There is a clear sexist double standard when it comes to female athletes and the standards they have to uphold in the public eye. Throughout media coverage of the past 2016 Olympics there has been countless incidences where female athletes have been under appreciated, body shamed, and have had their success stolen by their male counterparts (i.e. coaches and spouses). The way female athletes are treated is not only sexist but also gives young female athletes the idea that they must “adhere to the double-standard or leave.”
In the article Why We Make Women Athletes Into Villains, Beejoli Shah shows the clear divide between the standards the media and public has for male athletes versus female athletes. She begins by using Hope Solo, the starting goal keeper for the U.S. women’s national soccer team and her recent 6-month suspension and contract termination for calling the Swedish national team cowards after the U.S. lost to them in the quarterfinals – a clear case of women being held to a higher standard than men. She compares Solo’s situation with that of Christiano Ronaldo, a starting forward for the Portuguese national team, who, similarly, after a loss in the 2016 Euro Cup said Iceland’s team had a small mentality and were not going to go anywhere in the competition. Unlike Solo, however, Ronaldo was not punished for his “harsh” words.
So what kind of message does this double standard send to budding athletes especially female athletes? It shows kids that in order to be successful as a female athlete there are higher standards that you must uphold. In other words, you should accept the fact that your male coach and husband will most likely get the credit for your success, or that you will most likely be criticized not on how you perform, but on how you look while performing.
Shah mentions how 2016 is the year that Title XI is more important than it has ever been with great female athletic achievements from Serena William’s Wimbledon championship to Misty Copeland being recognized more as an athlete rather than a just a dancer. Despite all of the female achievement this year, Shah asks if this new found spotlight on female athletes and women’s sports in general is a “pedestal or just a pair of rose gold handcuffs?”
In the case of Hope Solo the spotlight is most definitely a pair of handcuffs. She is most certainly not the poster child when it comes to good behavior but of all the things she has done from being accused of domestic abuse to publicly telling off her former coach, calling a team and the way they play cowardly is hardly something that should be punishable by a 6-month suspension, let alone termination of her contract. I strongly believe the US Soccer Federation used Solo’s questionable comments after the game against the Sweds as a cop out and excuse to get rid of Solo possibly because of her involvement in getting equal pay for the women’s national team.
The Olympics is by no means the only platform where women are held to a double standard but it raises issues for our youth. As both a soccer and softball player at Hiram College I can say first hand that these types of double standards and inequalities are also present in collegiate athletics. These inequalities range from things as simple as not being able to warm up for our soccer game because the football team is having practice on the turf and they have priority, to having higher standards set by our coaches for academics and for how we dress and look to the public. If budding women athletes see professional and collegiate female athletes being criticized for how they look, this subconsciously makes young women aware of physical standards and can lead to body image issues for young women who watch pro female athletes for inspiration. Additionally, if they are surrounded by the media constantly telling them that they must watch what they say, it gives young female athletes the idea that they have to essentially submit to the behavioral standards.