At the Rio Olympics, all eyes in Britain were on Tom Daley.
Daley is an English diver who won the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics in the 10 metre platform event. Fit and photogenic, he immediately shot to media stardom, even landing a role on the celebrity diving reality TV show Splash! Yes, that’s a thing that exists.
So four years later, big things were expected of him at the Rio Olympics. Unfortunately, his solo performance was a flop. But together with partner Daniel Goodfellow, he managed to bring home a bronze medal in the synchronised 10 metre platform event.
Predictably, the British media went nuts. It was just a shame that in heaping praise on their poster boy, they forgot about his partner.
There was Daley pictured on the front page of the Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph – alone. There was the Times, raving about the dramatic performance by ‘Daley and synchronised partner’.
The backlash was instant and epic. Social media raged at the whitewashing of Goodfellow, whose performance – by definition – was every bit as spectacular as Daley’s.
Me? It made me very happy.
Imagine for a moment that diving was co-ed: one man, one woman. That Daniel Goodfellow was Danielle Goodfellow, and she was unceremoniously deleted from the pages of history just like her male alter-ego.
We’d all be up in arms about sexism, and rightly so. Just as we were when Corey Cogdell, bronze medal winner in trap shooting at Rio, was described by the Chicago Tribune as merely ‘Wife of a Bears lineman’, referring to American footballer Mitch Unrein.
Or when an NBC commentator described world-beating swimmer Katinka Hosszú’s husband and coach as ‘the person responsible for her performance’.
Or when a BBC commentator described the women’s judo final as a ‘catfight’.
I could go on all day.
But this time it was a man being cut, quite literally, out of the picture. And the whole affair made me think about what it is that makes the media effectively erase people. Sometimes it’s downright sexist, to be sure. But other times it’s misguided assumptions about what the public wants to see, combined with sheer tabloid laziness.
I’m not excusing the practice. I’m just glad to see that given half the chance, they’ll do it to anyone.