The Sexist Sixties: A Sports Writers Version of “Mad Men” Would Make the Ad Men Blush

AP, October 22, 1964
AP, October 22, 1964

“The shortest of shorts are being worn by British girls. And the tightest of sweaters appear to be worn by the women of Poland.” That’s how AP described the scene in October 22 as the 1964 Olympic Games were winding down and many of the athletes had finished their competitive pursuits.

The AMC series Mad Men have recently given us a chance to revisit the sexism of the 1960s, but it is still jarring to read in the wire clippings of the time how women were viewed by men, particularly American sports writers.

In an October 6 article, headlined “Olympic Beauty Standards Different From Any Other”, the AP writer explains “… to be brutally frank, after looking over the crop gathering for the Olympics which open Saturday, it must be reported that there are very few lady athletes whose faces will stop traffic.”

This writer goes on to explain the vocabulary used by him and his colleagues to describe women are, admittedly, hard to imagine seeing in today’s print press:

  • Attractive – Well, she must be a girl because the Russians say she is, and we can’t even get an agreement to inspect their nuclear bomb sites.
  • Pretty- Nobody has ever actually stepped on her face with a spiked shoe.
  • Lovely – She bathes after every race.
  • Gorgeous – She parked her truck outside.
  • Glamorous – She has had at last one permanent since spring.
  • Vivacious – She speaks English.
  • Shy – She doesn’t.

Somewhat relevant, here is a great video featuring Mad Men star, Christina Hendricks, showing how sexism exists in subtler ways today.