Random thoughts after Week 1 in Rio

We are one week into the Rio Olympics and I have some thoughts-- well, a lot of thoughts, but here are some serious (and not so serious) personal highlights. I'll focus on the big three that sociologists like to think about: gender, class, and race.

One aspect of the gendered coverage I am less convinced by though is the motherhood. If you'd ask me in 2008 I likely would have given you a   different reaction, but the fact is that I have created two human beings since then. And, honestly, I am in AWE that people like Kerri Walsh Jennings and Dana Vollmer (Girl, I totally noticed in an NBC interview when you commented on when your *first* child was born-- could you possibly be swimming pregnant?! Walsh Jennings did do just that in London...) had children who are younger or the same age as my youngest and they are performing at the top of the world, sometimes better than before. Now, don't get me wrong, it's not like my body could do what they did before childbirth anyway. But I DO find it noteworthy that they are physically so amazing not that far removed (months!) from pregnancy and labor/delivery. Additionally, they sure ARE making a big deal out of Boomer Phelps and Michael Phelps being a new dad, so I think parenthood is a big trope and the reality is that Phelps didn't grow Boomer, so this is legitimately a big deal. And if anything shows how insanely powerful women are.

  • Class is the unspoken element in much of life, but especially in the Olympic games. An overt mention came from an unlikely source for me: my personal favorite gymnast (for her personality/leadership more than her gymnastics style), Aly Raisman. During an interview with Bob Costas after her 2nd place finish to fellow teammate, Simone Biles, Costas asked about the sacrifices they have made to get here-- like missed proms, Friday nights, etc. Raisman responded that in the end it's not a sacrifice because they were lucky to have *parents* (looking at you Al Trautwig) who not only paid for them to do this sport, but who COULD pay for them to participate. I rarely hear athletes, let along younger ones, mention this. It's clear Raisman's family is very well off (watch Gold Medal Families for evidence of this), but good that she pointed this out.
  • As the Games progress class and race become more entwined, especially as we move from swimming to track in Weeks 1 and 2 (Note though the historic swim[s] by Simone Manuel though- unfortunately complete with offensive headline!). The racial background of all the participants, and especially the Americans, changes noticeably. Some attribute this to the cost-- it costs "nothing" to run, but you have to have access to a pool to swim, for example. But this is changing.

Already since Track & Field began we have a new gender story emerging-- the father/daughter pair, and coach. In general this is more positive as it shows fathers investing in their daughters, a change Title IX helped enable. One big story that already occurred, on night 1 in a Field event was Michelle Carter in the shot put. Her coach is her father, Michael Carter, who won silver in the same event in 1984, making them the first father-daughter duo to medal in the same event. There are a whole bunch of other firsts associated with this duo (check some out here) and the backstory on her getting started in the sport, as relayed here, is fascinating. Look for more NFL father/coach and Field daughter stories as Vashti Cunningham makes her debut later this week...

One of the things I liked about Carter was her putting on lip gloss right after she won-- totally what I would have done, and taking NOTHING away from her incredible physical feats. It's important to remember this is a valid choice as well... But now I need to make some superficial remarks. I can't help it.

  • I couldn't find a picture but Costas was trying to power pose it the first few nights in studio and it was awkward. He's changed it now.
  • Katie Ledecky has one of the strangest hairlines I have ever seen. At first I thought it might be from a swim cap, but no one else has this so it must not be?! Her left side is soooo much further back than her right and it's all I can see when she isn't setting world records...

Katie Ledecky of the USA celebrates after winning the Women's 800m Freestyle at the London 2012 Olympic Games Swimming competition, London, Britain, 03 August 2012. Photo: Marius Becker dpa +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

  • It simply cannot be possible that this Canadian synchro diving team couldn't find suits that actually fit.13942418_10206799600575204_62366869_n
  • When I watch tennis on Bravo and I see The Real Housewives of New Jersey promos, it reminds me that most of these women actually have no talent/skill. A mistake on Bravo's part to so clearly remind people of that?!

If you aren't following Leslie Jones on Twitter to get her thoughts on the Olympics (especially now that she is IN RIO), you are seriously missing out. SLAY ALL DAY USA!


