Sports objectification: it's not 'Simply Irresistible'
The Washington Post asked about women athletes at the Rio Olympics, "Why do they have to look like showgirls?" The Metro News goes a step further, calling it the "Ogling Olympics."
The skimpy outfits of the Games are hardly a surprise. After all, you have 10,000 of the fittest people on earth concentrated for a short time in a small area, seeking what for most will be their one shot at fame. They are not likely to be shy about it.
Aside from the fact that 42,000 condoms were handed out in Olympic village this month, triple the amound of the last Games, there's plenty to raise an eyebrow over.
You may have wondered why male beach volleyball players wear shirts, long baggy shorts and ball caps, while women's teams (aside from the extremely fully covered Egyptians) play in basically a bikini. At least for this Olympics the women had a choice - in the past they were mandated to wear bikini bottoms that could "not exceed six inches wide at the hip."
I can almost guarantee you that a man wrote that rule.
You may have wondered why women's volleyball players wear shorts that would cut off circulation on a Barbie doll, while men wear loose, long basketball-style gear.
Or why women tennis players in this day and age are required to wear skirts. Either give them a choice to wear shorts, or put Andy Murray in a kilt out there.
Or why men's gymnasts seem to wear full length pants and a singlet top, while women often wear something that looks like it belongs in a Victoria's secret catalog, sometimes crammed with glitter and ruffles and see-through panels.
Or why male track stars manage to run fine in a full shirt while female ones are outfitted in bare-middies.
Or why synchronized swimmers have to be made up like the models in Robert Palmer's "Addicted to Love" MTV video.
In some cases, skimpy suits are there (or not there) as a competitive advantage. For a world-class sprinter or tennis player, perhaps every extra ounce to carry around matters. And in one sport, swimming, the men are expected to be even more revealing that female counterparts - so much so that NBC took to using its information graphics bar to cover the guys', well you know.
What athletes choose to wear is their business, insofar as choice goes in their discipline. But if women athletes feel they have to be dressed up and made up as sex objects to get attention or ratings or success, that's a problem.
Several of the leading Olympian gymnast women and girls have spoken out about longtime body issues, body shaming and eating disorders brought on by the pressure of their sports, and we should listen, because body issues certainly aren't limited to sports, or for that matter, to women.
We should be long past restrictive body ideals by now, and it's downright bizarre that girls should come of age being shamed because they are strong and athletic, with real shoulders and powerful legs in place of fashion-magazine twigs.
The media has done some goofy things during this Olympic Games to perpetuate sexism in sports.
The Toronto Sun celebrated a silver medal for "Pretty Penny Oleksiak" in a splashy front page feature. I've never seen a male Russian powerlifter identified as "Pretty Vladimir," though just in case I ever bump into an angry one, I'm sure they are quite attractive in their own right.
"24 Hours" ran it's feature on the Olynpics with a close-up shot of a line of female swimmer's rear ends with the headline "Sex with a side of gold." That story opined that "volleyball and tennis are among the sexiest sports not just for their sexy bodies and great personalities but also for the cute outfits they don."
Holy cow, how 1950s can you get. Did you even notice the fact that they are really, really, really amazing athletes?
The stately Chicago Tribune, no less, headlined a story about a trap-shooting athlete's win: "Wife of a Bears' lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics." They didn't even allow the poor athlete to have an existence of her own.
An NBC commentator had to apologize for introducing the husband/coach of world-record setting swimmer Karina Hosszu "as the man responsible" for her gold medal. Sorry, he didn't swim a lick, she's responsible for her own success.
One commentator referred to a judo bout as "a catfight." Condescending much?
Remember 2012, when newspapers published a column in which London Mayor Boris Johnson's gushed over "semi-naked women playing beach volleyball... glistening like wet otters"?
Wet otters? Somebody call PETA, and keep this creep away from the zoos. It's called sweat, pal. And maybe you should actually watch the game instead of the outfits sometime. Because no matter the uniform, hair, makeup or body type, the Olympics, and our sports closer to home, exist to celebrate the very fact that competition is what's beautiful.
Too often, right in our city, women's and girls' sports events draw usually smaller crowds than the male events, for reasons I can't fathom. The female athletes work every bit as hard, with just as much passion, and do just as many incredible things.
As for the Olympics, they say sex sells, but with the amazing athletic talent female competitors displayed at the Games - and display every day in our colleges and schools - it's time for the talent to sell itself.