A Letter to the Editor – ‘Girls’ and the olympics

“Hi Ms. Thorpe.

I have a suggestion for your next Thought Leader piece.

I don’t know if you had the chance to watch any of the coverage of Olympic women’s soccer last night on SuperSport — excellent action all around and darn fine viewing.

There was, however, one relentlessly annoying thing: the commentators (in every match) continually referred to those spectacularly talented, skilled, and trained athletes as “girls”. Frankly, it was maddening.

I’m about 100 kilos, and yet I can pretty much guarantee that most of those women could beat me in any athletic contest up to and including a straight up fistfight.

I understand the concept of referring to “our boys” in the context of Bafana, or the Boks, or the Proteas. But I think we all know that they’re very much men, and I don’t think you’ll hear many commentators (particularly when referring to a member of Bafana) calling a player “a talented boy.”

These are women, not girls, and I think it’s abundantly clear that it’s sexism at play when these commentators use that reference.

If you didn’t get a chance to see it for yourself, it may well be replayed, and you can probably catch some over the weekend. The schedule is here: <>

Keep up your good work — I often vehemently disagree with you, but I often find you thought-provoking as well.

Rich Brauer”

and then later

“I’ve just reached out to some family in the States,; I’m curious to hear what the commentary was like on that side in comparison. American broadcasters have gotten a *lot* better, at least including women as commentators on women’s sport. Every voice on SuperSport was male, I believe.”


3 thoughts on “A Letter to the Editor – ‘Girls’ and the olympics”

  1. Very good point and I hope it is addressed asap! Not sure how the USA deals with it as there are so many networks and channels, I wonder if they have a standard protocol.


  2. @Varsha: Broadly speaking (and that’s *very* broadly), in the US, there are two types of sport commentators — people who have been involved in the sport, and professional sportscasters (as in people who probably trained as journalists and eventually ended up in front of the camera).

    The de facto standard for sport broadcasting in the US is ESPN (available on 230 on DSTV — they broadcast a mix of American and European transmissions). It’s very, very far from an equal mix of men’s and women’s sports, but, in fairness, they’re a commercial channel, and by far the main daily consumers are male.

    (That changes during the Olympics — gymnastics and ice skating are huge draws for women. Which is why ESPN *doesn’t* offer much Olympic coverage, and don’t bid for it.)

    But ESPN (and other American outlets) does have women anchors, and a number of women correspondents. Including reporting intensively on male sports.

    There was a kerfuffle, jeez, dating myself now, maybe a decade ago, about a female reporter being “flashed” in an American football locker room, and that helped change attitudes in that business.

    Eish! This is as incoherent as my email to Jen! I’ll follow up with a better response soon.


  3. yes, excellent point. and I agree. been irritated with the usage of the word “girls” for decades now, and funnily it has not improved. something that needs to be pointed out. {like still asking me if i’m Miss or Mrs, or not giving me the option of Ms on a form. and the word chairman …. sigh. seems we do have to keep on reinventing the wheel.} but yes … needs to be done … who’s going to do it?


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