Jamaica’s Usain Bolt is most definitely a living legend, so is Michael Phelps, and Kenya’s David Rudisha has just entered that discussion. Beyond a few big names, women are clearly the story of what many had already been called The Title IX Olympics. Both the US and China’s Olympic medal dominance is driven by women who have combined for 107 medals to men’s 81 medals. While the US led China and Great Britain in gold medals 46-38-29, all three countries tied for 17 gold medals in men’s events (updated stats on Aug. 12). Women (29 golds) have saved the American day as US men decline on the world stage.
Only in swimming did US men really dominate. Even still, Phelps’ four golds were matched by Missy Franklin, and Ryan Lochte two golds were exceeded by Allison Schmitt (3) and Dana Vollmer (3). Beyond swimming, no US men won multiple gold medals unlike Serena Williams (tennis), Allison Felix (track), Sanya Richards-Ross (track), Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman (gymnasts). Carmelita Jeter (track) joins Felix and Raisman with America’s only three total non-swimming medals.
While Bolt and Jamaica owned men’s sprints, American women took golds in the 200 and 400 meters; 100m and 400m relays; and the long-jump gold (Brittney Reese). Men named Cassius Clay, Sugar Ray, and Oscar were once boxing Olympic champions, but have now been replaced by 17-year old Claressa Shields — the first American woman boxer to win a gold medal.
Beyond the US Men’s Basketball Team, American women have also dominated the team sports. The women’s basketball team claimed its fifth straight gold to extend a dominant 41 game win streak, and the women’s soccer won its third straight Gold in front of 80,000 fans. Beach volleyball got it’s third straight gold and women won water polo too.
Considering everything that American women have done for the country, will America love women sports back after this weekend? Will the Olympics spark a new soccer league? Is there a future for women’s boxing? Will sports media ever respect women beyond bikinis at minimum, or even invest in covering women’s sports? Will we level the playing field?
To help find answers, below are some related thoughts from around the web:
What’s Wrong With The Media Coverage of Women’s Olympians?, Sarah Jackson, Role/Reboot
“The 2012 Summer Olympics are going strong in London and stirring up quite a bit of chatter, excitement, and criticism. NBC, in particular, has been lampooned for their decision to air the games on tape delay in order to bolster their primetime rating and for the use of commentators who don’t actually have any sport-related expertise—like Ryan Seacrest. On top of this, and despite women outnumbering their male counterparts on the U.S. Olympic team for the first time, watching the Olympics also seems to be a trial in trying to ignore (or becoming enraged by—depending on your approach) good old-fashioned sexism.”
Does Teenager Claressa Shields Become the Face of US Boxing?, John Niyo, Detroit News
“She’d pictured this in her mind for years, and dreamed about it only the night before. But when the moment finally arrived for Claressa Shields, the 17-year-old from Flint, Mich., who won the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the U.S. in women’s boxing Thursday, she didn’t even want to peek. ‘I tried not to look at it while I was up there,’ she said, laughing at her own nervous joy during the medal ceremony. ‘But I was like, ‘Oh, here it comes! I can’t believe this medal is in front of me right now!’ And then when they put it on me, I guess I went crazy.'”
US Women’s Basketball are Real Dream Team, Jackie MacMullan, ESPN
“Opponents in London haven’t been hounding Candace Parker, Angel McCoughtry, Tamika Catchings, Sue Bird or Diana Taurasi for pregame photos, but the aura surrounding this collection of basketball stars is unmistakable. It’s the United States — and everybody else. The squad continues to make a convincing case for surpassing the 1996 and 2008 U.S. women’s Olympic squads as the most dominant group of female basketball players ever assembled.”
Another Chance for US Women Soccer to Lift Their Sport, Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun
“Before the largest crowd to ever watch a women’s Olympic soccer match, in a stadium synonymous with what Europeans call football, the U.S. won gold and with it, another chance for the sport to become less of a quadrennial attraction back home. “Eighty thousand for a women’s final?” said Carli Lloyd, who scored both goals for the U.S. in a 2-1 victory over Japan Thursday at Wembley Stadium. “That says a lot about women’s soccer, and women’s sports.”
