The 2012 London Games have been called “the women’s Olympics” and rightfully so. Female Olympians from the U.S. outnumbered their male teammates for the first time, and they earned more medals than women from any other nation–and even more than American men. It was also the first time in history that all countries had female athletes (go, Sarah Attar!). Too bad the media didn’t always see it this way and chose, instead, to focus on crappy body-snarking.
Australia’s four-time swimmer Leisel Jones was called fat by an Australian paper, which also suggested that she didn’t look as fit as the Beijing Game in 2008. (She, by the way, went on to get the silver medal in the 4x100m medley relay.)
American weightlifter, Holley Mangold (who was the heaviest woman at the Games this summer), endured her share of criticism for weighing 346 pounds, but she fought back by telling everyone, “…you can be athletic at any size. I’m not saying everyone is an athlete but I am saying an athlete can come in any size.”
Then there was the debacle with Lolo Jones, who the New York Times rudely bashed saying that the reason she got so much media attention was simply because of her sex appeal and not her hard work as an athlete.
The women on Brazil’s soccer team were called “a bit heavy” by the Cameroon coach after they defeated his team, and Belarusian shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk was told she looked like a man.
Even NBC’s video “Bodies In Motion” received its share of backlash and criticism for supposedly objectifying women and their bodies. So much so that NBC has now pulled the video from its website after it was referred to as ”softcore, fetishist slow-motion highlights, while porn-tastic jazz music played on the soundtrack.” The folks at Jezebel also called it creepy porn with “…footage of conventionally attractive female athletes competing in sports that require them to be scantily clad, slowing it way down as the camera lovingly caresses their butts, breasts, and bouncing ponytails…”
And let’s not forget all the attention the women volleyball players received (come on, we all know guys who tuned in simply because of their bikinis).
True, Olympians have fantastically fit, hard, muscular, curvy and yes, sexy bodies. No one is denying them that. But at the end of these Games, I’d like to think we will remember more than just what they looked like.
I’d like to think we will actually remember women like Claressa Shields who punched her way to a gold medal in women’s boxing for the first time in history, Gabrielle Douglas who, at age 16, took gold in the women’s all-around gymnastics, Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt who each won five medals in the pool and Franklin setting new records along the way, the U.S. track team who set a new world record in the 4 X 100m relay, and Sarah Attar who was the first woman from Saudi Arabia to represent her country at the Games.
The women this summer represented a record 44% of the nearly 11,000 athletes in London. They worked hard, trained hard and kicked some major ass. So it’s a disservice to focus on anything other than their accomplishments.