Thursday, August 11, 2016

Sex and Sexism the Olympics

Who'd have thought the biggest delicacy discovered at the Olympics in Rio would be a Pita covered in oil? :-D
Ha ha! I am referring to Pita Taufatofua, of course.  He's the Olympic athlete who was the flag bearer at the 2016 Olympics' opening ceremony for Tonga, a Pacific island country heretofore known for issuing postage stamps in silly shapes.  The judo competitor appeared at the ceremony shirtless, his torso covered in oil.  (No doubt he upstaged the U.S. of A.'s flag bearer, Michael Phelps.)  And women loved it; they ogled Taufatofua's well-oiled physique so much that their husbands must have been . . . scared shirtless! :-D
I wrote back in 2012 during the London Games that I have no trouble with women checking out the men at the Olympics, because after all, men check out the women too.  (Beach volleyball's Kerri Walsh-Jennings is still hot, by the way.)  But I have yet to hear any women make derogatory or dismissive comments about male athletes at these Games, while men have been making so many comments like that about female athletes that to list such sexist remarks in their entirety on this blog would take too long. So I'll focus on just two of the many misogynistic swipes - the number of which is rapidly approaching triple digits - in the coverage of these Games.  
One comment was a product of what Brad Paisley might call "accidental sexism."  When Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú won a gold medal, NBC commentator Dan Hicks called her coach/husband Shane Tusup as "the man responsible" for her victory . . . as if Hosszú herself had nothing to do with it.  Hicks apologized, explaining that he meant that Tusup's coaching was a notable factor in her victory and regretting that his attempt to convey credit for Tusup for his role as a coach didn't come out right.  Gee, ya think, Dan?  Okay, had Hosszú's coach been a woman, Hicks might very well have called her coach "the woman responsible" for Hosszú's win, and a coach's contributions to the performance of any athlete of either sex are key to an athlete's successes.  But what if Hosszú had been kept off the medal podium by her competitors, and what if her husband were still her coach?  Would her husband have been called the man responsible for her loss?  I doubt it. I'm sure Hannah Storm - Dan Hicks is her husband, you will remember - would agree with me.  
For the record,  I may have said that Tusup was an asset for Hosszú, but I never said he deserves all the credit for her wins.  In fact, I have since been led to understand that his coaching style is so unorthodox and punishing, she may be winning despite his coaching methods.      
The other comment that caught my eye was when Tim Bannon of the Chicago Tribune reported that Corey Cogdell won the bronze medal in women's trap shooting and primarily identified her as the wife of Chicago Bears lineman Mitch Unrein.  That's all she is - a football player's wife?  What?  What's up with this Bannon guy, anyway?  Did he consider Cogdell's victory insignificant because it was only a bronze medal? Or because he thinks trap shooting isn't a real sport like football?  Is he upset that Chicago didn't get the 2016 Olympics?  Or is he peeved that American football isn't taken very seriously outside These States?  I could go on and on making such conjectures (and I would if I had nothing better to do today), but diminishing Cogdell to a mere spousal status is flat-out degrading.  Was Florence Griffith Joyner ever called Al Joyner's wife?  No, because she was a greater track athlete than he was.  (Jackie Joyner-Kersee was also a better track athlete than her brother Al as well, and no one ever called her Al Joyner's sister.)      
Oh yeah, I ought to tell you also about a sexist swipe People magazine had in its special 2016 Olympics issue, which hit the newsstands before the Games began, in one of its items about Olympians past.  American track star Michael Johnson was referred to as the first person to win the 200-meter and 400-meter track races in the same Olympiad. Actually, that was American Valerie Brisco-Hooks, who did it in 1984 at the Los Angeles Olympics; Johnson won both races in the 1996 Games.  Johnson was the first man to win both races in the same Olympiad, and the second woman to achieve that feat, France's Marie-Jose Perec, did so in 1996, the same year as Johnson's accomplishment.  Hey, I love Michael Johnson, he's a cool customer . . . but let's set the record straight here - and not diminish Brisco-Hooks's achievement! 
Alas, this sort of thing is likely to continue.  And if you think all this obsession with Pita Taufatofua is trivial nonsense but, at the same time, you have no problem with comments from guys like Hicks or Bannon (at least Hicks apologized) because you don't see the problem, well, you have a problem yourself.  

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