U.S. female Olympians had earned their country 51 medals as of August 9th, and are on track to surpass the 53 medals secured by U.S. women in Beijing in 2008. Given that achievement -- and the countless others by female Olympians of other nations -- this seems like the moment to finally appreciate female athletes for their athletic prowess, not just their sex appeal, right? Unfortunately, a video NBC created and posted on the web this week suggests otherwise.
The video, titled "Bodies In Motion," depicts select female Olympic athletes in slow motion. The first two shots are of one woman taking off her shorts and another licking her lips. The women selected are overwhelmingly white, thin and wearing uniforms that are varying degrees of revealing, and the footage is set to what Jezebel's Erin Gloria Ryan describes as "soft core porn music." The mashup, which was originally posted on NBCOlympics.com, NBC's official Olympics website, elicited a swift wave of criticism from media outlets such as Jezebel and ThinkProgress. The video has since been taken down (the full clip can still be viewed on Jezebel), but the criticism raises larger questions about NBC's coverage of female athletes.
Where are the women's boxing highlight reels? What about women's weight lifting? What about any sport that doesn't bare midriffs, décolletage, a** cheek bottoms? Was the network having a contest to see which video producer could patch together the most embarrassingly juvenile highlight reel?
In response to the video, ThinkProgress' Alyssa Rosenberg questioned the network's overall editorial strategy:
... it’s an error of editorial judgement, packaging women doing their jobs, which happen to be entertaining, as if they’re eye candy. As NBC reassesses its coverage in preparation for the next games, “Bodies in Motion” should be a prime example of where the network’s judgement failed.
This isn't the first time during the 2012 Summer Olympics that a media outlet has made questionable calls in its coverage of women. Before the games even started, the Herald Sun, an Australian newspaper, criticized swimmer Leisel Jones' weight, even asking readers to respond to a poll asking whether she looked "fit" enough to compete. More recently, the New York Times came under fire for its harsh profile of American hurdler Lolo Jones, which accused the athlete of relying on her looks and virginal status to gain endorsements and attention.
The media still seems to be working out how to cover what female athletes can do rather than how they look. Meanwhile, female Olympians continue bringing home medals with their athletic skills, not their flat stomachs.
Margo Oberg is a three-time world surfing champion from the United States. She won her first world title in 1977, then won back-to-back titles in 1980 and 1981.
Serena Williams returns a ball against Danish Caroline Wozniacki during their match of the Madrid Masters on May 10, 2012 at the Magic Box (Caja Magica) sports complex in Madrid. Williams won 1-6, 6-3, 6-2.
U.S. swimmer Jenny Thompson from Dover, N.H. practices with paddles 24 July 1992. Thompson is favored to win several gold medals during the women's individual events.
USA woman's soccer player Mia Hamm prepares to center the ball during a practice session at Rice Eccles Olympic Stadium 13 June 2003 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The US will play Ireland in a friendly match 14 June, 2003, in Salt Lake City.
Gracia Leydon-Mahoney competes in the women's 10-meter platform final at the U.S. Olympic diving trials, Sunday, June 24, 2012, in Federal Way, Wash.
Brittney Griner and Chiney Ogwumike
Brittney Griner #42 of the Baylor Bears reaches for a rebound in the second half against Chiney Ogwumike #13 of the Stanford Cardinal during the National Semifinal game of the 2012 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship at Pepsi Center on April 1, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.
Mary Lou Retton
Mary Lou Retton during the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles where she took first overall.
Elena Hight practices for the ladies snowboard halfpipe finals during the U.S. Snowboarding and Freeskiing Grand Prix on March 3, 2012 in Mammoth, California. Hight went on to win the event.
At the World Championships in Athletics, under the auspices of the International Association of Athletics Federations, in Seville, Spain, 1999.
US athlete Julie Zetlin performs with the ribbon in the qualifying round during the 31st Rythmic Gymnastics World Championships on September 22, 2011 in Montpellier, southern France.
Michelle Kwan competes in the short program during the State Farm U.S. Figure Skating Championships January 8, 2004 at Philips Arena in Atlanta, Georgia.
April Ross dives for a ball during the AVP Hermosa Beach Open at the Hermosa Beach Pier on July 17, 2010 in Hermosa Beach, California.
Laila Ali and Shelley Burton
Laila Ali (R) of the US gets caught by a punch from Shelley Burton of the US during their WBC Super Middleweight Championship fight, 11 November 2006, at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Emily Jackson competes in the women's K1 of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials for Whitewater Slalom at the U.S. National Whitewater Center on April 14, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Danielle Carruthers competes in the women's 100 meter hurdles semi-final during Day Two of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Track & Field Team Trials at Hayward Field on June 23, 2012 in Eugene, Oregon.
Neva Day of the USA in action during qualifying for the Women's Indiviual Pursuit at the UCI Track Cycling World Cup Classic at the Manchester Velodrome on February 24, 2007 in Manchester, England.
USA Team Synchro Swimmers
USA team synchro swimmers perform 24 March 2007 at the Susie O'Neill pool in Melbourne during the team free routine final of the 12th FINA World Swimming Championships. Russia won gold in the event with Spain taking silver and Japan the bronze. USA placed fifth.
Hyleas Fountain of United States competes in the shot put in the women's heptathlon during day three of the 13th IAAF World Athletics Championships at the Daegu Stadium on August 29, 2011 in Daegu, South Korea.
Michelle Wie hits a shot during the first round of the LPGA LOTTE Championship Presented by J Golf at the Ko Olina Golf Club on April 18, 2012 in Kapolei, Hawaii.
Lindsey Vonn of US competes during the women's first run of Alpine skiing World Cup slalom final in Schladming on March 17, 2012.
Florence Griffith-Joyner won three Olympic gold medals at the Seoul Games in 1988.