Should female Olympic athletes wear makeup? Can it make them feel more empowered and more like themselves during competition? After USA Today published an article on this subject last week, a Fox News show called Sports Court decided to take it on. This being Fox News, the commentators offered intelligent, well-reasoned, nuanced opinions on the matter.
“Why should I have to look at some chick’s zits?” That pearl of wisdom came courtesy of media personality Bo Dietl.
The segment was probably doomed from the start. If host Tamara Holder wanted to have a sensible discussion about female athletes and makeup (and it’s not clear that she did—she started the discussion by declaring that “We all know the old adage, ‘sex sells’ ”), she probably shouldn’t have had on two men who don’t know the first thing about female athletes, makeup, or the Olympics. But encourage men to air their uninformed views she did: In addition to Dietl, commentator Mark Simone also offered up his thoughts.
Simone opened strong: “The whole point of the Olympics, the whole reason for this training, for this work to get there, is product endorsements.” No, dude, that is not the whole reason for the Olympics. Sure, endorsements are important to some athletes, but others take part in sports less visible than swimming or gymnastics and are thus less likely to earn major endorsement deals. It’s simply not accurate to say that every Olympic athlete is driven by the bags of money waiting on the other side of the medal podiums—especially women, who on the whole earn less than male athletes anyway.
In the original piece, USA Today’s focus was on whether makeup could be empowering for female athletes. Leave it to Fox News to sidestep that question and bring it back to looks. After the aforementioned charming zit comment, Dietl added, “I like to see a person who wins that gold medal go up there and look beautiful.” Their nod to gender equity was a suggestion that the men wear makeup too, so they look better. (Dietl also proved that he is well-qualified to talk about sports on TV by failing to remember Michael Phelps’ name, calling him “that skinny guy.”) Several times, the two men also turned the question onto host Holder, asking how she looks when she “crawl[s] out of bed in the morning.” “Look at you—you got great legs,” Dietl said to Holder at one point. This was before he criticized a hypothetical gold medal–winning female athlete who looked like a “washed-out rag.” He would not support such a woman, no siree.
The discussion only got more reductive from there, and it never really addressed the question the original article asked, whether wearing makeup can help female athletes feel strong and confident but feminine at the same time. But it did show us how unempowering it is to try have a discussion about women’s empowerment on Fox News.