Olympic Fat Shaming – A New Event?

Since the start of the 2012 Olympics, a lot has been said about the weights of certain athletes participating. Strangely enough, all of them happen to be women.

Now, while I am not qualified to comment on that from a feminist standpoint, I do object to women athletes having to be held to a completely different standard than their male counterparts. With that said, since I’m not a woman, nor have I spent a lot of time in feminist studies, I’d prefer to leave that discussion to my female bloggers to take on.

What I am here to talk about today is the discussion of those women, and how they are being dissected by the media.

Let’s start with Sarah Robles, the US weightlifter, who had to scrimp and save and get grass roots help from friends and supporters because she didn’t have the looks & shape to get a serious endorsement deal. From another blog written by Lynette Young called “On Poverty and The Olympics”

Sarah Robles, a 5’10” 275 pound Olympic weightlifter, is living at the poverty level just to survive and complete in her sport. Meanwhile, Australian runner Michelle Jenneke is getting a lot more ‘screen time’ due to her unique warm up routine. Now I have no idea how Jenneke lives or what her situation is, and I’m not disrespecting her or her talent at all – but – she has a much better shot at sponsorship deals after the torch is out because she is considered ‘easier on the eyes’.

From the article:

These endorsements can be worth six figures or more — like Michael Phelps’ $1 million deal to be a spokesman for Mazda in China — or they can compensate athletes with free equipment or products.

Every Olympian needs money to get to the games – to train, to travel, to live on, to support their family. It’s not cheap. I get that. I just wish we lived in a world where talent was rewarded just as equally as appearance. I’m sort of hoping for a Kickstarter (she has a blog & donate button! http://prettystrongblog.blogspot.com/ and yes, I donated!) for Sarah so I can throw some cash in to help her on her quest post-Olympics to become a PE teacher and role model for girls in sports.

I hope some brand like PowerBar or GNC steps up to the plate and invests in athletes like Sarah that show that talent doesn’t come only in one size.

Now, while Robles ultimately got a sponsorship deal, it was with an internet advertising company, not the Nikes or UnderArmours or Gatorades of the world, which means that the deal is not as lucrative as given most other athletes, despite Robles being quite likeable and engaging in her dealings with the press. Now, while it is true that she had other sponsorship offers, those offers were mostly fashion companies who didn’t even make athletic gear in her size, and would have compromised her personal values as a big woman for a shot to compete in the Olympics.

Now we go from lack of sponsorship deals to just plain old ridiculing. On Saturday (7/28/12), the least talented man to have a late night show Conan O’Brien, tweeted the following about Holley Mangold, also part of the US Olympic weightlifting team:

“I predict 350 lb. weight lifter Holley Mangold will bring home the gold and 4 guys against their will.”

It was retweeted over 2,000 times.

Hey, that’s really funny, Conehead. I don’t see you trying to earn the US an Olympic Gold Medal. Come to think of it, Holley is funnier than you are. Over the weekend, Mangold was quoted as giving some advice to Brad Pitt: “One day he’s gonna realize he’s not into rail-skinny—he’s into big ladies, and then he can come calling me anytime.”

Conan, I just happen to be one of those guys who Holly Mangold wouldn’t have to put a gun to their heads to bring them to her home, in case you were taking a survey. I know lots of guys who feel the same way, and perhaps your time might be better spent doing political humor rather than fat jokes, before your viewership gets any lower than it already is, IF THAT’S POSSIBLE.

Now, while the British nation has gotten in on the act by selling Olympic themed bags that say “I’m Renting My Flat To A Fat American Family”, the US is not the only country where its women have come under scrutiny. Let me introduce you to Leisel Jones, who swims for the Australian Olympic Team.

Ms. Jones is a 3 time gold medalist.

Despite that, it appears that more focus has been placed on how Ms. Jones looks in her swimsuit, contrasting it with her appearance at the last Olympics in 2008. The Herald Sun in Melbourne not only called out the eight-time Olympic medalist’s figure for being “in stark contrast to that of 2008,” and even went as far as to post a poll asking readers if they thought she was fit to be on the Olympic team to represent Australia.

Her coach came to her defense, and had much to say, most important of which was the following comment: “Athletes come in different shapes and sizes. It is the preparation leading into the performance which is absolutely paramount.”

Again, without representing the feminist side, I direct you to Vasiliy Ivanovich Alekseyev who was a weightlifter from the Soviet Union. He set 80 world records and 81 Soviet records in weightlifting and won gold medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich and the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal. He was fat. No one ever said a word about him being too unfit to be in the Olympics.

Regardless of anyone’s idea of what is aesthetically, sexually, and athletically appealing, each and every one of these women are athletes of the highest caliber, and until any of their critics can step up and perform to the level of these ladies, they need to keep their mouths shut.


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