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Rio 2016: When Sexism and Sport Collide

Written By Maddy Crehan

So in case you haven’t heard, the Olympics is on and, surprise surprise, the media’s been on sexism rampage. Apparently people still aren’t used to women not only participating in sport, but excelling. The phrase ‘wow she’s pretty good,  for a woman’ has come up more than once. There is a long history of sexism towards women in sport, but you’d think by 2016 things we would be past this. Nope!

The Australian rugby women’s sevens team proudly show off their gold medal. Image from

The Australian rugby women’s sevens team proudly show off their gold medal. Image from

While more women are competing in Rio 2016 than any other Olympics (this year female competitors make up 45 per cent, compared to 13 per cent in 1964), the behind the scenes team still seems like a bit of a boys club. There are only two female sports photographers working at the Rio Olympics for the massive photo agency Getty Images. Female reporters make up only 21 per cent of the Olympic media, and inside the International Olympics Committee, only 22 of 90 of members are women.

This could maybe explain why the little coverage of women’s sports so often focuses on their appearance, their husbands, and compares them to male athletes. But it’s 2016, there should be no excuse for casual sexism.

Here’s some embarrassing sexist moments at the Rio 2016 Olympics so far:

1. When Katinka Hosszú crushed the world record and won gold in the 400-meter individual medley Saturday, but one NBC commentator credited her husband and coach as “the person responsible for her performance”. Because women’s achievements must be credited to men.

2. When a Sports Illustrated profile on Katie Ledecky stated “She swims like a guy. Her stroke, her mentality: She’s so strong in the water. I’ve never seen a female swimmer like that. She gets faster every time she gets in, and her times are becoming good for a guy”. Because she’s not like other girls – she’s good – like a guy.

3. When the Chicago Tribune diminished the accomplishments of two-time Olympic Bronze medalist in trapshooting Corey Cogdell-Unrein, to merely being “the wife of Bears’ lineman”. Because being the wife of a famous footballer is a bigger accomplishment than winning two Olympic medals.

Chicago Tribune tweet headline. Image from

Chicago Tribune tweet headline. Image from

4. When Fox News panelists debated whether or not female Olympians should wear makeup. Panelist Bo Dietl commented “I think when you see an athlete, why should I have to look at some chick’s zits? Why not a little blush on her lips? And cover those zits! I like to see a person who wins that gold medal go up there and look beautiful.” He then turned to the host Tamara Holder and said “Tamara, look how beautiful you are with that makeup. What do you look like when you crawl out of bed in the morning? I’d rather have you now, the way you look.” Because why just sexualise female athletes when you can also practice a little bit o’ workplace harassment?

5. When Micheal Phelps tied for a silver medal in in 100-meter butterfly the same day that Katie Ledecky won gold and broke her own gold medal in the 800-meter freestyle, but of course scored a bigger headline. Because coming second in a men’s race is a higher achievement than coming first in a women’s right?

Image frim

Image frim

6. When cyclist Laura Trott became the first British woman to win four gold Olympic medals then tearfully went to congratulate her fiance Jason Kenny on his gold medal,  and BBC commentator Chris Boardman said: “She’s doing the emotion for both of them really, he’s looking at her going: ‘What’s for tea?'”. Because women are emotional and men don’t cook, lol!

7. When a commentator said the Final Five looked like “They might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” when Simone Biles excitedly joined her team on the sidelines after completing her incredible balance beam routine to a standing ovation. Biles has also been compared to famous male athletes and routinely called the “Michael Jordan of gymnastics,” and the “next Michael Phelps.” But she amazingly shut this down after winning the gold medal in the women’s individual all-around, proclaiming “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps,” the 19-year-old prodigy said. “I’m the first Simone Biles.” Yassssss Queeeeeeeen!


Simone Biles, GIF from

8. When Andy Murray won his second Olympic gold medal in the men’s singles tennis tournament and British reporter John Inverdale commended him for being the “first person ever to win win two Olympic tennis gold medals”. Thankfully Murray quickly corrected the man saying that he might be the first player to win two singles tennis gold medals, but Venus and Serena Williams “have won about four each.” At least some people recognise the achievements of women!

It seems that the women in sport are almost always seen as secondary to men. So what do women have to do to be taken seriously in the Olympics? Win gold medals? Smash world records? Oh wait, we’re doing both those things. I guess the only thing left to do is to just keep killing it ladies, you can out-run those pesky misogynists any day.

Leslie Knope, Gif from

Leslie Knope, Gif from



Maddy Crehan

Maddy regularly writes for Rosie, and is passionate about music, history, art and gender equality.

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