While the corporate media and the world are still intrigued and even appalled by what some allege are recent lies told by Ryan “the Lochte Mess Monster” Lochte, buried are niche stories about women changing athletic competition, one medal and one world record at a time.

Amy Bass, professor of history at the College of New Rochelle, cited in her opinion column on CNN’s website how disappointing it is that “the antics of Lochte and company” have garnered so much unnecessary spotlight, “pull[ing] so much attention away” from the athletes participating appropriately and successfully in Rio. Excluding Hope Solo’s reckless and disgraceful comments calling the Swedish soccer team “a bunch of cowards,” the group of women who represented Team USA have set precedents for women’s athletics around the world.

The Boston Globe regards Team USA’s women as a “global superpower” who have achieved over 60 percent of America’s total gold medals. Such a statistic should yield not only substantial media attention, but generate respectful coverage as well.

Unfortunately, NBC and other major media outlets either aren’t aware of what constitutes reverential coverage for women, or it is not a pertinent concern for them to portray women properly. Either explanation is disappointing.

The coverage has not only been deemed sexist, but it makes the case that, once again, athletics are a male space.

In a column a year ago, I talked about the incredible uprising of women in sports into the mainstream media spotlight, declaring the summer of 2015 “The Athenian Summer.” A year later, American women––who have attempted to shatter their own glass ceilings––aren’t even being named, have been called men, or are covered through the lens of their appearance rather than by their performance.

Vox Media defined some of this sexism as “Bro Appropriating,” and as pathetic as this jargon may sound, a tweet from the Chicago Tribune and a BBC interview of Andy Murray bring it to fruition.

The tweet from the Tribune failed to mention Corey Cogdell-Unrein as the winner of the bronze medal for Women’s Trap Shooting, and instead gave the credit to her husband, who happens to be a lineman for the Chicago Bears.

With the BBC, what appeared to be a lack of respect came from an inadequate amount of  journalistic research. John Inverdale asked Murray how it feels to be the “first person to ever win two olympic tennis gold medals.” Murray responded by correcting Inverdale, confidently quipping that the Williams sisters had achieved this feat far before he did.

Additionally, the majority of the corporate media seem to have an issue with acknowledging  female athletes as dominant.

Katie Ledecky defied more odds than imaginable. Her world record–breaking time for the women’s 800 freestyle clearly wasn’t enough for one newspaper, as she was given a sub-headline under one about Michael Phelps, who achieved the silver in his respective event.

In discussing dominance, I am still baffled by how Phelps has been praised for his supremacy and “meme-able” facial expressions, while the US Women’s Basketball (USWB) team is questioned about whether or not their performance in their games has provided them with enough of a challenge. USWB repeatedly has to prove to the media why they are indeed worthy of their sixth straight gold medal.

On the topic of Ledecky, NBC still can’t seem to realize that if a woman is competing, the credit belongs to her. Claiming that the 19-year-old “swims like a man” or “has a male stroke” is unacceptable. The reason commentators vomit these statements in an attempt to be complimentary is truly because female athletes today have more opportunities to pursue sports at a high level and make history. It’s comments like these that lead women to believe the narrative that defying gender norms isn’t necessary or appropriate on a stage like the Olympics. And then, blatantly calling her a “male” adds another layer to the Glass Ceiling.

A story that might shed that layer of Pyrex for Team USA’s women is Ibtihaj Muhammad’s bravery and resilience, as she competed and won a bronze medal as the first American Muslim wearing a hijab. But, the real story here has nothing to do with what she’s wearing, which, of course, when discussing women in sport, is always the topic people want to talk about. The real story here is the support she received in the midst of extreme adversity.

“This is the America that I know and that I love, the America that is inclusive and is accepting and that encompasses people of all walks of life,” Muhammad said after answering CNN’s Chris Cuomo during a live interview.

Looking at the Lochte scandal, I understand that the amount of coverage he received wasn’t completely a gender issue. The media eats up scandal like it’s a homemade meal. But both Lochte and Muhammad, and all of those who are attempting to shatter glass, reveal the two different ideologies that dictate modern American life.

One outlook oozes carelessness, embarrassment, and insensitivity. The other promotes making history and fostering progression for all. If we want to aid all in breaking down Pyrex, it is imperative for mainstream media to move away from gender stereotypes and to honor actual  accomplishments.  Billie Jean King hit the nail on the head: “Sports are a microcosm of society.”


Tagged: Rio 2016

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