The 2014 Winter Olympics ended this past Sunday. While watching the events I found the reactions of my friends, family, and the media, as well as myself, very telling of how our society looks at women. It is not enough that these women are some of the best athletes in the world, they must be pretty too. Without realizing it we judge female athletes more on their looks than on their outstanding ability in their respected sport. Not only does this affect how we look at them, but it affects how they act. These women feel they must live up to a higher standard of skill and good looks. In a recent interview figure skater, Ashley Wagner, said “I feel like the media and society in general--because it is easy--put female athletes into two boxes. You’re either a very pretty athlete or you go to the opposite end of the spectrum and you’re very sexy.” There is no room to be an unattractive female athlete.
NBC marketed eighteen year old figure skater, Gracie Gold, as the “face of the Olympics.” As an Olympic athlete she should become a household name for her talent, not because she’s being billed as “America’s Sweetheart.” This is the first year women’s ski jumping has been included in the Olympic games. How cool would it be if they were the “face of the Olympics?” These women have worked so hard to get to go to Sochi and will forever be a huge part of Olympic and Women’s history. I can’t think of anything wrong with using strength and willpower to promote the games, not just a pretty face.
Before traveling to Sochi, Alpine skier Julia Mancuso provocatively posed for GQ magazine wearing nothing but what she calls her “lucky underwear.” She has since won the bronze medal in her event but will continue to be known more for this photoshoot. The Russian team posted photos on their website of their female athletes scantily clad in lacy lingerie and see through garments saying “Our Russian team defies stereotypes that women in sports are just a heap of muscles and masculine shapes.”
These sort of photo shoots are often defended saying athletes in winter sports wear so much gear and equipment, its humanizing to see them without their pads and goggles. I applaud New York Times for successfully achieving this without having the athletes strip down. Their article on the US women’s ski jumping team shows them training and in full uniform but also having fun and interacting with each other. While this is a huge problem in the world of women’s athletics, itis not as much in men’s. A google search of “Female athletes 2014 winter Olympics” will provide pages of results like “15 Hottest Female Athletes,” “Hottest Olympic Athletes,” and “The 50 Hottest Female Athletes of the 2014 Winter Olympics.” A search for “Male Athletes 2014 Winter Olympics” gives you more skill-based headlines, “List of Olympic medalists” and “Meet the 2014 US Olympic Team in Sochi.” We must work to make ability the priority for all genders of athletes.