As a rather unfit ‘back seat driver’ of sport, I have loved watching the Olympics this year, shouting at the screen as a new found expert of all sport (I mean, come on, how hard is it not to create a splash jumping into water from ten meters high?). We, as a country, seem to be at an all-time high of our athletic ability. I even started to feel a patriotic swell of emotion that I certainly didn’t expect to feel for a long time post Brexit.
The thing that left a sour taste in my, and the rest of Britain’s mouths, is the coverage. We listened to the same mediocre questions being churned out, the same interviewers not listening to the sports people’s answers and repeating what has already been said. Dire, to say the least. But you know, I expected this. It’s on a par with the questions you hear on the red carpet – nothing of any real substance. What I didn’t expect was the same thing the rest of the country wasn’t expecting, the sheer sexism displayed by our beloved BBC.
I’m not going to list the individual instances as, you’ll no doubt have read (and been infuriated by) them already. It’s straight up appalling and, these people (some of whom are women interviewing women) should know better. I watched a woman, Becky James, fight tooth and nail after a devastating injury and health issues to claw her way back to not only to an Olympic final but to a silver medal, having her moment of sun shadowed by the reporter insisting on speaking to her boyfriend (who, admitted he knows nothing (NOTHING) about cycling).
Why, I think, this seems to be resonating so personally with the public is not just the injustice of it but how universal it is. It highlights an issue that, whilst it’s being called out here in the public eye, goes unchallenged and often unnoticed in industry. Women’s achievements are so often chalked up to the man above them. Women’s achievements are overshadowed by their wardrobe choices or the fact they wore something that wasn’t deemed quite right for the office that day. Women’s achievements are down to the fact that a boyfriend, husband, father, allowed her to achieve and they are therefore technically his achievements.
I’m choosing to see something positive in this shit storm of unfairness. People called this out. Women, men, teenagers tweeted, posted and talked about this. We are holding our media accountable for how they represent women. But let’s not let it stop there, this momentum, this ‘no-shit’ attitude needs to extended across all aspects of life. Be this in the media, in sport, across our boardrooms, across our dining tables. This needs to happen across the board, not just when there are cameras. We need to sit in meetings and call out the person who undermines and downplays the achievement of a woman. We need to squash all, ALL, comments on how a woman has decided to dress or the fact she wanted to try a red lipstick.
I know there are times I should have called someone out on a comment about my (or someone else’s) clothes or my lack of make-up (you know, sometimes I just don’t fancy wearing it!) but didn’t. I would love to have seen Becky James when she was asked, nay, told to speak to her boyfriend live on camera regarding the medal she had just won say; ‘Errr, why? Why do you need to speak to him when I have just worked my ass off for the past four years to achieve this silver medal? Why do you need to hear from him, he knows nothing about cycling – which is what we are here for, no?”
This coverage highlighted what women have been experiencing in all industries since the dawn of time. The fact it’s being called out and questioned by the public is encouraging but, we need to keep this momentum up. Keep questioning, keep pushing back, keep supporting each other and keep expecting the same off your all your colleagues.