In conversation with Devin Heroux and CBC Sports
By Rosie DiManno Toronto Star Columnist Wed., July 3, 2019
STAR COLUMNISTS OPINION
At the Barcelona Olympics, as I recall, Marnie McBean had a Fan Boys Club of gaga reporters from Canada.
They were all in thrall to the beauteous and sassy rower from Toronto.
Of course, she could have broken every one of their necks with those mesomorphic, ball-busting, oar-driving thighs.
Twenty-seven years later — good golly, 27 years — McBean rolls her eyes when a scribbler reminds her of the gaga adulation. Suggests maybe the sports correspondents merely appreciated her way with a pungent quote. “I’ve never been able to check what comes out of my mouth. Hey, bring Marnie over.”
The female rowers on Team Canada were goddesses. And I hope McBean forgives me for saying so because the discussion at hand is actually how sexist coverage of women athletes has been over the decades.
“Silken was described as a Nordic Valkyrie with the thousand-watt smile.”
Another eye-roll. Silken Laumann, famous for training with men, showed her Iron Man chops by winning bronze at Barcelona in single sculls a mere 10 weeks after suffering horrific injury — fractured fibula — in a boat collision during training.
The conversation around sportswomen, the stereotypes and lazy metaphors, really began to change at those 1992 Games.
“Our group came through and it was super-cool to be reading these articles where they were talking about us being competitive and aggressive,” McBean recalls. “Because that wasn’t how women were covered in sports. We had muscles. It was still being questioned: What was feminine? Now I look at athletes and how proud they are of the physicality. I would say the Canadian extreme is Kallie Humphries.” Two-time Olympic bobsledding champion. “She just loves showing her body and her muscles and how strong she is.”
McBean, now 51, wryly remembers being issued a gender-ID card at the Olympics. At one time, only Princess Anne, an Olympic equestrienne, was permitted to forgo gender testing.
“The needle has moved.”Continue reading