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This newspaper headlines on Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky indicates that we undermine women’s achievements no matter how great they are.
While we witnessed a host of powerhouse performances in the Rio Olympics, unfortunately the ugly claws of sexism also got their way into the world’s biggest sporting event. One of the most popular topics in the Olympics was the USA swim team represented by stalwarts such as Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky.
In this Olympics, Phelps broke an over 2,000-year-old record and thereby won his 22nd gold medal. He later on won a 23rd gold medal as well. Ledecky, who is younger to Phelps by 12 years, smashed the world record in the 800 meter freestyle.
She also became the first woman to win all the three-200, 400, and 800 meter rallies in the same games since 1968, when this feat was accomplished by American Debbie Meyer.
However, despite each of these two athletes shining in their own categories, it seems that some section of the media still seems to think that Phelps’ achievements will definitely garner more attention and hence sell more papers. Why? Because he is a man, of course!
Law professor and writer Nancy Leong tweeted a screenshot of a news item from the ‘Greely Tribune’, a Colorado based-newspaper agency which had the text about Phelps’ silver metal in a significantly bigger font than the text about Ledecky’s record.
Nancy had captioned the image with these words in her tweet:
“This headline is a metaphor for basically the entire world.”
This headline is a metaphor for basically the entire world. pic.twitter.com/5WpQa04N0o
— Nancy Leong (@nancyleong) August 14, 2016
The tweet has since then gone viral. There were still people who felt that Phelps being the more well-known of the two deserved a bigger headline.
@nancyleong I’m not saying you’re wrong, but that’s a newspaper built to sell headlines. Phelps is a household name and sells papers.
— Colin Mansfield (@ColinMansfield) August 14, 2016
However, most people agreed to Nancy’s views of the sexist undertone of the headline.
@nancyleong I love the men sexistly arguing that this isn't sexist. No really, it's sexist. Mansplaining not needed.
— Anna Langford (@MsAnnaLangford) August 15, 2016
Finally, Jerry Martin, the sports editor of the ‘Greely Tribune’, responded to Nancy’s tweet and said that though he had originally led with Ledecky’s news, the Associated Press had changed the headlines to give more prominence to the Phelps’ news.
— Jerry Martin (@geraldhmartin) August 15, 2016
Without discussing who was responsible for this discriminatory headline, can we think about how society still perceives a woman’s achievements to be of lesser importance than those of a man’s? Whoever created the headline definitely had the newspaper’s saleability in mind. Their perception might have been that Phelps news will sell more copies of the paper than Ledecky’s win.
As some tweets also ‘explained’, that since Phelps was a more well known celebrity hence he deserved a bigger headline. If that is indeed the logic then what can be said of the BBC sports presenter who referred to Andy Murray, the world’s second ranked tennis player, as the first person to win two gold medals in Olympics? Murray, however, gracefully corrected him saying both Venus and Serena Williams have won four each.
With such examples at hand, how can we assure ourselves that it is not a deliberate act of the patriarchal society to somehow forget or undermine women’s achievements no matter how great those were?
I couldn’t help being reminded of the quote, “For most of history, anonymous was a woman” because it seems that a large section of the society still want to make women remain that way. Unsung, unknown, and anonymous.
Image Source: Youtube