Bikini Babes: Olympic Gold and Pageant Bling

Last week some pageant bling helped me get into the holiday spirit. Take a look at these amazing/atrocious gowns from the 2012 Miss Universe Pageant and tell me they don't make you think of a) A Christmas Tree and b) A Mrs. Claus outfit gone wrong. Miss Venezuela 2012

Miss Mexico 2012

(Well, actually only if Mrs. Claus was a part-time baton twirler and a part-time stripper-- seriously I don't know HOW they can call this a dress!)

I tweeted about both of these dresses during the December 19th Pageant; in fact I tweeted so much that I got put into Twitter jail, a place I did not even know existed (for this rules-following girl who never ever got a detention this was traumatic). I got locked out right after I saw Miss Mexico's monstrosity, so I'll blame her fashion choices.

Such questionable fashion choices almost made up for the fact that again this year my favorite part of the pageant didn't appear live. But what could really make up for seeing a jaw-dropping ensemble, like that worn by Miss Angola 2012, on your TV screen?

Miss Angola 2012's National Costume

The next best thing is reading hilarious commentary about those national costumes, like that written by Tom & Lorenzo, which I encourage you to check out.

In addition to her questionable gown choice Miss Venezuela got a lot of disdain thrown her way after her unintelligible answer to her final question. But the most interesting question to me was for Miss Brazil and it came from Olympic Gold Medalist Kerry Walsh Jennings. Walsh Jennings asked Brazil what she thought about the fact that they both compete in bikinis and did she see this as sexual.  Brazil totally deflected the question, but I found Walsh Jennings observation to be spot-on-- and something I mentioned here back in March after the decision was made to allow female beach volleyball players to wear something other than bikinis. To be sure female beach volleyball players are criticized for their uniforms (some even went so far as to speculate that the skimpy attire is why women's beach volleyball was featured so much in NBC's primetime Olympics coverage), but not the extent of pageant contestants, likely because sports are so much more valued in society today. I find it interesting though that Walsh Jennings is so enormously popular right now (just last week she found out of the sex of her third child live on The Today Show; and her former gold medal partner appeared on Dancing with the Stars). Perhaps these sorts of female athletic stars are just a new incarnation of the once enormously popular pageant queens of old?

Just like Walsh Jennings and many other female athletes at the Olympics, an American woman ended up at the #1 slot. Miss USA, which was a nice surprise. I knew Miss USA Olivia Culpo would do well-- as she is so beautiful-- but right after her USA win I speculated that she might be too short to win. I guess adding some inches with her high bun helped out though as she took the crown away from other strong contenders like Australia and Philippines. Olivia Culpo will definitely represent the crown well, even if she is disdainful of her Miss America pageant sisters.

My thoughts on Miss Universe are a bit belated as I've been down for the count with viral bronchitis (no fun to have over your son's first Christmas!). During my convalescence I caught up on some movies and my absolute favorite was Queen of Versailles. It's a thought-provoking take on the 1%, real estate market, income inequality, and the American dream. I was pretty surprised that beauty pageants were a part of this story, though I guess I shouldn't have been given the final two items in that list.  Jackie Siegel, the Queen of Versailles, was Mrs. Florida in 1993 (when married to a different man) and in 2008 she took over as director of the Mrs. Florida Pageant. Her husband is a huge supporter of the Miss America Pageant and Miss America 2009 is shown, along with 2010 contestants, at the Siegel's Florida mansion.  Siegel presents the Miss America Organization with a huge check in the documentary.

I'm not sure this is the type of attention the Miss America Pageant wants, but in the context of the Bravo-fication of American pop culture (note that Andy Cohen hosted Miss Universe and many of the channel's reality show stars were judges at Miss Universe, along with others with reality show ties, including co-host Giuliana Rancic who is married to the first ever winner of Donald Trump [who owns Miss Universe]'s competitive reality show The Apprentice) it's not shocking. Now, Andy Cohen, just get Jackie Siegel her own reality show, stat. And a crown (real diamonds, natch) to go with it.