M-Theory: A regressive season of Olympic coverage Melanie Baker August 18, 2016 Columns, Featured, M-Theory Back in 1970, we had Gil Scott-Heron’s, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”. These days the idea of relying on television for media coverage is downright quaint. “Racism isn’t getting worse, it’s getting filmed.” Will Smith recently said this on an interview with Stephen Colbert. I don’t think he’s wrong. I’ve also noticed that sexism is getting filmed a lot lately, too. Or at least getting headlines and tweets. I don’t get all that into the Olympics, at least in the summer. Sure, I want Canadians to do well – though this Olympics I mostly want them to survive the water, accommodations, and muggings… However, the coverage the internets have kindly streamed into my eyeballs the last while has been keeping me in a near-perpetual state of bitchiness. To what do I refer? Well, in the interest of shining a media coverage light on a revolution that can always use more momentum, in no particular and not exhaustive order… According to CBC Sports’ Adam Kreek, Eugenie Bouchard lost because she’s too into beauty, fashion, and social media. Who knew Instagram was such a scourge of athletic performance? Big feminist kudos, though, to Kreek’s former Olympic teammate Adam Van Koeverden for his excellent rebuttal to that kind of sexist crap that female Olympic athletes and females in general deal with every day. Blog posts can still be relevant. Huh. Andy Murray was also kindly helpful in providing a reminder that the Williams sisters have won a few medals in tennis. Daily Beast writer Nico Hines apparently decided to take a stroll through the Olympic Village, and since this straight, white, cisgender, married father wasn’t getting enough salacious hookup material using apps for straight people, he went on Grindr. The resulting “reporting” was cruel, disgusting, and, as many have pointed out, enough to ruin lives and get outed people killed in countries where being gay is a life-threatening condition. The article’s been removed and The Daily Beast has posted an apology. Except… that piece had to have received editorial approval in the first place to get published. The internet might have a short attention span, but its memory is eidetic and permanent. Tongan swimmer (and out gay man) Amini Fonua’s blistering response has almost enough profanity in it to adequately express how horrible this clickbait garbage was. Apparently while it’s okay to shine a spotlight on gay people, it’s also okay to make female athletes’ identities and accomplishments disappear. Let’s dive in, shall we? Four-time Olympic medalist, Canadian swimmer Penny Oleksiak is now “Pretty Penny” and has been asked in interviews about her… brother’s NHL career. Kosovar judoka Majlinda Kelmendi won her country’s first medal – gold – and the bout was summed up by a charming BBC commentator as a “catfight”. As a woman with some fight training, I have a rebuttal for this commentator. It’s not verbal. Three-time Olympian Corey Cogdell won a bronze medal in trapshooting. Or, as you might know her from the Chicago Tribune’s coverage, the wife of a Chicago Bears football player. Hungarian gold medalist swimmer Katinka Hosszu was apparently only peripheral to her own winning performance, which was all down to… her husband, according to NBC. (The commentator did later express regret at the choice of words after the gaffe got considerable reaction.) We don’t know if British athlete Jessica Ennis Hill arrived in Rio focused on having gotten married recently and having had a baby while trying for another gold medal in the heptathlon, but the media coverage back in the UK certainly has been focused on that. The hits just keep coming. Perhaps those who plan to open their mouths on camera or publish coverage could give this a read… However, we do appreciate attempts at satire to draw attention to this rather pervasive issue. Gymnast Simone Biles had to explicitly point out that she’s not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, thankyouverymuch. (She has also been called the Michael Jordan of gymnastics.) Swimmer Katie Ledecky has also been called a female Michael Phelps, while we’re on a theme. Simone Biles and her American gymnastics teammates were also described as looking like they “might as well be standing in the middle of a mall”. This is when they were together celebrating their commanding qualifying round performance. Because these aren’t world-class athletes, just a bunch of giggly teenagers. Simone Manuel, the first female African American swimmer to win a gold medal, was reduced to simply being “an African American”. And apparently NBC couldn’t be bothered to show her medal ceremony, since there was some eight-hour-old gymnastics they just had to air. They did eventually air it. Oh, and also got the video from the BBC – which did post it earlier – removed. There was also precious little coverage of why Simone Manuel’s win was so historic and culturally significant. I realize she’s American, that she tied for the gold with Oleksiak, and Canadian media is going to focus more on the home team, but swimming and pools have been the tip of segregation’s wedge, as Macleans’ Andray Domise noted, since post-WWI. As of this writing, there’s a few more days of Olympic coverage coming up. Who knows what amazing feats men will get credit for as female athletes ascend the podium? I mean, someone needs to get credit for Sara Ahmed’s groundbreaking and historical performance. Or Kariman Abuljadayel’s. Or Michelle Carter’s. Of course, CBC broadcaster Elliotte Friedman screwed up on one men’s swimming race, and apparently is still beating himself up for this “lowest moment of his career” while social media support pours in. One wonders, if he’d made any of the myriad comments outlined above, whether there’d be nearly as much coverage. Or any. Oh, and by the way, for the first two-thirds of the Olympics (until Sunday evening), every one of Canada’s 12 medals was won by gritty, determined, talented, record-breaking female athletes. Well played, ladies. M-Theory is an opinion column by Melanie Baker. Opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Communitech. Melle can be reached @melle or firstname.lastname@example.org.