Win like a woman: How the media is still failing female Olympians

From Salon:

Women are taking home medals, but many reports still focus on them as wives and moms

Mary Elizabeth Williams
Monday, Aug 8, 2016

Did you hear that women’s trap shooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein won her second career Olympic medal for the U.S. team in Rio this weekend? Did you cheer for Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, who won the gold and broke a world record in 400-meter individual medley? Or were you too distracted by the media commentary about their husbands?

In the field of world-class competition, you can be literally one of the greatest athletes of all time and still have fans who’d argue your achievements are second-rate. If you want to get on the cover of Sports Illustrated, your odds are better if you’re a swimsuit model than an actual record-crushing hero. And then there’s the way that female athletes are repeatedly commented on in the media — either as objects of desire or grudging “plays like a guy” admiration, and always, the need to comment on their status as wives and moms.

When Corey Cogdell-Unrein took the trap shooting bronze over the weekend, eight years after earning her first medal in Beijing and four years after competing in London, the headlines noted her achievement by placing her in context. The Chicago Sun-Times announced, “Corey Cogdell-Unrein, wife of Bears DE Mitch, wins bronze.” This is the entire second paragraph of the report: “Her husband, Bears defensive end Mitch Unrein, cheered her from his home near Chicago. They have been married for two years.” Last month, the paper similarly declared that “Bears lineman Mitch Unrein’s wife takes aim at gold in Rio.”  The Sporting News, meanwhile, reported that “Corey Cogdell, wife of Bears lineman, wins bronze in shooting.”

Writing for Australia’s SBS, comedian Rebecca Shaw suggested that come the fall, maybe the headlines could announce that “Three time Olympian Corey Cogdell’s husband plays a game of football.” And on Twitter, performance artist Mallory Hanora noted the Chicago Tribune’s tweet on the medal didn’t even mention Cogdell-Unrein’s name — but did include her husband’s — with a wry, “Wow she trained so her whole life for that marriage congratulations unnamed woman.”

Sure, he’s a Chicago athlete and she’s not — note how her home state didn’t have trouble writing the news as “Alaska trapshooter Cogdell-Unrein claims 2nd Olympic bronze medal.” And yes, the Bears have a bigger fan community than Olympic trap shooting does. But did anybody stop for a second before writing that headline to ask if the story here really is about this woman’s identity as a wife? (It is not.)

It’s kind of like how when Hillary Clinton achieved her history-making Democratic nomination for the president of the U.S., newspapers across the country blasted out photographs of her husband. Know when not to perpetuate BS, journalists.

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