Sexism has been on full display at this year’s Olympics. Several commentators and journalists have compared female athletes — and in some cases even attributed their success — to men.
Case in point:
-While covering the women’s gymnastics, an NBC commentator said Team USA members looked like they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall” after ”utterly annihilating” the qualifying round.
-At the end of Simone Biles’ uneven bars routine, NBC’s Jim Watson said, “I think she might even go higher than some of the men.”
-The Chicago Tribune introduced Olympic bronze medalist Corey Cogdell-Unrein as a wife of a Bears lineman without mentioning her name.
-As Katie Ledecky broke the world record in the 400-meter freestyle, NBC commentator Rowdy Gaines said, “Some people say she swims like a man.”
-NBC contributed Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú’s gold medal win in 400-meter individual medley soley to her husband/coach.
-The sexism of the Olympics coverage has not gone unnoticed. Media practitioners and viewers have spoken out against it:
"She swims like a man"
Um excuse me? She swims like an incredibly talented FEMALE athlete who has spent all her 19 years training for this
— courtney priebe (@cpriebae) August 8, 2016
NBC Announcers just gave the credit for Hungary's Hosszu's world record swim to…her husband. ??? #rio2016
— Nina Bargiel (@slackmistress) August 7, 2016
— Jessica Weiss (@byjessweiss) August 7, 2016
In 2016, it is difficult to believe that such commentary is still commonplace on national and international news networks. The fact of the matter is that there’s been a long history of sexism in the Olympics. This is why primetime ads that reach the masses like Always’ Keep Playing #Likeagirl Olympics commercial are so important.
The ad centers around the belief that girls should continue to play sports, regardless of people telling them they shouldn’t. According to Always’ campaign page: “Today, 7 out of 10 girls feel they don’t belong in sports, so it’s really no wonder that over half quit sports around puberty, at a moment where their confidence plummets and they are trying to conform to societal expectations.”
Always’ Keep Playing #LikeaGirl ad is reminiscent of Nike’s 1995 If You Let Me Play and Gatorade’s 2012 Keep Her in The Game commercials, both of which highlight the societal pressures girls face as they grow up.
Leading up to the Olympics, freelance writer Aimee Lehto published a piece titled “If you let us write about sports,” in which she outlines the benefits of asking women to work on ad campaigns for major athletic brands. Why should women write about sports? “It’s about determination, and ambition, and underdogs, and grit,” Lehto writes. “You know, the same characteristics that describe every woman in the creative department. … It’s not that women don’t do great work. It’s that women are often kept off of the very projects that enable it.”
Lehto, Always and the triumphant Olympian Laurie Hernandez show us that there’s no shame in doing anything #LikeaGirl.”