Why don’t journalists tell us the weights of female athletes?

Commenting on NBC’s images of male and female snowboarders Josh Levin writes,

You can probably spot the difference. Kotsenburg is 20 years old, lives in Park City, stands 5-foot-10, and weighs 165 pounds. Anderson is 23, calls South Lake Tahoe home, is 5-foot-3, and weighs … well, it’s unclear how much she weighs.

NBC spokesman Christopher McCloskey confirms that these on-screen bios comes from the network’s graphics department, and not from a world feed. If the network did want to provide comprehensive physiological statistics, it could easily get them from the official Sochi 2014 website, which provides heights and weights for male and female Olympians. On the Sochi site, Kotsenburg is again listed at 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds, while Anderson is 5-foot-3 and 119 pounds. For some reason, NBC doesn’t want you to know that last stat.

NBC Doesn’t Want Us to Know How Much Female Snowboarders Weigh

But it’s not just snowboarding. Read How Much Does Maria Sharapova Weigh? And does the public have the right to know?

To be clear, tennis and snowboarding aren’t sports with weight categories. Really there’s no reason for us to know the weights of the women or the men involved. So why do we care?

See past posts on weight categories in sport:

Partly I think we want to compare the specs of the elite athletes to our own measurements. We’re also fascinated with the different sizes and shapes top athletes come in. See Tracy’s post The Shape of an Athlete.I’m fascinated both by self selection and by the way our physical pursuits mold our shapes.  While I’m happy for me to carry extra muscle that slows me down running and riding up hills, elite athletes go to some interesting extremes in pursuit of top performance. See Weight Training Only for my discussion of body composition and compromise.
So then why the difference? Men tend to be much more matter of fact about their weight. I laugh watching my sons and my partner weigh and measure themselves and compare. My partner has been outstripped in height by both of our sons, now 16 and soon 18, for a few years but recently teen athlete son (rugby, football, basketball) overtook him in weight too. It was a proud moment for him. So odd to hear someone cheer that they weigh more. Can you imagine similar weighing and comparing between mothers and daughters? I can’t. The subject is still too fraught.
I think we react differently to women’s weights, even for larger athletic women. See Do girls get a bulking season? Silly question. I’ve occasionally shared my weight with people and gotten shocked looks. As if I had just broken some great social taboo, which I suppose, I did. It felt like mentioning one’s income which I’ve also been known to do. Beyond “fat” and “chubby” we even lack a vocabulary for talking about larger women’s bodies. See Fat or big: What’s in a name? Women, more than men, are more likely to feel themselves to be defined by their weight. Very few women are able to view that number on the scale neutrally. And athletes too suffer from eating disorders, sometimes sacrificing performance for a smaller number on the scale.So the effects of reporting women’s weights are different than that of sharing men’s. Since the information about Olympic athletes is there and people want to know, I can see why journalists share it. I’m torn. I don’t like the differential treatment. I want to live in a world where weight is just one fact among many about a person, athlete or not.
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