Nancy Hogshead-Makar: Women’s sports, Title IX, Penn State and Beyond, Christian Avard, The Starting Five
“I was always interested in the male-female dynamic in sports. I was a swimmer, which is a coed sport. In terms of how men and women are treated, it’s probably the most egalitarian sport you can get, along with track and field. We work out with men every day, we share a coach and have similar locker rooms, and go all the meets together.”
Olympics Oppression? Gabby Douglas and Smile Politics, Crunk Feminist Collective, Crunktastic
“Her smile is beautiful to be sure. And a world in which Black girls smile, giddy from the joy of being able to pursue their dreams, is a world I want more of. But after having read Toni Morrison’s analysis of Clarence Thomas’ nomination hearings for the Supreme Court, and the copious amount of times that Congressmen referred to his great smile and jovial personality (rather than his record of legal scholarship and groundbreaking rulings), I am suspicious of these kinds of smile politics.”
Serena Williams and Getting Emotional for Title IX: Edge of Sports, Dave Zirin
“When Serena had to field the “emotions” question on the highest possible stage, it was for me a window into why so many women and men celebrated the recent 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX. There is arguably no piece of progressive legislation that’s touched more people’s lives than Title IX, which allowed young women equal opportunity in education and sports. According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, one in 35 high school girls played sports 40 years ago; one in three do today. Before Title IX, fewer than 16,000 women participated in college sports; today that number exceeds 200,000.“
So She’s A Mom. So What?, Salon, Mary Elizabeth Williams
NBC is obsessed with athletes who are mothers and athletes’ mothers. Let’s stop defining women by their kids
Olympics’ Coverage Still Shortchanges Female Athletes: Jane Schonberger, On The Issues Magazine
“Watching the Olympics is still a highlight for me. But when I stopped playing tennis and swimming competitively and started thinking critically, I realized there are a lot of issues with the Olympic media when it comes to the appearances and presentation of women athletes, and many untapped and emerging opportunities, as well. What’s Wrong with the Olympics?”
Added Aug. 12: The Media’s Gabby Douglas Problem, T.F. Charlton, Ebony
The reports of Black women hating on Gabby Douglas’s hair have been greatly exaggerated. Articles claiming that Black women have fixated on Gabby’s hair have sparked the usual discussion about White beauty norms, hair politics, and internalized racism. But is itreally Black women who are obsessed with Gabby Douglas’ hair, or the media?
Added Aug. 12: The Olympics Schizophrenic Gender Politics, Jessica Luther, Salon
During the Olympics, we get to watch all sorts of women play all sorts of sports. That is no small deal. Unlike in our everyday sports experience where men are the assumed participants unless otherwise specified, in the Olympics, events are tagged “men’s” and “women’s” equally. For once, “men’s” is not the default. Instead, pop culture at large invites us to learn these women’s stories, trace their journeys, and praise their accomplishments. Women’s visibility in the Olympics is a double-edged sword, though.
Added August 12: Will Women’s Success Carry Beyond The Games?, Jackie MacMullan, ESPN
“U.S. women dominated in London, garnering 29 of the country’s 44 gold medals through Saturday night. Plug the women into the medal standings all on their own, without the tallies of their male countrymen, and their gold-medal haul would have been the third best, trailing only the U.S. and China (after Sunday’s action, they’d be tied for third with Great Britain).”
“Thank Nike” Card, Nita and Shaunna, The UltraViolet Team
“Most advertisers give in to the temptation to run ads that either objectify women athletes or just focus on men. So when one goes out on a limb—even an unlikely company like Nike—to provide a rarely seen and incredibly empowering take on women athletes, it’s important to thank them. If they don’t see how many of us are inspired by these women and their stories, they might not run ad campaigns like this anymore. Can you take a moment to sign this “Thank You” note to Nike? You can watch one of their “Voices” videos at the link too. Add your name to the card.
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