By now, many of us have successfully adjusted our sleep schedules to capture every moment of glory at the 2018 Winter Olympic games taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea. While it’s totally normal to marvel at the athletes and the skill required to complete a triple lutz or conquer the halfpipe, there’s one aspect about this year’s Olympics that needs to stop: We all have to chill when it comes to objectifying Olympic athletes.
Over the past week, several popular news outlets have been publishing stories that have nothing to do with athletic ability and everything to do with physical appearance, praising athletes for their good looks instead of Olympic performance. Russian curler Anastasia Bryzgalova made headlines this week after social media erupted with comparisons to actress Angelina Jolie.
Sure, there are worse things in life than being compared to Angelina Jolie or to be complimented online — but, the level of attention given to Bryzgalova and other athletes completely discredits their hard work and dedication to the sport.
— brooke (@SchofiesChoice) February 8, 2018
Bryzgalova recently gave an interview with Russian website news.sportbox.ru and dismissed the attention that’s being given to her looks saying, “Yes, it’s very pleasant (to receive compliments), but medals are not given for beauty.”
For most athletes, the Olympics comes after a lifetime of hard work and sacrifice. Funding varies not only by country, but by sport. While well-known athletes like Shaun White or Lindsey Vonn have lucrative corporate sponsorships, many athletes have had to fund their own training and travel sometimes holding several jobs to make ends meet.
Earlier this week, BuzzFeed posted an article entitled 11 Men’s Luge Bulges That Deserve Gold Medals. The article, written by staff writer Julie Gerstein sexualized various male athletes by encouraging readers to gawk at their genitalia. Firstly, the suggestion to do so is hypocritical in a climate seeking gender equality. If BuzzFeed were to post dedicated to the 15 Best Up-Skirt Shots from Figure Skating, the internet would be up in arms (and rightly so).
The men included on the list are participating in a dangerous sport, flying feet first down a track of ice reaching speeds of approximately 144km/h. It takes hours of practice, skill and not to mention guts to compete — but hey, don’t pay attention to his time, look at his junk!
Cosmopolitan recently posted a video of 10 male Olympic athletes who began undressing while giving their best “Gold medal pick up lines.” The video is not only cringe-worthy for the cheesy lines, but because the men in the video seem slightly embarrassed to be participating. Why the undressing? Are we not smart enough to assume someone who dedicates their life to sport might be in peak physical shape? Cosmopolitan, like BuzzFeed, is piggybacking the objectification of women using a tit-for-tat approach. The idea that objectifying both sexes is fair game perpetuates disrespect on both sides.
For the rest of the PyeongChang Olympic Winter Games, let’s do better for our athletes. There will be athletes who make headlines for winning, some who make headlines for letting a medal slip through their fingers, and there will be some who compete without garnering any media attention at all. Celebrate their accomplishments and the sacrifices they have made to have their moment at the most prestigious sporting event in the world and the fact that they are able to call themselves Olympians.