The Olympics are over now, put to bed with a grand finale on Sunday evening.

Last week, as I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, those same Olympics prompted several posts about sexism in sports reporting.

SwimmerOne post included a satire of the way Michael Phelps’ accomplishments would have been described had he been a female. The focus was on his marital status, his quick return to swimming following the birth of his baby, time thus spent away from his baby, the support he received from his family, and his classification as ‘arm candy.’ The article was short on references to strength, determination, commitment or sacrifice—the basics required of every Olympic athlete. The article was well done, very funny, and it did a great job of emphasizing the way men and women are perceived in a sports venue.

On the serious side, when Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú crushed the world record in a gold-medal performance, an NBC commentator said, “And there’s the man responsible—her husband and coach!” The camera panned to a man in a green shirt cheering and raising his fists to the sky.

I was watching that event. I heard that comment. And I’m embarrassed to admit that it didn’t register as the “Are you kidding me?” comment that it actually was.

Such is the power of awareness. (Or lack of it.)

Before we can change anything, we have to be conscious of the need for that change. A friend told me last week that in the sixties (1960’s, not 1860’s), the public swimming pools in Los Angeles were open for white people on Days 1-4, for Latinos on Day 5, and for African Americans on Day 6. The pool was then drained and refilled on Day 7.

My jaw dropped. Seriously? She said that her husband, who is Latino, told her, “Yes, we had one day a week. Didn’t really think anything of it.”

The fact that people could be bamboozled into viewing such conditions as routine, as appropriate, just astonishes me. Yet, in truth, we do tend to accept the way things are, without examining them too closely. What’s known, familiar, and comfortable tends to persist—unless we become aware that change is in order.

And those changes don’t need to be as important as battling sexism or racism. For me, it was literally putting on my glasses and looking at my kitchen counters. Yikes! Where did all those splats and spots come from?

How about you? What areas of your life might you view with a new set of eyes?

2 thoughts on “Ism

  1. judy anne

    Wow, it’s amazing what we will accept because we haven’t known anything different. It actually gives me hope to read this post, because it means that the status quo will change and those things we find unacceptable in society can eventually change.

    Thank you for this article. It brings to mind some things in my life that I have accepted as limitations – just because I have become used to them – but in reality it is just up to me to make a decision and grow beyond those self-imposed boundaries.

  2. Kathy Kane

    We don’t even see our normal after a while. Pretty scary. We need special glasses to shake things up, see behind or beneath that normal! Hmm…what might those glasses look like?


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