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.
One 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?