The competition is heating up in the Sexism Olympics. Last week the Chicago Tribune put forth a hearty effort in its reporting of Corey Cogdell-Unrein’s bronze medal in trap shooting. But, not to be outdone, the BBC has offered up its own diminishment of female glory. Chinese diver He Zi just won a silver medal, but what is personal accomplishment compared to matrimony?
In an article titled “Chinese diver proposes marriage at Olympic medal ceremony”—that’s right, the headline erases Zi completely—the BBC recounts the medal ceremony after the women’s three-meter springboard:
“Chinese diver He Zi had just received a silver medal for the women’s three-metre springboard at the Rio Olympics on Sunday.
But she ended up with an even bigger prize when her boyfriend Qin Xai, in front of a global TV audience, went down on one knee.
Luckily for Qin, who himself won bronze in the men’s three-metre synchronised springboard last week, He Zi said yes.”
Perhaps, for Zi, the engagement is more meaningful than winning the silver medal in her sport. It’s not for anyone else to decide which should carry more weight — or if the experiences are even comparable.
But when a media outlet refers to a proposal as more significant than a woman’s individual achievement, it is making that decision for her. Moreover, it is reinforcing the deep-seated expectation that a woman prioritize relationships, and her domestic life, before her own ambitions. Too many are unsettled when a woman labors for personal, rather than communal, gain — or when she seeks glory over romance.
Of course, you can want both, and maybe Zi does.
“We’ve been dating for six years, but I didn’t expect him to propose today,” Zi told the BBC. “He said a lot of things, made a lot of promises, but I think the thing that touched me the most is I think this is the guy I can trust for the rest of my life.”
Regardless, the choice is hers.