And like you, I am reveling in the fact that this has been dubbed the “year of the woman”. As NPR reported, via the Associated Press:
For the first time, there are more women on the U.S. team than men, 269 to 261, and Russia’s team, which is nearly as big, is also majority-female. Saudi Arabia has sent its first two women to the competition, and the games feature what in all likelihood is the most pregnant athlete to compete in an Olympics: Malaysian shooter Nur Suryani Mohamed Taibi, who is due to give birth to a girl any day now.
Even Britain’s poster athlete for the Games is a woman — heptathlete Jessica Ennis, who in addition to appearing on countless London billboards also beams up at arriving visitors from a field along the Heathrow airport flight path. A 173-by-264-foot likeness of the telegenic star is painted on the grass there.
Good stuff, right? But while we’re busy patting ourselves on the back, especially here in the U.S. where the women Olympians outnumber the men, I’ve collected a few instances of sexism skulking around the “you go, girl” edges. (Please don’t accuse me of whinging, which is colorful Britspeak for whining) And so, in the interests of feminists everywhere, I thought I’d bring up a few of the most telling examples to show that, well, our work is not quite done.
1. Back of the Bus, little ladies: The Independent reports that both Japan and Australia are in the hot seat for flying its male athletes business-class while the women were stuck back in coach:
Japan’s world champion women’s football team took exception to flying economy while their male counterparts sat in business class on a flight to Europe for the Olympics. The Japan Football Association said the men flew in business because they are professionals.
As for Australia, it was all about basketball. The males were up in front, even though the women’s team was the better one. Again, from the Independent:
Former Australian women’s basketball captain Robyn Maher said the Australian women’s team had repeatedly asked Basketball Australia to justify the inequity.
“Over the years it’s been a multitude of (reasons given) — the men get better funding, so they’ve been able to do it; the men are bigger so they need more space,” she told the Sydney Morning Herald. “It’s been a bit of a sore spot, especially since the women are much more successful.”
2. Pin-up Babes? Yep, that’s how the Scotland’s Daily Record described the the U.S. women’s soccer team as they arrived in Glasgow this week. Without a mention that the U.S. women’s soccer team is one of the world’s best, the story frames our girls in terms of sex. Insulting, much? It starts like this:
ALL of a sudden, the Olympics have got sexy. Really sexy.
The pin-up babes of the US Olympic football team arrived for their first training session in Glasgow yesterday.
And although the rain was pouring down, you would hardly have noticed as stars such as glamour-girl keeper Hope Solo, 32, and strike stunner Alex Morgan, 23, hit the pitch.
The story segues into a condom count – according to the Record, 150,000 – and includes a quote from Solo about sex. But not word one about, you know, soccer.
3. Bar codes on … the bum? You heard that right. Salon, via Bitch Media, reports that some enterprising advertiser bought space on the backs of two UK beach Volleyball players’ bikinis during the qualifying rounds this spring – allowing creepsters with sharp eyes and quick phones to scan the QR codes and be taken to the advertiser’s website. Ew. The Olympics committee nixed the codes for the actual games, but according to Salon, the images were already all over the internet. If that doesn’t creep you out, how about the Brit nickname for beach volleyball: “Baywatch with balls.”
Even Yahoo! sports has gotten into the act, with reporter Martin Rogers writing in wink, wink mode that Prince Harry, the “self-style Playboy Prince” is “most excited” about attending the beach volleyball event.
4. And then there’s Go Daddy. Which we wish would just, well, go. USA Today reports that Go Daddy, the bad boy of Super Bowl ads, is back again with a few commercials that will air during the Olympics that supposedly tone down the “naughtiness.” You be the judge. One features a sexy chic stripping off her trenchcoat to descend into a bubblebath. Another shows a woman with a come-hither look in her eye stroking an otter resting just beneath her rather large chest. The theme of the ads, which juxtapose pretty girls with geeks, is “beauty on the outside, but brains on the inside.” Whatever. What’s interesting is that I read somewhere that, unlike the Super Bowl, the majority of the Olympics audience is made up of women and families.
5. Finally, there’s the press corps: The The London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games estimates that some 21,000 journalists will be covering the London games and what I’d like to know is how many of them will be women, this being the year of the woman. The numbers are almost impossible to come by, at least today, but here’s an estimate from my pal Mark Purdy, currently in London covering the Olympics (his twelfth) for the San Jose Mercury News:
Educated guess: Among USA journalism contingent, probably 75-25 men vs. women. Among international contingent, probably 95-5 men vs. women. Although that’s only print journalists; we work in a separate building and in separate parts of the venues from the broadcasters. There seem to be more women in that field, though I couldn’t give you a real guess.
Those lop-sided numbers? Not really surprising, considering that according to a 2012 Women’s Media Center report, 11.4% of sports editors, 10% of sports columnists, and 7% of sports reporters were women. But still, it makes you wonder. Is that gender inequity one reason why, research has shown, that the gap between Olympic coverage of men’s versus women’s sports has widened? But more importantly: does that impact the way the stories are framed?
Don’t know, can’t answer. But it might be fun to pay attention. As for right now, I’m just anxious for the games to begin. When it comes to the medal count, my money’s on the girls.