Hungarian swimmer Katinka Hosszú, aka the “Iron Lady,” swam the race of her life on Aug. 6, claiming Olympic gold and shattering a world record in the process. As she raised her arms in victory, the NBC camera immediately panned over to Hosszú’s husband at which point the announcer declared: “And there’s the man responsible.”
Wait? What? Did I miss something here?
I was genuinely confused. Did this dude just swim the the 400-meter individual medley, jump out of the pool and towel off really quick because that’s the only explanation I can come up with. Surely a veteran sports broadcaster like Dan Hicks wouldn’t just blatantly credit a woman’s athletic triumph to a man?
But he did.
And the worst part was he didn’t even realize he was doing it. What Hicks failed to grasp was that by crediting Hosszú’s husband, he was marginalizing her victory. Essentially, he was saying she couldn’t have done this if not for a man.
But wouldn’t that be — dare I say it? — sexist? You’re darn right.
I wasn’t the only one who noticed. Social media websites blew up at Hicks’ comment and rightfully so. But even after all the criticism NBC caught, some staffer at The Chicago Tribune made the bonehead decision to post on Twitter “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics.”
Twitter users fired back, with my favorite being: “You spelled ‘3-time Olympian Corey Cogdell-Unrein wins second bronze medal today in Rio Olympics’ wrong.”
Even commentary that went unchallenged was just dripping with (thinly) veiled misogyny. Like when U.S. swimmer Katie Ledecky — a nine-time world champion and five-time gold medalist — was referred to as “a female Michael Phelps.”
Because, you know, she can swim fast … but she’s a girl!
It’s 2016. Are we really still at a point where a woman’s accomplishments can’t stand on their own merits? Apparently so.
There were counter-arguments. Plenty of people defended Hicks’ statements by arguing that Hosszú’s husband was also her trainer and it was normal to give credit to an athlete’s coach. Well, yes, to a point. But certainly not to the extent where they are called “the man responsible.”
(On a side note, I would also ask how many times a coach or trainer has been solely credited with a male athlete’s victory. Good luck with that one.)
My point is this: What if after Phelps won his 28th medal the headlines read “Former Miss California’s fiance breaks 2,000-year-old Olympic record!”
Would that seem ridiculous to you? Of course it would — but it happens to women athletes all the time. And if you dare to complain about it, you’re labeled as whiny, dramatic or overly-sensitive. But let’s be clear, this isn’t about being “PC,” this is about giving these women the credit they’re due, credit they have earned.
I think perhaps Simone Biles said it best: In an interview following her individual gold medal in the gymnastics all-around competition Biles looked square at the camera and said simply: “I’m not the next Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. I’m the first Simone Biles.”
You go, girl.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress and The Pickens Sentinel and can be reached at email@example.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.