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BMW gives cars to male rowers but not female rowers

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Alexandra Morgan
WVoN co-editor

A row over sexism has broken out on Twitter, after it emerged that 12 male Olympic rowers, including silver medallists Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase, had received BMW cars, while the female rowers had not.

While it would appear that the cars given to the Team GB athletes have been provided by individual BMW dealerships, rather than as a marketing strategy by BMW, it has still struck a nerve, particularly as this has been the most inclusive Olympics to date, with women from ever country taking part for the first time.

Anna Watkins, a gold medal winner with Katherine Grainger for the women’s double sculls, was asked on Newsnight whether the men had received BMWs while female athletes had not.

Watkins confirmed: “It did work out that way, yes. It’s a bit of a coincidence because it’s the individual dealers that chose who to give the cars to, so it wasn’t any grand strategy but it did just happen that there were a dozen or so for the men and none for the girls.”

BMW, however, said that around 70 women have received cars, including Nicola Adams, the first female boxer to win an Olympic gold medal.

Concerns over sexist attitudes to women’s sport were raised last year during the 2011 BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards, which featured no women on the shortlist, despite strong performances from several women, including swimmers Keri-Anne Payne and Rebecca Adlington.

The BMW story is likely to reignite this debate, especially as the GB women have performed so well at London 2012, taking home a huge number of medals.

The BMW sponsorship deal involves 150 athletes being given 2-year leases of either BMWs or Minis. BMW claims that the selection of most of the athletes was made prior to the London 2012 games and is not related to performance, but there have still been claims of misogyny levelled at BMW, and calls for the women rowers to also receive BMWs like their male counterparts.

  1. Andy Davies says:

    So the sponsorship involved 150 athletes and around 70 of them are women???

    I understand more female cyclists that male cyclists got cars, but doesn’t that work as a headline?

  2. I would be interested to see exactly what the car distribution was in relation to the sports the athletes were involved in. Overall, the numbers are fairly even, but we’ve already seen that in relation to the rowing athletes, males were highly favoured. Wouldn’t it be interesting/awful if the car distribution conformed to stereotypes of “gendered” sports? For example, did more female volleyball athletes (which we have already seen shamelessly objectified during the games) receive cars than male volleyball athletes; or did more male basketball players receive cars that female basketball players? If so, then the overall percentage of female athletes that received cars could be 46% (as the numbers indicate), but STILL reflect sexist views of what sports are “more acceptable” for female athletes to participate in. Now, I have no idea if this is the case or not, but I think it is an interesting hypothetical question, and we always have to take these broad figures (70 out of 150) with a healthy grain of salt.

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