Olympic Sexism! Why Does Mama Got The Magic?

The 2012 Olympics in London have been heralded as a win for feminism in many ways — some calling it the Title IX games even. And there’s a lot to celebrate for women in these games.

But as the old poem says, we have miles to go before we sleep.

If you’ve watched any part of the Olympics, no doubt you’ve seen at least one of the P&G commercials celebrating moms.  Now, I’m a mother myself and I admit, there’s a certain part of me that gets a little misty when I think about all the sacrifices families must make to help an Olympian achieve their dream.

And then I watch a P&G commercial — for a brand that peddles paper towels and household cleaning products — and I see how the company is exploiting my mom mojo: P&G values moms.  And moms buy household cleaning stuff… because moms clean the house! I didn’t even need to be an Olympian to make that leap.

Enough with the sexist ads P&G!

For one thing, despite the catchy jingle, it’s not just moms who have the magic in the household cleaning department. And for another, this campaign is like getting hit in the head by a two-by-four of social norms.  Only women (aka moms) are parents and therefore deserving of accolades.  Only moms sacrifice. Sorry dads, grandparents, aunts, sisters, brothers, foster/adoptive parents, step parents; your skills, sacrifice, love, and support doesn’t apply here.  Move along.



But it doesn’t stop there.  NBC, which covers the Olympics exclusively, leaves no stone unturned when it comes to dialing up the drama by exploiting the mom mojo.  Of course there are shots of anxious parents in the crowd, watching their Olympian go for gold.  (I don’t even mind that so much.)  But when the announcers start pouring it on too…  Well, it’s so bad that Slate has brought back the Sap-o-meter.

Yes, mothers (and fathers) are proud of their Olympic-caliber offspring. They should be! But doesn’t it distract from the stature of Olympians when we infantilize them to push products?  These people have dedicated their lives to becoming the best athletes in the world.  Let’s show them some respect!

And what about the Olympians who are parents? What about beach volleyball team Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor, who are going for their third consecutive gold medals in their sport (which, by the way, would be a historic feat in that sport)?  Walsh Jennings is a mother herself, which is why I was doubly offended when John McEnroe referred to the Olympian and her team-mate as “girls,” while talking to Bob Costas. These are not teenage gymnasts — whom I would argue you should call “young women” out of respect for their hard work and discipline as athletes.  These are thirty-somethings with husbands and kids and fully developed adult lives.  They are not girls.

Let’s move on. And in the spirit of the games, move forward.


Photo Credit marcopako  via the Creative Commons License.

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  • silly_moo

    Great article! I would just like to add that all female athletes are STILL judged on their appearances and not just their abilities (which is what the Olympics is all about!), whereas the men are not, or at least not to the same horrible extent. If you look on Twitter, there have been many tweets about female athletes such as Jessica Ennis, Rebecca Adlington and the Williams sisters about whether they are “hot or not”. 
    It truly disgusts me that people cannot value these amazing female athletes simply for what they can do, not how they look, and insist on objectifying and even bullying them.