The Summer Olympic Games in Rio have seen inspiring stories, amazing achievements, and enthusiastic fans. But not everything about the events has been positive, especially for women. Though more female athletes are competing in Rio than in any other Olympics, and Team USA has more women than men competing for the very first time, the women in Rio have been facing some unfair criticism from the media. From a male sportscaster declaring that swimmer Katinka Hosszu's husband was "responsible" for her gold medal win to a newspaper referring to American trapshooter Corey Cogdell-Unrein as a football player's wife after winning her second bronze to the outcry over Gabby Douglas' medal ceremony stance, women have faced some truly ridiculous commentary while in Rio. But this next incident might just take the cake. On Aug. 3, a segment aired on Fox News' Sports Court that was called "Should female Olympians wear makeup?" got just about as offensive as you can imagine, and it highlights a troubling trend in the way female athletes are discussed.
The segment began with host Tamara Holden asking a legitimately interesting question. "We all know the old adage 'sex sells,' well, now, female Olympians are sexing it up more than ever by wearing makeup during their competitions," Holden began. "Some say this is about empowerment, well, really? Do women who are elite athletes need to wear makeup to feel stronger, or is it simply a fashion statement?"
This taps into some pretty worthy conversations about why women wear makeup, who they wear it for, and if it's a confidence booster or a crutch. But sadly, the segment never entered that fascinating territory. Instead, Holden then introduced two men, Bo Dietl and Mark Simone, who felt the need to weigh in on how women should look, while simultaneously insulting female athletes and even their own host, with Dietl (the same guy who has said the sexual harassment charges against Roger Ailes are "PC bullsh*t") repeatedly commenting on Holden's looks. Give it a watch:
Bustle has reached out to Fox News for comment, but hasn't heard back at this time. The discussion had between the two men is immensely frustrating. "I think when you see an athlete, why should I have to look at some chick's zits?" Dietl said at one point. "Why not a little blush on her lips and cover those zits! I like to see a person who wins that gold medal go up there and look beautiful."
This is not OK. In fact, it's total misogynistic nonsense. First of all, telling a woman what she should wear on her body, if she should wear makeup, or how she should do her hair, is totally off limits to anyone, men and women both. Secondly, women don't wear makeup for men's approval. Women wear makeup for a variety of reasons — creativity, artistic ability, and yes, even confidence — but you can be damned sure that women don't wear it so that it can be evaluated and approved by two male journalists. To wear or not wear makeup is something that women have been defending, battling, or embracing for much of their lives, and segments like the one on Fox News do nothing to move the conversation forward.
It's bad enough for the media to tell any woman how to look, but these women are Olympians, the best of their sport. Quite possibly the last thing on their minds as they're competing is how they look when they are performing their amazing feats. Yes, some of the female athletes have said that wearing makeup makes them feel strong. As Aly Raisman of the U.S.'s gold medal-winning women's gymnastics team told USA Today , "I think it’s kind of cool to have that sort of badass feeling that you’re doing your sport and you’re really strong and powerful, but at the same time, you can feel really feminine and beautiful. I think for me, having that combination is what makes me feel really confident." It's totally great that Raisman enjoys wearing makeup, and the gymnasts' red, white and blue eye makeup when they won their team gold did look fantastic. But wearing makeup should be solely their choice, neither a male-decided requirement nor a reason for them to be ridiculed.
Sadly, this isn't the first time that a news show has had a panel discussing what women should wear or how they should look. Back in October, Fox News asked a panel made up exclusively of men whether women should be able to wear leggings in public. Several young women in leggings were marched our in front of men for their judgments and ridicule (yes, really). But this new, Olympic-focused segment is even more troublesome, as it speaks to the trend of commentators and media personalities holding female athletes to different standards than male ones. As former Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Shawn Johnson told USA Today , "I feel like if you compare the commentary, what’s covered with female athletics, as with men. On any given day, if a guy competes, you’re going to critique his technique and his performance, training. With a girl ... you’re also going to get what she was wearing, how she performed, what she looked like."
With that in mind, it might be good to remind everyone that female Olympians aren't wearing makeup for the sake of male viewers and critics, but rather, because it's a choice of their own. Everything they're doing is for their own personal reasons and goals, and it's not up to men to determine what they should or should not do.