment takes many forms away from misogyny – with racist, transphobic and homophobic harassment very rightly being taken seriously as a police matter. So why is it that the specific oppression of women being harassed on the streets aren’t taken into account?

Because sexual interaction between men and women are too often defined by these very guidelines – from being grabbed in a club to being a victim of rape and expected to answer if you were drunk or wearing a short skirt. It’s ‘normal’ and men own women’s autonomy throughout society, because that’s how it is and that’s that.

It’s so ingrained into our society that some don’t see the problem with it, how else would you know someone likes you without being degraded and disrespected?

Other hate crimes seem to be mostly agreed as abhorrent in the more extreme cases, except for the very extreme and terrible offenders – but the clear, unashamed and very open harassment of women is seen as acceptable and not something that would often prompt another member of the public to turn round and say stop.

Now, I’m not suggesting here that harassment as a woman is at all worse than other hate crimes, but just that it is given equal gravitas as a police matter and throughout society.

Women, especially white heterosexual cis-gendered women, benefit in other parts of society from escaping intersectional oppression in various walks of life. However, this shouldn’t reduce the importance of highlighting misogyny as the hate crime it is, while working with other intertwined oppressed groups.

De juro change does not lead to de facto change, but it is a start of society accepting that misogyny is real and is a damaging element of today’s society. It is has not even reached police forces nationwide, and faced some public criticism but it’s a start.

If it reaches a point where in a group of men, one wolf-whistles a woman walking alone, and his friends shame him and berate him for it – this will be the most effective. As sadly, men won’t listen to women’s complaints, but will respect their peers.

Hopefully this is a step in the right direction, but the backlash to this police decision has dampened my hope on progression. Just as when reading a comment thread on any Daily Mail article, it makes me remember that a large portion of the population sadly just aren’t there yet.