You’d think that by now, female athletes at the Olympics wouldn’t be such a perplexing subject for anyone, and yet here we are. Pretty much everyone involved in the summer games (save, I suppose, for the athletes themselves) just can’t seem to figure out how to process the idea of women who are also Olympians.
First, NBC’s ratings took a major dive when they decided to show the opening ceremony (and other events) on an hour-long time delay. Their reasoning was that women don’t care enough about sports to get wrapped up in a silly little thing like timeliness.
The people who watch the Olympics are not particularly sports fans. More women watch the Games than men, and for the women, they’re less interested in the result and more interested in the journey.
It’s sort of like the ultimate reality show and mini-series wrapped into one. And to tell the truth, it has been the complaint of a few sports writers. It has not been the complaint of the vast viewing public.
Commentators also can’t quite figure out what to make of these athletes who also happen to be women, as if their lady muscles were some sort of INCREDIBLE NOVEL, MODERN CONCEPT, possibly conceived in a lab outside of Rio, probably by a team made up of husbands and boyfriends.
"There's the man responsible for turning his wife into an entirely new swimmer…" REALLY, NBC?— Charlotte Wilder (@TheWilderThings) August 7, 2016
"Katie Ledecky swims like a man."— Charles Clymer (@cmclymer) August 8, 2016
No, she swims like Katie Ledecky, who is a woman, ergo: she swims like a woman. Fast.#RioOlympics2016
But there’s one area where women are getting the respect they deserve, and it’s an important one: in the ads. NBC says women are their biggest demographic, but they bungled and continue to bungle how to present the event to us. Men are reportedly interacting with the event’s sponsors more than women on social media, which might make those brands think they need to cater more to men. So it’s actually pretty remarkable that so many companies are treating the female athletes and audiences with so much respect and care.
There’s this super weird Procter & Gamble ad, whose entire concept seemed to be “let’s have Olympians tell us their most traumatizing stories, and then everyone’s moms will buy shit.” It’s an odd angle, but maybe a nice balance to NBC continuing to give credit to female Olympians’ husbands.
Other companies aren’t targeting entire lines of ads towards women, but are giving equal weight to the female athletes they feature, which is LITERALLY all we want. Like this tearjearking Hershey’s campaign, with care packages from home filled with notes and chocolate. Which, okay, maybe that’s all we want.
This Under Armor ad isn’t making a huge statement about their respect for female Olympic athletes, but you put a strong beat under a bunch of badass women, make them hot as hell without sexualizing them, and boom, that’s an ad we’re all happy to watch.
But the real winner here goes to Dove, who’s taking on the very event it’s sponsoring. Or, at least, the narrative that surrounds it. Cynicism may take over here, telling you that no matter what message Dove is pushing, they’re just out to sell soap. But if a critical response to the usual message of “beauty over athleticism” is what they’re selling, I have no problem buying it.
This commercial is a thing of beauty.