How to talk about female Olympians without being a regressive sneak- a handy guidebook | Lindy West

Want to avoid gaffes when to provide information on female athletes? Do write about the sports they did. Dont bring their makeup, very small shorts and marital status into it

As ever, this years Olympics an international bacchanal of physical perfection and triumphant will swaddle in human rights abuses and environmental catastrophe are providing gasoline for public delight and despise in abundance. Stimulating a strong showing in the scorn category already is the press, which, less than a week in, had been successful in insult, demean and erase female athletes in a cornucopia of bungles.

The Chicago Tribune announced American trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unreins medal win with the headline Wife of a Bears lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics , not even bothering to mention her name. In the afterglow of Katinka Hosszus world-record-breaking swimming, NBC sportscaster Dan Hicks pointed out Hosszus husband and gushed: And theres the man responsible. Another NBC commentator described the powerhouse US female gymnastics team as seeming as though they might as well be standing in the middle of a mall. People Magazine called Simone Biles the Michael Jordan of gymnastics, as though we cant maybe comprehend female greatness without a male proxy. Rightwing media co-opted Ginny Thrashers gold medal win in the 10 -metre air rifle competition, dubbing her a girl with a firearm, as a cudgel in their campaign against handgun safety. In a Twitter exchange that rapidly went viral, Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten lamented her injuries after a crash, inspiring some random man to explain to her how to ride a bike: First lesson in bicycling, keep your bike steady whether fast or slow.

Dutch cyclist Annemiek van Vleuten during the womens road race at the Rio 2016 summertime Olympics. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/ AFP/ Getty Images

The Olympics offer up womens bodies for public scrutiny on a massive scale, but to surprisingly constructive impact, relatively speaking: Its one of the only hit Tv shows that celebrates female strength, ability and excellence without sexualising female existence. And its not that I think the authors of the aforementioned gaffes are vicious, deliberate misogynists. Its more that they were raised in a culture as we all were that has almost no idea how to process competent women( ensure also: Americas current presidential election ). You can feel a faint disarray pulsing behind every term. A girl doing things !?

Simone Biles wows in womens gymnastic squad final to assist USA clinch gold

So, as a public service, here is a handy guidebook for how to talk and/ or write about female Olympian without being a regressive creep who is constantly getting hollered at by feminists on the internet.

DO write about the sports they did! Ive put together a quick and easy template for your basic reporting needs( cribbed and accommodated from a piece I wrote about coverage of female politicians in 2014, because you could basically have this conversation about any industry, and I do ):

NEWS REPORT:[ Female Athlete] did[ sports] today.[ Describe athletics .] THE Objective. Sportswriting accomplished!

DO write about female athletes the way you write about male athletes ie without mentioning their gender except maybe in the name of the athletic. Can you imagine if we brought up gender every time we wrote about men? Perky male point guard Isaiah Thomas, stepping out in a flattering terrycloth headwrap, demonstrates that humen really can play ball and look cool-summery-sexy doing it! Assure how unbearable that voices? Chase that feeling.

DONT expend more period discussing female athletes makeup, hairdos, very small shorts, hijabs, bitchy resting faces, voice pitch, thigh circumference, marital status and age than you expend analyze the unbelievable feats of strength and ability they have sharpened over a lifetime of superhuman discipline and restraint.

DONT refer to women in terms of men they know, are related to, work with or have sex with. Women are fully-formed, autonomous people who do things. We are not pets or contraptions or sex-baubles.

DO write about gender when its relevant, such as when youre discussing gender discrimination for instance, the pay gap in womens basketball and soccer, and the garbage style the media cover-ups( or doesnt) womens sports.

DONT bring your sexuality feelings into it. And, yes, I am aware that there are more than several women working in Twitter with passionate opinions about the shoulder-to-waist ratios of the pilings of trapezoids on the three men swimming roster. But there is not currently a vacuum of serious, well-rounded coverage of mens sports. There is not a historic precedent of mens bodies eclipsing their accomplishments, and, in turn, undermining their credibility and hobbling their upward mobility in every major industry. It is OK to have sex impressions. Just watch where youre spraying them.

Of course, there is plenty of smart, nuanced, neutral Olympics coverage out there too, and live TV is hard, and people build mistakes. But the route we talk about females particularly women at the top of their fields, women whose power and prowess is undeniable has a tangible impact on the way we treat female colleagues, female job interviewees and female presidents. This is not an accident. It is the system running as designed.

Athletes are athletes. If you care about athletics, be talking about sports. If you care about gender equality, write about sports.


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