Those looking for sexism everywhere have found it again, at least according to them.
A headline in the Greeley (Colo.) Tribune for an Associated Press story read in large bold print: "Phelps ties for silver in 100 fly." It then read in smaller print right underneath: "Ledecky sets world record in women's 800 freestyle."
Cue the outrage.
I mean, how dare a newspaper try to sell newspapers by leading with the more recognizable name? It was a surprise that most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time, Michael Phelps, only took the silver in the 100m butterfly event. And if you're wondering why a silver from Phelps leads a gold from swimmer Katie Ledecky, just read that last sentence. Phelps is the most-decorated Olympic athlete of all time. He is a household name.
That's not saying no one has heard of Ledecky. After her performance in these Olympics, she will no doubt get sponsorship deals and become one of the most well-known athletes in the world. But this is her second Olympics. It is Phelps' fifth. Ledecky will become a household name after only her second Olympics showing. Phelps didn't become well known until after his third Olympics in 2008, when he broke the record for most gold medals won in a single Olympics.
If Ledecky gets sponsorship deals (like Subway), or follows Phelps in gaining less favorable news coverage (drug or alcohol issues), she'll become even more famous.
This is at least the second headline complaint from the outrage brigade. Earlier this month, a Chicago Tribune headline helped readers understand who an Olympic trap shooter was by pointing out she is the wife of Chicago Bears lineman Mitch Unrein. As I wrote previously, most people don't know a thing about about trap shooting, but they do know football — and in Chicago, they know about the Bears.
A football player gives the story keywords that can bring in traffic that a trap shooter cannot. This is how headlines work — you help people place something they don't know with references to what they do know.
When war broke out in East Timor in the late 1990s, journalists struggled with how to help American readers relate to the place. Some of them decided the best way was to identify it as the origin of coffee sold at high-end American coffee shops. Maybe not the most elegant way of framing it, but it's probably more effective than describing the place merely based on how far away it is from Jakarta or Darwin.
And for those screaming sexism, this exact same thing also happens to men. Whenever Douglas Brunt does or says anything, it's not him who makes the news, because nobody knows that name. Instead, the headlines read: "Megyn Kelly's husband…" because she is the more famous person.
I don't understand how this is such a difficult concept to grasp for some. Well, no, I don't think these people don't grasp the concept, it's that they're so wrapped up in claims of sexism and women being victims that they intentionally ignore the obvious, legitimate reasons for these things in order to stoke outrage.
Ashe Schow is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.