The Olympic Games have started and like always, it’s a major hit around the world. The history of these games haven’t always been ideal; they started as a celebration of strength for the Greek god Zeus, but women were not allowed to compete or watch the games.
At the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, many are eager to watch Lindsey Vonn zip down the mountain and Maia Shibutani sparkle on the ice. But the Olympic Games are more than just a sporting event, it’s a global showcase of the world’s finest athletes. Given it’s roots, it is also a very gendered arena. Sports commentary of women in sports is notoriously sexist as female athletes are often judged on the appearance of their bodies and domestic roles.By using gendered language, we perpetuate patriarchal paradigms that disempower women everywhere. Click To Tweet
Cambridge University Press conducted a study on how we talk about women and men in sports, analyzing over 160 million words used at sporting events. The study found that men are two to three times more likely than women to be mentioned in relation to sports and sports achievement. The study found that the word associations with women in sports were ‘aged’, ‘older’, ‘pregnant’ and ‘married’ or ‘unmarried.’ Whereas the associations for men in sports were ‘fastest’, ‘strong’, ‘big’, ‘real’ and ‘great.’
By using gendered language, we subtly perpetuate patriarchal paradigms that disempower women everywhere. In tying women to domesticity through language of marriage and childbearing, we reduce women’s social roles to wife and mother. Women athletes have proved far-and-beyond that they’re strong and powerful. We should not use the language of domesticity when talking about their athletic achievements.Women competing in the Olympics have proved far-and-beyond that they’re strong and powerful. We should not use the language of domesticity when talking about their athletic achievements. Click To Tweet
But this issue is much broader than just women in sports– it hits on the larger question of using outdated gendered language to subtly hint to women what their socially accepted role is. Women have been the “angels of the household” for far too long. Women do compete in the Olympics, work outside the household, and change the world, but they can be held back by social commentary.
Because women are so often referred to in topics of beauty, body, and domestic role, it is sensible that women have doubts about their role. One very clear example is the work-life balance debate spearheaded by Sheryl Sandberg’s book and network, Lean In. The work-life balance is a debate specifically targeted at women, we don’t see many men talking about the difficulties of having both an office job and being a father. And the question really is, can you both be a good mother and have a good job? Alluding to the fact that women are expected to be wives and mothers before all else.The next time you hear someone talk about “girl pushups” or “throwing like a girl,” speak up and tweet up. Click To Tweet
The women in the Olympics have trained their entire lives for the upcoming winter games. To even qualify for the Olympics, you have to have worked so incredibly hard. Female athletes deserve to be celebrated for their sports achievement, rather than subjected to criticisms over their domestic triumphs and failures.
Women athletes are fast, strong, and great. So if you plan to watch the Olympics, notice the language sports commentators, your friends, and watchers on Twitter use to talk about female athletes. And if they’re talking about her beauty, body, or domestic role– change the narrative. The next time you hear someone talk about “girl pushups” or “throwing like a girl,” speak up (and tweet up). You have the ability to change the narrative and highlight the power, strength, and athleticism of women in sports.Female athletes deserve to be celebrated for their sports achievement, rather than subjected to criticisms over their domestic lives. Click To Tweet