Media Original Sport

Gender Equality at the Olympics? You’ll have to wait for 2020.

If you have been watching the Olympic games over the last number of days, and you are a feminist/general supporter of kicking-ass, you will know that so far the women of the Games have been killing it. You will also know that the men have been killing it as well (ahem, Michael Phelps, ahem, a million gold medals). However, despite the incredible achievements of both the female and male athletes, the way the media have reported on these achievements has been the biggest indication (EVAHH) that feminism is a more important cause than ever.


“And there is the man responsible!”.


These words will most likely haunt the (stupid) commentator who credited the husband of the woman (Hungarian swimmer, Katinka Hosszu) who obliterated the world record in the 400m individual medley event. As the crowd roared for her achievement, those watching from home saw the camera move quickly from the celebrations in the pool to Hosszu’s husband/coach on the sidelines. Clearly cheering for his wife’s incredible achievement the he was unknowingly being credited for just breaking a world record and winning an Olympic gold medal.


Hmmm…. I think we all know, Hosszu’s husband knows and even the NBC commentator knows that no one broke the world record for the 400m individual medley at the 2016 Rio Olympic games except Katinka Hosszu.

The first week of the Olympics was dominated by swimming news, particularly that of the USA swimming team. While Michael Phelps created history, it was seemingly far more important history than that created by another US powerhouse; Katie Ledecky. Ledecky won gold in the 200m and 400m freestyles events as well as breaking her own world record and taking out the gold in the 800m freestyle. She is the first woman to win all three events in the same Olympic games since Debbie Meyer in 1968. However, the morning after Ledecky took out the 800m and Phelps tied for second place in the 100m butterfly, the headlines made it clear which was the more important achievement. Pretty much, the lesson here is a man’s silver medal is obviously more important than a women’s broken record any day (Uhhhh??).


Wanting the headline for (in this case) a higher achievement doesn’t seem like too much to ask of the media does it? Well you know what? Apparently it does! The Chicago Tribune (a local publication from, you guessed it, Chicago, Illinois) printed the headline, “Wife of Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics”.

Screen Shot 2016-08-18 at 12.20.19 PM

**sounds of explosions/volcanoes erupting/all feminists bursting into flames**

Corey Cogdell-Unrein took out the bronze medal in the trap shooting, she is a 3-time Olympian and now second-time bronze medalist. When asked about how she felt when she heard about the headline and the social media frenzy that followed she said, “We [women] should be recognized for our own accomplishments and attributes outside of who we’re married to or what our husband’s or significant others have accomplished”.


While the Chicago Tribune did issue an apology (post frenzy) about the headline, it still reveals the root of the problem. Many people (albeit, sports’ commentators are some of the worst offenders) don’t realize how incredibly sexist and unfair some of the comments they make are and this requires a serious shift in thinking. Recognizing that women’s achievements in sport are equally as important, impressive and hard-earned as men’s, is something that is just not naturally occurring in a lot of today’s media.

Not only have the achievements of these women been well and truly f***ed up by the media, there have been other, even more overt cases of sexism and discrimination. Ibtihaj Muhammad, is the first woman to compete in a hijab as part of the US Olympic team (also won a medal but no biggie – her hijab is a more important topic of discussion of course). She was slammed as anti-American when she spoke about the racist and sexist experiences she has had as a Muslim woman in New York.


The 2016 Rio Olympic games have been an excellent world stage to showcase just how far we have to go but have also showcased just how kickass women really are. The wide range of sports that are a part of the Olympic games, gives the opportunity for men and women of all shapes, size, races and religions to come together and impress the hell out of the rest of us sitting at home with one hand in a tube of Pringles and another holding a glass of wine (not all heroes wear capes).

I would like to list some of my favorite Olympic moments where women were being LEGENDS.


Simone Biles – need I say more? (well I am going to because I could talk about her all day long tbh). She has demonstrated how bloody amazing the female body can be. Women’s bodies are often compared to the male body and said to be far less strong and capable. Well I think it is safe to say Simone shut that one right down.



Now this next one has a trigger warning, if you are squeamish, can’t stand the discussion of anything DISGUSTING then you better stop reading now because this one is going to be bad (lol jokes just period talk). Chinese swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, finished the 4 x 100m relay in fourth place. Clearly not happy with the swim and gripping her stomach in pain, she reveals too a reporter that she started her period the night before so wasn’t feeling to great. And women everywhere rejoiced, her openness about a topic that is so taboo in so many places (even in western countries) but particularly in Asian countries, was something to be admired.



This one is more of a feel good moment, but I just had to mention the moment when New Zealand runner, Nikki Hamblin and US runner Abbey D’Agostino collided and fell during the 5000m event. Instead of sorting herself out, post fall, and continuing the race, D’Agostino helped Hamblin up and urged her to keep running. Hamblin did the same for D’Agostino near the end of the race when she struggled to finish the race due to injury. Was a moment from the games that will never be forgotten.



  1. Hey Jemma!

    Just stopped by to say that I loved reading this article (felt like something I would read on Buzzfeed or something!) and that I totally agree with all the points you made. Girls have totally dominated the Olympics this year – girl power! The year 2016 has been pretty great for females overall actually. Though it’s not as much as male, females have been getting a lot of exposure standing up for what they believe in or excelling in something amazing.

    A couple months ago I was watching Ellen and Ibtihaj Muhammad was one of the guests. I think it’s such a beautiful thing that she competed and won her medal while wearing her hijab. There are so many sad stories these days about women having to remove their hijabs (don’t know if you heard about the woman on the beach in France?), its degrading. She must have felt so great to win her medal while representing her culture/religion. I mean, that’s what the Olympics are all about right? Numerous cultures/countries coming together!

    Love your top 3 moments, great choices. Especially #2, I actually didn’t know about that until reading your article, thanks for sharing that. Way to go Fu Yuanhui, way to represent strong women!

  2. Upon winning the gold medal in the individual women’s gymnastics, Simone Biles stated “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
    By doing so, she powerfully stood up for gender equality!

    Hey Jemma,

    How are you doing?

    I’ve gotta start with that quote because of it’s relevant to this article! Moving on to my comment…
    Ah yes! The matter of Gender Equality in the Rio Olympics! It is a current and talked about topic indeed. I still roll my eyes at how the media wrote something like “wife of…” or “sister of…” or “girlfriend of…” Why can’t they just write her name? Is it so hard? Are the media subconsciously doing this?
    Even though gender equality this year is not perfect I think the Olympics have come a long way because I read somewhere that female athletes were excluded from the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 because of its founder, Pierre de Coubertin, felt their participation would be inappropriate. The French educator and historian said that “no matter how toughened a sportswoman may be, her organism is not cut out to sustain certain shocks”. Now, that is a comment that I take offence of! I’m sure all women do. The women in the Rio Olympics have certainly proved him very very wrong! I could not wait for the women to once again proved him and everyone wrong in the 2020 Olympics. Crossing fingers that the media will clean up their act by then and report properly the amazing achievements of the women 😀

  3. Great examples of discriminatory media language. I didn’t have the time to watch any Olympic event this year unfortunately but read a lot about the Olympics in various international media and the one message that was clear to me across the board was, as Renee already pointed, that this was women’s Olympics. If we add politics (think Theresa May or Hilary Clinton for example) than it is hard to omit that gender equality is finally becoming more real than ever before. Still not perfect and poorly commented on by male white conservative western media, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>