It’s 2016 and apparently this still needs to be said: When women Olympians win medals, they deserve the credit. The Rio Olympic Games began on Friday night, and in the subsequent 48 hours, people (specifically certain members of the media) couldn’t resist attributing the successes of female athletes to their husbands and/or male coaches, and their ability to emulate men writ large.
When three-time Olympian trapshooter Corey Cogdell won her second bronze medal, the Chicago Tribune couldn’t even be bothered to use her name, instead focusing on the fact that she’s married to Chicago Bears lineman Mitch Unrein:
And when American swimmer Katie Ledecky crushed HER OWN world record in the 400-meter freestyle, beating out her closest competitor by almost 5 seconds, NBC’s commentator had to clarify that no, she does not “swim like a man.”
“She swims like Katie Ledecky for crying out loud,” Rowdy Gaines emphatically said after the 19-year-old swimmer finished her record-breaking race.
Because athletics and physical prowess in general have historically been coded male, women athletes are often spoken about as anomalies ― if they are spoken about at all. (After all, the Olympics is one of the few times women athletes actually get significant media attention.)
To frame women Olympians’ skills and achievements in relation to men is a way of making those achievements more socially acceptable. Their physical achievements push the boundaries of what we are comfortable seeing women’s bodies do. To watch a female Olympian compete is to see the unbelievable power a woman’s body can possess. They are smashing and vaulting and propelling and flying and shooting. So we give credit to the men in their lives and respective sports.
Gymnastics prodigy Simone Biles becomes “the Kobe Bryant of gymnastics,” Katie Ledecky must be manly, and Katinka Hosszu’s husband is the real reason she is smashing records.
It is heartening to see women at the Olympics getting airtime, and being celebrated for their seemingly superhuman abilities. But let’s allow those achievements to be their own. When these women win medals and break records, they are the ones who deserve the credit.
For more Olympics coverage:
- The Media Is Saying And Doing A Bunch Of Sexist Stuff During The Olympics
- 50 Photos That Show The Raw Power Of This Year’s Olympic Women
- Here’s The Real Reason We Love Watching Olympic Gymnastics
- Katie Ledecky Just Destroyed Her Own World Record In The Women’s 400-Meter Freestyle
- Watch 41-Year-Old Gymnast Oksana Chusovitina Slay Her Olympic Vault