Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Olympics; Could the Sexism Police be Making it Worse?

Sometimes, a commentator says something, really, really stupid and we have to laugh. Who can forget the greatest ever innocent observation from Brian Johnston, who quite accurately reported, during a Test match at The Oval in 1976; The bowler's Holding, the batsman's Willey. Brian Johnston often said something daft, and had a little chuckle to himself, and we laughed along with him. This was the golden age of commentary, when commentators were allowed to have personalities and say silly things and make mistakes. Then along came Twitter, and everything changed. The Sexism Police arrived and political correctness went a little bit bonkers.

Yesterday, as with every day during The Olympics, monumentous achievements occurred. Laura Trott achieved her fourth gold medal in the Games, making her the most decorated female Olympian ever, and Jason Kenny brought home his sixth gold medal, equalling Chris Hoy's outstanding record. These stupendous results were just two contributors to yesterday's epic haul of 9 medals, which turned out to be the most achieved in a single day at the Games so far. In fact, this has been Britain's most successful overseas Olympics ever, as the medal tally reached a staggering fifty! How amazing is that? Our Olympians are excelling themselves out there and we stand proudly behind them, cheering them on. So, with all these amazing feats going on every day, what is the overriding headline on the news this morning? The most talked about moment from yesterday's Games is ... *drumroll* ... Chris Boardman being slammed for a 'sexist remark', by commenting that Kenny was looking at Trott 'like, what's for tea?'. The Twitter Massive were on it like a car bonnet, the second the words left his mouth. Sexist! Suggesting Laura should be in the kitchen! Equal rights for women! Etc, etc. Now, don't shoot me down here, I am absolutely behind equal rights for women, all women, and sport is a great platform to open the debate on this issue. However, there are a few facts which have been ignored in this particular instance. 

Running track at 2012 Olympics

Avid followers of the Olympics will have learned that; firstly, Jason Kenny is very laid back and Laura Trott is the emotional one and could easily win a gold medal for crying, if one existed, and we love her for it. Kenny was quoted at one stage as saying that she does the emotion for both of them, which is handy, as it's clearly not his strong suit! Secondly, Laura Trott can't cook. She might be phenomenal on a bike, but not so much with a frying pan, according to her soon-to-be husband, who stated that he does all the cooking. Chris Boardman knows his stuff. He has done his homework and made that remark as a bit of humour to make the commentary a bit more interesting and personal to them as individuals. If he had said Trott was looking at Kenny like 'what's for dinner?' who would have batted an eyelid? It was clearly, when taken in context with their personalities, a reflection on Kenny's hilarious laid back attitude to his and his partner's amazing successes. Isn't it sad that we are not talking about those right now? It's important to raise these issues when we need to, but the level of cynicism in sport these days and the speed with which comments get jumped on, without any thought about context, is threatening to undermine the commentators who, sometimes, are just doing their jobs. It will be a sad day when professionals and experts in their field can't open their mouths without fear of offending someone on Twitter, some of whom seem to be hellbent on finding fault wherever they can. It's time to focus on the real issues and not pick apart every comment and remark for evidence of sexism where there isn't any. Yes, it would have been better if he'd picked a subject other than food, so it couldn't be connected to the female stereotype, but men thinking about food before anything else, could be considered a male stereotype, so what? Commentating has always been about bringing life and personality to sport and, most importantly, celebrating the sportsmanship, determination and talent that make it worth commentating on in the first place. I hope that our quest to root out sexism within sport doesn't achieve the exact opposite, by making talking about women in sport too hot to handle altogether. 

Olympics Stadium 2012



  1. Couldn't agree more! Its a harmless bit of team mate banter, its nice to see them do it and have personalities. And after the success they need to be allowed to wind down after four years of training.

  2. I think that was fine when explained, but not all of us know an inside joke when we hear one do we? And when you put it next to all the other sexist bull, it becomes a bigger mountain of sexist sounding bull. The more it's called out the less it will happen hopefully. Yes this one was misinterpreted, but it's important not to make people feel bad for calling out what they perceive to be sexism.

  3. Go put the kettle on will you ��

  4. Yes!! Those of avidly following ALL of the cycling rather than just tuning in for these last couple of races completely saw the context the comment was made in (as you described), and understand that it wasn't made as a sexist comment. I loved Chris Boardman's commentary as it was obvious he really knew his stuff. It's a pity accusations start flying when only a snippet of a conversation has been heard....

  5. Glad to read some common sense. Some people just want to jump on the smallest thing and make it about sexisim or racism or anything else that is their cause that day! Mich x


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