By Erin Schwab
I am a proud Canadian and I love watching the Olympics—not just to cheer on my countrymen and women, but to see the grit, determination and talent of athletes all over the world. Their accomplishments, their joy, their disappointment and their pain moves me.
Recently the Chicago Tribune tweeted “Wife of a Bears’ lineman wins a bronze medal today in Rio Olympics” with a linked news story. I found this to be incredibly offensive and demeaning.
Corey Cogdell-Unrein is a talented trap shooter who should be celebrated for winning her country a bronze medal. Instead, this tweet takes away from who she is individually and defines her as someone’s wife.
I am not saying that being someone’s wife is a bad thing, but why isn’t being an Olympic medal-winning athlete enough?
I understand that the Chicago Tribune was trying to make a connection for Chicagoans with Olympians, but they could have mentioned she is married to a Bears linebacker instead of making it about who her husband is.
The article went on to talk about how the couple met on a blind date and how her husband couldn’t be with her in Rio since he was at a training camp. How is that relevant to Cogdell-Unrein winning her second Olympic medal in the third Olympics she participated in?
Around the same time as the Chicago Tribune’s tweet, an NBC announcer credited the husband of Hungary’s Katinka Hosszú as the reason why she broke the world record for the 400-meter individual medley.
These are examples of how the media sends mixed messages about women.
To be fair, her husband is also her trainer, but she is the one who broke a world record. Hosszú put in the work to win three gold medals while breaking not only the world record in 400-meter individual medley at the Rio Olympics—she also won silver in 200-meter backstroke.
There are campaigns that encourage girls to play sports since studies show it helps them build their confidence. Yet, at one of the largest athletic events in the world, female athletes are being defined by who they are married to and not what they are achieving.
Girls are told they can do or be whatever they want, yet the media still focuses on who they are married to and how they look.
As a society we can do better. We need to do better.
If there is ever going to be equal opportunity or equal pay for women, we cannot continue defining women by the men in their lives or sending mixed messages. We need to send one clear message that women are capable.
To start this media revolution, I would like to see more stories about amazing women and their accomplishments without any mention of their personal lives or appearance.
Unless it is relevant in expressing her time management abilities, I do not need to know if a powerful woman is married or has kids. I want to know what drives her— how she achieves her success.
The first twelve medals Canada won at the Rio Olympic Games were all won by women. I want to hear their stories and the stories of many other female Olympians without any limitation on who they are.