Saturday, February 20, 2010

Calgary Sun’s Sexist Olympic Coverage

Why do we admire our Olympic athletes? Perhaps because of their dedication to their sport, their unwavering desire to push themselves further and become the best. And according to the Calgary Sun, we also admire the female athletes for lookin’ so darn good.

On February 17th the Calgary Sun published an article by Rob Longley about Lindsey Vonn, the American gold medallist in women’s downhill alpine skiing. The article, titled “Sitting Pretty” is all about what a “babe” this athlete is.

The article’s subtitle reads, “With her good looks and incredible talent, U.S. skier Lindsey Vonn commands plenty of attention.” The opening sentence of the article states that, “When she arrived here injured, the American media breathlessly predicted all eyes will be on [her] right shin. Just guessing, but the rest of her anatomy might get a little attention too.” Longley then goes on to call her “the babe of the Games,” and when listing her talents “in no particular order,” guess which attribute is listed first? Her good looks and a recommendation to check her out in the current Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Furthermore, next to this article is a side-bar with the headline “Lookin’ good” which lists the other female Olympian hotties. The side-bar states that “Lindsey Vonn isn’t the only female Olympian lauded for her looks as much as her athleticism. Here’s a few of the others competing in Vancouver that are easy on the eyes.” The list includes Canada’s Mellisa Hollingsworth, who competed in the skeleton event.

The media focusing on the physical appearance these women is a serious problem for professional female athletes. So often our female athletes are judged not only on their athletic talent, but on their looks and home life too. In some extreme cases such as the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) in America, the team actually has a beauty consultant on staff to help the women dress and look sexy.

Yesterday while watching the women’s skeleton event, the announcers were continually discussing which of the athletes are mothers and how old their kids are. Why are the children of female athletes often discussed, while the children of male athletes are almost never mentioned? No one ever says “Well, here’s the father of two, Jarome Iginla! He’s got two little ones at home, aged four and six.” Nobody talks about the home life of male athletes - and they certainly don’t comment on their physical appearance!

This is just another example of the double standards in our society. Women can rarely be appreciated just for their talents – their appearance and family life are always scrutinized as well.

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