With the cultural obsession with women’s beach volleyball and young female gymnasts, we should all be used to sexist coverage of the Olympic Games.

However, we managed to reach a new low this year as Fox News dedicated a segment to criticizing female Olympians’ makeup choices and accusing them of using sex to sell their various sports.

On her show “Sports Court” last week, Tamara Holder announced that “female Olympians are sexing it up more than ever by wearing makeup during their competitions.”

Because I’m sure that’s their thought there.

Holder called in the experts and turned to WOR Radio host Mark Simone and former NYPD detective Bo Dietl to answer this burning question of whether female athletes should wear makeup. Perhaps no one in the makeup industry or none of the many women who know their way around both sporting competitions and a color palette could make it.

Simone, who admits to wearing lipstick on TV and so at least has some personal experience, takes a practical tack with his answer, saying women competing in the Olympics should embrace makeup for the product endorsements.

“Cosmetic companies, you’re opening up a ton of revenue for product endorsements,” Simone said. “It’ll be great for every athlete in the future.”

Dietl, who had to be reminded of Michael Phelps’ name and so is clearly an Olympics expert, was a little more equal opportunity, suggesting that both men and women should put on some makeup sometime between their strenuous physical activity and the recognition that they did well at it.

“When you see an athlete, why should you have to look at some chicks’ zits or some guys’ zits on his face?” asked Dietl showing off his detective skills with the most pertinent question that could ever be asked in connection to the Olympics. “I’d like to see a woman getting a gold medal go up and there and look beautiful.”

Somehow the sole woman on the show manages to be the most misogynistic. (And yes, women can be sexist toward other women. It’s called “internalized misogyny,” and it’s equally as irritating as when men are sexist.)

Holder asked her guests pointedly whether the women wearing cosmetics at the Olympics are still appropriate role models for young girls. When Simone pointed out she was also wearing makeup today, Holder snapped, “I didn’t do it to empower young girls though.”

I’m sure this segment was not meant to be controversial or thought-provoking. It is probably someone’s idea of a fun feature piece. Whereas with most news organizations, when we want something light-hearted, we look to babies and puppies, Fox News goes to babies, puppies and casual sexism.

But here’s the thing, this segment may not be controversial, but it absolutely should be thought-provoking. Wearing makeup is not about men, something that the men of Fox News are apparently just not able to grasp.

As you can probably see in the photo that runs alongside my column, I like to wear bright lip color. It goes well with my usual fashion choices of bright colors, and it has absolutely nothing to do with whether random men I run into will find it attractive.

The segment quotes U.S. middle-distance runner Shannon Rowbury, who told USA Today that she sees her lip color as a “form of expression” when her clothes and shoes are chosen by her team and sponsors.

“You can be a strong, athletic, courageous woman, and you can wear lipstick,” Rowbury said. “I like being able to be all those things or try to help inspire young women to be all those things. It doesn’t have to be one or the other.”

Like Rowbury, putting my lipstick on in the morning puts a smile on my face because it makes my face reflect my cheerful personality, the same way I enjoy wearing bright colors or snazzy shoes.

Somehow both Dietl and Simone hear Rowbury’s explanation that her makeup expresses her personality as her wanting to look good for people watching at home. They completely missed the point. Makeup is for the person wearing it, not for the pleasure of anyone who happens to look at the face.

I think it’s awesome that athletes like Rowbury embrace lipstick and eyeliner and all the other fun things we can paint our faces with. I think it’s awesome when women choose to skip makeup all together. They feel their personality is best expressed through their natural coloring or through a low-maintenance morning routine, and that’s fantastic for them as well.

Both groups make excellent role models, regardless of what anyone at Fox News thinks, because they are living for themselves, making their best choices and, oh yeah, bringing in some serious Olympic gold, which is the point of the whole two-week Rio vacation.


Jourdan Vian is a reporter and columnist covering local government and city issues for the La Crosse Tribune. You can contact her at 608-791-8218.

Load comments