Rio 2016 – Double standards


The Olympics is a fantastic occasion once every four years for the best sportsmen and sportswomen to put all their hard work into action and try win that elusive Olympic Medal. However, there is a side to the olympics (and all sports really) that is less acknowledged and ignored. I am talking about Sexism. Here are some examples.

Reminding People that Women’s Sport Exists

Firstly, Congratulations to Andy Murray for successfully defending the Men’s Singles Tennis and winning his second olympic gold medal. However, whilst interviewing Murray BBC reporter John Inverdale forgot Women’s Tennis and incorrectly noted that Murray was the first person ever to win two tennis gold medals. Luckily, Murray was on game and replied saying that ‘I think Venus and Serena (Williams) have about 4 gold medals each).

Murray has previously spoken out about sexism in Tennis. In June 2014, he hired a female coach, Amelie Mauresmo. He stated that when he loses a game his coach receives more criticism than they did when his coach was male. He defined himself as a feminist saying that ‘if being a feminist is about fighting so that a woman is treated like a man then….I suppose I am.’

Racism at the Olympics

Gabby Douglas is one of the most successful American gymnasts. However, she has been unnecessarily criticised because of her skin colour. If you were following the Olympics you may have heard some of it.They were really criticizing her, which can’t have felt good and might have had something to do with her underperformance in the final. Douglas has to consistently apologise for things she hasn’t done. To put things into perspective, when Douglas forgot to put her hand on her heart during her medals ceremony when the American National Anthem played there was a national outrage. However, when Michael Phelps cracked up during his medals ceremony when he heard a chant from his home town it was ‘cute’. Also, Michael Phelps’s ‘angry face’ became a hashtag and a meme. Whereas, when Douglas looked angry in the stands for a second and someone caught it on camera she was accused of poor sportsmanship and not supporting her teammates. She had to apologise for emotions she never had!

A Double Standard if I ever saw one

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker wore a pair of boxer shorts on Saturday night to fulfill a pledge he made if his former side Leicester City won the title last season. The biggest complaint about Lineker seemed to be that his pants weren’t skimpy enough. On the other hand, Helen Skelton BBC commentator for the swimming during Rio 2016 was criticised for wearing a dress that was too skimpy. While people were demanding ‘more leg’ from Lineker, they were horrified at Skeltons outfit.

General Sexism

Michael Phelps ties for Silver in the 100m butterfly, newsworthy? For sure. More or less newsworthy than the fact that Katie Ledecky set a world record in the women’s 800m freestyle race.


This newspaper clearly thought it was less important. Ledecky was also dubbed the female Michael Phelps, which caused outrage. And rightly so, why does she need to be compared to anymore man or women. Her achievements are incredible and they are her’s alone.

When Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszu broke a world record her success was attributed to her husband and coach. After winning gold the camera flicked to her husband cheering poolside with the caption: ‘and there’s the man that made it all happen’…erm what about the women who actually swam the race!

Similarly, when three-time olympian Corey Cogdell won a bronze in women’s trap shooting the newspaper article was entitled: ‘Wife of Bears’ lineman wins medal’ Since when did we start measuring someone’s achievement by that of their spouse?

It can go both ways

Women aren’t the only ones who can be the victim of sexism, It can happen to men too. It is just less frequent, less glaring obvious and less talked out. Here are some examples of magazine articles published about the male athletes in the olympics:

2016 Rio Olympics: The U.S. Men Gymnasts, Ranked by Ab Appeal!”“34 Team USA Hotties Representing In Rio.” “The Hottest Olympic Dudes to Root for in Rio.” “If Oiling This Athlete’s Body Was an Olympic Sport, We’d Win Gold Every Time.”

However, even with the above being said there is still a difference between the objectification of men and the objectification of women. Because:

  1. The sexualised analysis of men’s bodies doesn’t obscure their achievements or negatively affect their careers. Their economic or professional power isn’t reduced or threatened.
  2. The objectification of men’s bodies doesn’t make them feel unsafe.
  3. When men mention their own objectification it is often a disingenuous attempt to undermine women who advocate for themselves.

How to Improve the Sexism in Sport

There needs to be more focus on getting more women and girls participating in sport and more women working in sport at every level. People should drive commercial investment in and media coverage of women’s sport. There also needs work to ensure that women and girls who do engage with sport receive equal respect to their male counterparts.

By Olivia Hobden



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