With The Olympics over, many of us will either be feeling withdrawal symptoms or possibly relief from the end of this year’s iconic Games, which have been dominating our screens from dawn ‘til dusk making every ordinary man and woman feel somewhat inadequate, eclipsed by these humble super-humans.
Over the last few weeks we have all been inspired to dust off our bicycles, dig out our trainers and join the local rowing club… That is until the weather changes, Christmas arrives and we fall back into a comfortable routine of eating our weight in chocolate and hibernating during the cold winter nights.
But please don’t be misled by my slightly bitter tone. Whilst I may have been more of a bookworm than a sportswoman growing up, I absolutely love The Olympic Games. I love the history, the achievements, the patriotism, the opulence and the inspiration people draw from watching ordinary people do extraordinary things.
And this year, I love the fact that women were centre stage.
Yes, this year we have had more female athletes than ever before; approximately 45% of participants. In fact, the number of women in the Olympics has doubled in the last 40 years and the 2016 Olympic Games featured a record of none other than 28 women’s sports.
Not bad, considering that whilst men have been competing in The Games for over 2000 years, women were only admitted just over a century ago.
But in the next Olympic Games, we need to #askhermore.
No more comments on hair styles. No more remarks about nail varnish. And most definitely, no more outfit analysis. No one has ever asked Andy Murray to give them a twirl, or commented on Michael Phelps hairstyle. And when was the last time someone told Usain Bolt to smile? Of course they wouldn’t. Because it’s patronising and pointless – all we really want to hear about are Andy’s secret techniques or Usain’s rigorous training regime.
So why is it not the same with our incredible female athletes? Why do the commentators so often ignore their incredible skills and abilities to focus instead on the amount of gemstones on their leotards or who their famous husband is (as if that is all that would define her – you may have won a gold medal, but I’m sure it can’t compare with being married to a famous movie star).
NBC seems to be one of the worst offenders with biased coverage that included asking Ginny Thrasher, the Virginia shooter who won the first gold medal for the US, why she doesn’t smile when competing (?!) and going into an in depth analysis of the number of crystals on the US team’s gymnastic leotards, with their own team coordinator comparing their Olympic outfits to ‘little prom dresses’.
But closer to home, John Inverdale also congratulated Andy Murray on being the first person to win two tennis golds – forgetting that the Williams sisters have already achieved four medals each.
Twitter has been awash with public outcry about the state of the biased commentary around The Olympic Games, with people using the #askhermore hashtag to vent their frustration.
This archaic attitude to women in The Olympic Games makes me wonder why we were even deigned entry in the first place. But how can we change this? We need to look at the solutions as opposed to the problems.
Firstly, we need more female presenters and commentators; if we can have 45% female participants then why not 45% or even (God forbid) 50% of our presenters and commentators women? With a more balanced mix of both genders then we might finally get some balanced commentary.
Secondly, why are women so often thought as the weaker sex? Why in tennis do men play five sets while women only play three? Why are the men’s cycling road races 62 miles longer than the women’s? The Games have purposefully placed women on the back foot, on an uneven playing field and hindered their chances to truly measure up to men. Women are just as capable and it’s about time we stopped patronising them and let them shine.
We, both women and men, need to keep reminding the world that to be equal is not all about statistics, percentages and fulfilling a ‘quota’, but about how women are represented; with the same impartiality and objectivity as their male counterparts. Not emotional, but Courageous. Not defenceless, but Strong,
If you would like to find out more about the #askhermore campaign, take a look at The Representation Project.