The Waves

The Olympics Are Still Sexist. Can We Enjoy Them Anyway?

Despite boasting a high female participation rate, the Games still have a long way to go to reach equality.


Episode Notes

On this week’s episode of The Waves, it’s all about the Olympics. Amira Rose Davis, assistant professor of history and African American studies at Penn State University and co-host of the feminist sports podcast Burn it All Down, is joined by Slate’s gymnastics reporter Rebecca Schuman. The pair start with a discussion of the racial and gender inequalities that have permeated the Games, past and present. Then they get into whether it’s time for us all, like Simone Biles, to “nope” out of this complicated tradition. Davis also talks about a recent piece she did for Slate, in which she interviewed several Black women Olympians about their experiences in the Games.

In Slate Plus, Amira and Rebecca continue the ongoing series, “Gateway Feminism,” by talking about what helped make them feminists. For Rebecca, it’s ads for Secret deodorant. Amira talks about seeing her NFL dreams ruined and the “Hot Flashes” softball team.


Amira: Rooting for Guan Chenchen on the beam. She also recommends the podcast Blind Landing, about a disastrous equipment error that had a massive impact on the gymnastics competition in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Rebecca: Watching Anna Cockrell in the 400-meter hurdles and Idalys Ortiz in judo. She also loves Ted Lasso.

Podcast production by Cheyna Roth with editorial oversight by Susan Matthews and June Thomas.

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About the Show

Each week a pair of writers and guests talk through one news story we can’t stop thinking about, and unpack what gender has to do with it.

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  • Rebecca Schuman is a St. Louis–based writer and the author of Schadenfreude, A Love Story.

  • Amira Rose Davis is an assistant professor of history and African American studies at Penn State and a 2021–22 Harrington Fellow at the University of Texas at Austin, where she is finishing her first book, “Can’t Eat a Medal”: The Lives and Labors of Black Women Athletes in the Age of Jim Crow. She also is the co-host of the feminist sports podcast Burn It All Down, now on the Blue Wire podcast network.