The 2018 Winter Olympics are heating up — in more ways than one. From Tonga’s oiled-up hunk of a flag-bearer, cross country skier Pita Taufatofua, to Canadian ice dancers Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir and their R-rated move, these Games have had some sexual tension. But a recent Buzzfeed article took things too far.
Over the weekend, as the Games slid into high gear in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Buzzfeed staff writer Julie Gerstein wrote a list in celebration of one, ahem, particular aspect of Olympic lugers. For those who might not know, luge is the death-defying sport where athletes launch themselves feet-first down a winding ice slide on what can only be considered a professional toboggan. It’s basically exactly what your parents told you not to do as a kid. However, this Buzzfeed list was not about the sport, or really the athletes at all. It was about “11 Men’s Luge Bulges That All Deserve Gold Medals.”
Listen, I’m all for appreciation of how fine Olympians look in general — they are literally in peak physical shape, after all — but this wasn’t appreciation, it was straight up objectification, and that is not OK. Claudia Oshry, better known as social media influencer Girl With No Job, summed up the problem perfectly on her Instagram story.
“It’s not about the fact that if you wrote this about women, it would be unfair and people would be angry because you know what, that’s just the climate we’re in. That’s not why I’m upset,” she said in the IG selfie video. “These are world-class athletes who have devoted their entire lives to training themselves in a particular sport just to get to the Olympics, not so Buzzfeed could look at their dicks.”
And many social media users agree.
Even your hypocrisy should get a gold medal.
— Alpha Idiot (@the_alpha_idiot) February 12, 2018
I thought we were done objectifying people? wow Buzzfeed
— Kelly Chown (@KellyIsTheBomb) February 12, 2018
— V Ī Ć T Ø R Ï Ã (@TorHart) February 12, 2018
God could u imagine if they came out with a list ranking female athletes cameltoes? I’m about sick of the double standard!
— Marie (@Maricey88) February 12, 2018
Of course, objectifying men is not the same as objectifying women. Period. Women are subjected to the male gaze constantly, from in the media to on the sidewalk. And, as Elite Daily points out, objectification of men does not lead to “excessive victim-blaming, unwelcome catcalling, mortifyingly high rates of sexual assault and rape and having your value in society based exclusively on what you look like,” like it does for women. So even though Buzzfeed often calls out the sexist objectification of women, I don’t see this list of male bulges as “hypocritical,” as some social media users called it. If we’ve learned anything from the recent #MeToo movement, it is the importance of calling out the treatment and depiction of women because it is part of a deeper problem with real consequences — issues that men are simply not subjected to in the same way.
— Rachel Leah (@Itsrachelhi) February 13, 2018
That said, this list in particular robs these athletes of their agency and takes away from their (often super brief) moment on the world stage just because of how their aerodynamic spandex suits fits. They aren’t getting oiled up for the Opening Ceremony, or posing for a cheeky photoshoot — they are doing their (often unpaid) jobs. The Buzzfeed headline literally places the worth of these Olympians not on their run time, or the years of training and sacrifices they’ve made to get to South Korea, but on the size of their package. Full disclosure, we’ve run pieces talking about hot Olympians in general. But the difference is that in their list, Buzzfeed reduces male athletes to one specific body part as it appears during their event, as they hurtle themselves down an ice slide in an attempt to make their country proud — and that is not right. What is this Buzzfeed list really saying? That only the male lugers with visible bulges are worthy of our attention? Or is it that the bigger the bulge, the greater the man? I’m not even going to go into how this type of coverage contributes to male stereotypes and hyper masculinity, but let’s just say that this type of Olympic coverage is not OK or fair to the athletes in any way.
It’s not okay to objectify women and it’s also not okay to objectify men. Shame on you @BuzzFeed for letting this get published. These men are Olympic athletes and they deserve better.
— (@rikkiluv) February 12, 2018
This point is particularly important given the current discussion around equality. At a time when women are finally being heard on issues like the rampant sexual harassment, objectification and the double standards that we constantly endure, articles like these set us all back. Yes, women face more rampant objectification with greater consequences than men. But just because it’s done to us, doesn’t mean it’s right to do it to others.