The Idea That Canada Treats Its Women Athletes With Less Respect Than The Men Is Patent Nonsense
The Canadian story of the 2016 Rio Olympics so far is the utter domination of Canadian men by their countrywomen in the medal standings. As of Monday, Canada had 13 medals. All but one won by a woman. Let me repeat that: All. But. One. Won. By. A. Woman. The transcendent Penny Oleksiak was herself responsible for four of them. The country has been flooded with stories about, in the words of Justin Bieber… er, prime minister Justin Trudeau, Girl Power.
But, there’s no moment that some people won’t try to turn to they own purposes. So guess what? According to some, we don’t respect our women athletes. The evidence? A Toronto Sun headline about Oleksiak that blared “Pretty Penny” when she claimed a gold medal. That was sexist.
And a former Olympian who used CBC to criticize Eugenie Bouchard for not having her head in the game all the time. Adam Kreek said she was talking too much to the media and on social media about fashion and when she should have been obsessing on getting back to the top.
When challenged on the comments by female Olympians such as Marnie McBean, Kreek declined to adopt the fetal position.
Granted the Sun headline was artless, but it was a lot better than something like “Penny Dreadful”. Kreek, a former medalist himself, could have done the Canadian thing and couched his CBC comments in banalities about plucky spirit and indomitable will. He didn't. For this calumny he was lectured on his lack of“feminist” cred by another Olympic hero, Adam van Koeverden.
Now I understand that van Koeverden, a genuine Canadian hero, is circling the wagons around a fellow athlete in Bouchard. He’s trying to be a hero again. He thinks he can do that by lecturing another man about being more feminist.
In his National Post editorial van Koeverden makes the entirely unsupported claim that when Bouchard was runner up at Wimbledon in 2014. “it was widely considered a failure by Canadian fans.” (He supplies no evidence to back this.) Maybe in Van Koeverden's fevered imagination that was the sentiment. But his attempt to launch a pity parade for Bouchard is built on a groundless claim.
Bouchard’s Wimbledon stint was widely praised and any disappointment was tempered by the fact that she was just getting started. Ironically, the success so early in her career might not have been the best thing for Bouchard’s career. Since losing in the final and hearing Chris Evert extoll her praises, Bouchard has been a bit of a lost soul on the tennis tour. More critics than Kreek have observed that she hasn’t always been seen to have had her head in the game.
Van Koeverden says this is a sexist slight on a millennial by people who don’t understand the present generation. He says that Kreek talking about body issues and the Toronto Sun headline are indicators of the insensitive male press using sexist tropes against a woman.
Hello, Adam, have you watched the Marilyn Denis show? Tuned into the red carpet ceremony before the Oscars? Checked out America’s Next Top Model? Body issues and social acceptance are alive and thriving on the female side of society— with no help from men. Whether that’s good or bad is open to debate, but this exhausted narrative about only men objectifying women doesn’t bear scrutiny. Women are their own fiercest critics.
But still van Koeverden is calling for Kreek to publicly apologize to Bouchard for having an opinion that bucks the norm. In keeping with the progressive tactic of suppressing speech to free it, he wants Kreek to adopt the orthodoxy that always sees women as victims. “I recognize that we all grew up in an inherently sexist world, and that we carry around biases and stereotypes that play into a recurrently sexist rhetoric.”
Van Koeverden then wades into generational politics with this howler: “Telling someone to ‘put down their phone and concentrate on training’ is akin to telling someone else to stop reading books, playing cards or sending love letters.” Please. No one is sending love letters as they drive a car or reading a book while crossing a busy street.
Van Koeverden sums up his bonafides as a modern male culture warrior with the usual litany of ad hominems that progressives seem to find so clever. “This is the kind of tired, regressive, paternalistic, arrogant and sexist commentary,” van Koeverden drones, “that female athletes put up with all the time, and it needs to stop.” Sure, Adam.
Canadians from coast to coast to coast are in love with their women heroes. This does not, however, draw a shield of invulnerability over them when they come up short (or should I say IF they come up short) in a competition. If there’s been any attempt to underrate or condescend to these magnificent performers it must have been a subtle attempt. Bouchard has been praised for her comeback.
Which frustrates the activists who always want to teach the unwashed masses another lesson about their staggering humanity. But they need to get out of the way so Canadians can tell their heroes how they feel-- without self-appointed interpreters.
Bruce Dowbiggin @dowbboy
Bruce's career is unmatched in Canada for its diversity and breadth of experience with successful stints in television, radio and print. A two-time winner of the Gemini Award as Canada's top television sports broadcaster, he is also the best-selling author of seven books. He was a featured columnist for the Calgary Herald (1998-2009) and the Globe & Mail (2009-2013).