Rio 2016: Sexism in Media Coverage

Contributed by Kate Heetland
The Olympics are a celebration of strength, athleticism, and patriotism for individual and team sports. With a growing presence on media including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, we are able to experience the competition in more ways than ever. We are seeing updates in real time, which is very exciting.
Except, NBC has been throwing a lot of sexist language around during this summer’s coverage. Successful women are being referred to as ‘girls’, are reduced to their appearance, and see praise for their accomplishments being passed on to the men in their lives. Where the men are celebrated, women are being ignored, and people are getting very fed up.
This Huffington Post article is an introduction to some of the most blatant instances of sexism – only a few days into the Olympic Games.

“Immediately after Hungary’s Katinka Hosszu broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley…NBC announcer Dan Hicks immediately focused the attention on Hosszu’s coach and husband, Shane Tusup, saying he was “the man responsible” for her performance.”

This sexism extends to viewers as well – NBC Olympics Chief Marketing Officer John Miller said that women watch the coverage because it’s “like the ultimate reality show”.
None of this is new, unfortunately. Female athletes continually deal with this kind of language.

CNN covered a study recently done by Cambridge University Press that looked at the language used in men and women’s sports – the results are disheartening.

“Analyzing over 160 million words from decades of newspapers, academic papers, tweets and blogs, the study finds men are three times more likely than women to be mentioned in a sporting context, while women are disproportionately described in relation to their marital status, age or appearance.”


Not only is this shocking coming from an international news channel NBC, but these women are extremely powerful and hard-working. The United States teams have seen domination in swimming, cycling, soccer, gymnastics, shooting – instead of talking about the men in these athlete’s lives, let’s focus on their amazing accomplishments!

Felicia Gonzalez