Jennie Finch can hurl a softball harder than most women in the world. She and her teammates have worked their entire lives to become the best in their sport and they're proving themselves worthy of their Olympic expectations.
They are accomplished professionals, mothers and elite athletes with incredible talent and they deserve our respect. Maybe that's why the first few sentences of a recent Associated Press article covering the team's trouncing of Venezuela is so disturbing.
"Like school girls nervous about their first day of class," writes the AP, "several members of the U.S. softball team laid out their new uniforms the night before their Olympic opener. They couldn't wait to wear them, and once they slipped them on, the Americans looked a lot like they did four years ago. Superb."
Can't you just see Finch giggling with her teammates? Too bad they don't make the uniforms pink. I wonder if they have slumber parties and (for those that aren't married) talk about who's hotter, Michael Phelps or tennis star Rafael Nadal.
Honestly. I mean, honestly. School girls?
Do you think the AP would ever pen, "Dwyane Wade was so excited to begin his quest for gold, he pressed his gym shorts twice the night before he scored 19 against Angola."
Title IX was passed in 1972. Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King had their battle of the sexes 35 years ago in September. Isn't old-school sexism so, well, 1970s?
But maybe the AP's version of overt gender stereotyping is actually preferable to the more insidious undercutting that happens in papers across the country every day--not just in athletics.
MSNBC host Chris Matthews called Hillary Clinton a "she-devil" and said she had gotten as far as she had only because her husband had "messed around." Tucker Carlson (also on MSNBC) said, "When she comes on television, I involuntarily cross my legs."
Even when the media tries to pay a compliment to women, it's typically done as a comparison to men. Women's achievements, especially in athletics, are rarely taken on their own terms.
A recent New York Times article analyzed the "increased physicality in women's basketball," pointing to the black eye Penny Taylor of Australia received from American Tina Thompson's elbow during a pre-Olympic tournament. The article makes the argument that stronger defense and physical play point to an evolution in the women's game. "Two decades ago, the women were making crisp little passes and tossing up nice little layups off the backboard. Now, an intruder pays for the incursion, the way teams paid for trying to get around Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason of the Knicks back in Pat Riley's day."
Of course, the media has come a long way from the days when ABC commentator Jack Kramer proclaimed the only reason Billie Jean King beat Bobby Riggs was because Riggs was "out of shape." While there have been many positive changes, the AP article proves there is still much progress to be made.
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