Sports coverage in the United States is inherently sexist. On the nightly news, regardless of which city you live in, there is an entire special segment devoted to what is called "sports" but should really be called "men's sports." Female viewers listen to newscasters ramble on endlessly about the wins and losses of teams of men, reiterating the point that sports in this country are not for women.
However, once in an Olympic blue moon, the dark cloud of oppression is lifted and the entire world comes together to affirm that female athletes do in fact exist! It has been so exciting and life-giving to watch women from all over the world gain equal attention for their athleticism at the 2016 Summer Olympics!
While much has been made of the sexist announcers and homophobic comments that make the 2016 Olympics just like any other day for many female athletes, for fans even jeers and negative comments cannot overshadow the true joy of watching American women like gymnast Simone Biles or beach volleyball player Kerri Walsh Jennings.
Still, many women find themselves hitting mute to block out the daft comments of mostly male sportscasters, or "mannouncers," as they have been called. It seems like 90 percent of people talking over athletes are men, and it seems 90 percent of the time, they can't just not talk.
If you want to keep your own Olympic medal tally for mannouncing, this helpful website has just the tool.
When Biles performed on the uneven bars, NBC commentator Jim Watson couldn't help but say, "I think she might even go higher than some of the men." When Hungary's Katinka Hosszu broke the world record in the 400-meter individual medley, NBC mannouncer Dan Hicks gave all the credit to her coach and husband, Shane Tusup, calling him "the man responsible" for her win.
Following close behind are news outlets like the Chicago Tribune, which published the headline "Corey Cogdell, Wife of Bears Lineman Mitch Unrein, Wins Bronze in Rio," as if being third internationally in a sport were in some way less than merely playing professional men's football.
But instead of focusing on these embarrassing fails, let's take a moment to celebrate two Olympic sports that are for now all female.
I'm talking about synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics. Did you know synchronized swimmers can't touch the bottom of the pool at all during their routines? The sport requires tremendous core strength, as lifts are performed without any grounding. These women flip out of the water like dolphins! There are special kicks, one of which is called the egg beater, where the team becomes a furious kicking underwater sea creature, slashing at the water to maintain buoyancy. In addition, swimmers often have to stay under water for long periods of time, giving them tremendous lung capacity.
Don't believe me? Watch this helpful video.
Like synchronized swimming, rhythmic gymnastics takes many cues from dance. "Gymnasts perform on a floor with a rope, hoop, ball, clubs or ribbon accompanied by music, in individual or group events," according to the Olympic website. The United States has a whole team of women devoted to this flashy sport.
In addition to these sports, badminton, tennis and equestrian competitions allow for mixed teams, which is refreshing. In many cases there is no reason to separate athletes based upon sex, so it's nice that these sports recognize that.
Viewers of the Olympics are mostly female, according to John Miller, NBC Olympics chief marketing officer, who said, "People who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they're less interested in the result and more interested in the journey. It's sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one."
Ignoring the sexism of his comments for a minute, if more women watch the Olympics, why do female athletes consistently earn less in endorsements? In 2015 only two women, tennis stars Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, were on Forbes magazine's list of the 100 top-earning athletes.
So yeah, it may be harder to be a female Olympian, as it's harder to be a female anything. However, once every two years women across the United States and across the world can turn the TV on and know that at least, finally, we exist.