I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the media coverage of the Olympics, and I have to say, I’ve about had my fill of criticism. If it’s not people criticizing the female athletes themselves, it’s people criticizing the criticism. Don’t get me wrong – it’s important that people serve as watchdogs and be ready to call out problematic media coverage when it happens. But I also worry that the deeply entrenched biases on the part of much of the mainstream media threatens to supplant the real story, which is that thousands of female athletes are showing the world what they’re made of on the biggest stage we’ve got. (The media turning itself into the center of the story? Why, I never.)
In many ways, I think you can make the argument that a lot of the media commentary is out of step with the opinions held by much of the public. Katie Culver made this point in a post for Fair Game News:
Media discussion around women’s Olympic sports is behind the curve, falling into the familiar rut with commentary on bikini’s – or not; adequate hairstyles; who’s had a baby. But if you listen to kids talking about the Olympics, they get at the heart of Olympic competition: athleticism and perseverance.
And you know what? As a blogger, I am part of the media. I have the ability to make my voice heard, even in this little tiny way. So rather than focusing on the things that make me angry, I want to write about the things that give me joy, that leave me covered in goosebumps and choking back tears of happiness. There has been so much of that in these Olympic Games, and I don’t want that to get lost amid all of the righteous anger aimed at the backwards-facing media establishment.
Perhaps one of my favorite things about the Olympics has been all of the platonic girl love so many of the athletes show for their teammates. Last night I watched Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings celebrate their third straight gold medal in beach volleyball by gushing about each other:
May-Treanor, who said she’s ready for her next journey, said that “I will never leave [Walsh Jennings’] side.” She called her time in London “emotional,” but added, “I think we learn so much about everything outside of volleyball. That’s what this Olympics signified. It was the journey off the court together, and it’s something we’re never going to forget and we’re going to be in each other’s lives forever.”
D’awwww! *wipes tears*
I mean, look at these two:
I think it’s about time we coin the female equivalent of “bromance,” don’t you?
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings weren’t the only ones letting their lady love-flag fly for all to see. Cameras caught gymnast McKayla Maroney, whose scowl launched the most hilarious tumblr of the day, hugging her teammate Gabby Douglas:
And if you watched the women’s marathon, you were probably treated to the sight of two of the United States’ top marathoners, Kara Goucher and Shalane Flanagan, leaning on each other as they limped from the finish line:
The women have been pretty open about the fact that they competed as rivals for several years, but after they both qualified for the marathon, they started training together. They were apprehensive at first, but then they soon became friends.
If you were watching the U.S. women’s swimming team (which you probably were, as they dominated prime-time for several days), you may have caught their world record-smashing performance in the 4×200 relay. And if you caught that, you probably saw the four ladies hugging each other and jumping up and down on the pool deck:
Maybe I shouldn’t include tennis superstars Serena and Venus Williams in this, but look at how sweet they looked after they won gold in the doubles:
I defy the assholes at Fox News to find something wrong with this. (Oh, who am I kidding. They probably did.)
The U.S. women’s rowing team celebrated their gold medal in the eights by throwing their coxswain Mary Whipple into the water:
In my family this was totally how we showed love – by throwing each other into huge bodies of water. Don’t judge!
And of course, no gallery of exultant female athletes can exclude the U.S. women’s soccer team, especially this photo of Megan Rapinoe giving Alex Morgan a huge-ass bear hug:
I loved seeing all of this because it runs counter to the narrative we so often get about women and friendship, which is that we are catty and competitive and just waiting to throw each other under the bus the moment an attractive man (or woman) appears on the horizon. Maybe this is true for some women, but my experience has been far different, that my friendships with other women (and my sister – holla, Williams ladies!) sustain me on a spiritual and emotional level. They keep me level-headed and support me in my ambitions. They make me laugh and help me not take myself too seriously, but they also help me have faith in myself and my abilities. I could go on and on and on about my friends, because they mean that much to me.
So when I see all of these strong, beautiful women glorying in their friendships with each other, I can’t help but get goosebumps. Girl love is a beautiful thing, isn’t it?
P.S. I’m sure there are so many more examples of this, but this is just what I’ve seen. And of course, it’s limited by the fact that I am from the United States and almost all of the coverage I’ve had access to has focused heavily on Team USA, so I apologize for the fact that this is so heavily US-centric.
I had my first experience (albeit on a much lower level) with the platonic lady-love this weekend: My roller derby team after winning the championships.
I’m not a physically demonstrative person, but the waist-hug still makes me tear up a little.
OMG I love it! And also, congratulations to you and your team! You must be so proud!
There must have been a lot of dust in the room at the finish of the marathon the other day, because right as Kara checked on Shalane and then helped her up, I suddenly found my eyes watering. Best moment so far for me.
Damn you! You made me cry!
I LOVED watching all of it! So inspiring to see these women work together to accomplish their dreams… just fantastic.
Amen! As for the women’s marathon, I was pretty appalled that NBC didn’t show any highlights from the race, nor even mention the results, during it’s primetime coverage that day. Not only did Shalane and Kara stick close together during most of the race, despite the fact that they were running against each other, but the Ethiopian and Kenyan women definitely also ran together until the breakaway at the end. One even shared her water bottle with a teammate who forgot to get hers at a water stop.
I was incredibly moved by Dominique Dawes celebrating Gabby Douglas’s win. She was so overwhelmed she cried through most of the interview. It goes against the myth that women don’t want to be outdone by those who come after them.
Though Venus and Serena are sisters, there are some who aren’t supportive of one another especially within the same field. I think it’s great that they are so close.
Looking at Misty and Kerri’s winning photos made me tear up as much as looking at those from Gabby’s win!! They were triumphant during their matches. And FIERCE! I have never been so riveted by volleyball before, lol.
Awwwww, those photos are awesome, as are the women! Thanks for putting together the collection, they made me smile at the end of a long day.
WELL,ITS A NORMAL PASSIONATE MOMENT THESE AWESOME FIT TONE FEMALE ATHELTES HAVE FO 1ANOTHER. ITS A MOMENT CALLED MEMORIES~:)
Fantastic post! Joyous and inspiring — thank you!
Never meant anyone that was happy that wasn’t moving towards something
MISTY AND KERRI FOREVER! That post-win interview was AMAZING. We don’t have enough examples of women saying “This woman is awesome, she makes my life better.” (What we get, instead – snark ahead – is Marissa Mayer saying she’s not a feminist (yes, I conflate feminism with being supportive of other women’s success, and helping women to achieve that success)) I LOVE seeing it. I love seeing the sense of camaraderie that came out during the Olympics between women.
Come to think of it – if we saw MORE women’s athletics on television (ahem, Saturday and Sunday ESPN and network television programming) we would see this all the time. And we might not be so damn afraid of other women. How do we make that happen?
Pingback: Femisphere: Sports Bloggers with a Gender Lens : Ms. Magazine Blog·
This was one of my favourite moments http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/olympics/18905412 – but then, I’m a Brit 😉 My favourite bit is when they’ve finished, one of them turns to the other and says “We’ve just won the Olympics! We’re going to be on a stamp tomorrow!”