by A. Lynn. This article was originally posted at A Nerdy Feminist. Cross-posted with permission.
As I recently mentioned, I kinda love the Olympics. I’m a sucker for them. I’m not sure what it is, because I do not enjoy any other sports related thing. But every two years (winter/summer) I’m stuck at my TV.
I think one thing that I particularly enjoy is that women seem to receive as much attention and almost as much legitimacy as men’s competitions. That’s a rare thing. For example, I’m so used to people going gaga over the NBA and totally forgetting that the WNBA exists. (PS, why isn’t it the MNBA and the WNBA–oh right, men are considered the standard. *Eye roll*).
But NBC is really crushing my spirits with their coverage. Last night, I turned into the late night segment and caught a discussion between Bob Costas, Shaun White, and John McEnroe. Apparently, McEnroe is at his first Olympics and White is there for the first time as a spectator. So they were chitchatting about their experience watching women’s beach volleyball. And of course, it dissolved into a dude bro yuk yuk session about the women’s bodies. Objectification to the max. (And LITERALLY while I was writing this, another male NBC commentator just talked about how when he went to the beach volleyball game, it was “sensory overload” because of the women’s bodies.)
I stewed for a bit and then moved on. I wish I could say this is the end of it, but of course there’s more. The media takes every possible opportunity to comment on women’s bodies, and Olympians are not exempt.
There are no worshipful Bleacher Report features devoted to ranking her hotness. Instead, Holley Mangold, a woman who can do things with her body that few women – or men – can accomplish, gets to be the butt of a joke. On Saturday, Conan O’Brien snarked on Twitter that “I predict 350 lb. weight lifter Holley Mangold will bring home the gold and 4 guys against their will.” It was retweeted over 2,000 times. Poorly done, there, Coco.
Knock it off, people!
And before everyone jumps all over this, talking about how Olympic male athletes’ bodies are also objectified, let me clarify. I’m not saying that we can’t enjoy the physicality of Olympian bodies. The problem for me comes when we 1) generally body snark and 2) ogle female bodies (like those of the beach volleyball players) without more comments about their athletic feats and accomplishments. That’s something the men rarely face. Because the mainstream media narrative is so often set by men, the appreciation of male athleticism comes first and foremost. Any body related comments about them are an afterthought.
Seriously…how often are celebrities tweeting about how the male weightlifters can’t get dates? It’s just really, really old. If Olympic athletes can’t be appreciated for–or at least left alone about their bodies–what’s the hope for the rest of us.
(photo via Wikimedia Commons)