Past Present Podcast: Voting Rights, Olympics Commentary, and Think Tanks

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On this week’s episode, Niki, Neil, and Natalia debate recent court decisions on voting rights, sexism in Olympics commentary, and corporate influence in think tanks.

Voting Rights

This summer, courts struck down restrictive voting laws in North Carolina, Kansas, and Wisconsin. Niki pointed out that there have been only 31 cases of voter fraud since 2000. We recommended Ari Berman’s history of voting rights, Give Us the Ballot.

Olympics Commentary

The Olympics sportscasters can’t seem to stop describing women athletes as “girls” and crediting their accomplishments to men. Neil suggested this was because sports broadcasting remained a mostly male profession. Natalia remarked that a lot of the coverage of Michael Phelps has been on his new role as a father, but this was an exception that proved the rule of focusing on women athletes’ personal lives. Neil added the attention to Ryan Lochte’s bleached hair also provided another exception that highlighted the focus on women athletes’ physical appearance, including even a news article on Katie Ledecky’s manicure that Niki shared. Niki also compared responses to Michael Phelps’ “game face” versus the scrutiny given to McKayla Maroney’s “smirk” from the 2012 Games. Natalia recommended Lindsay Pieper’s essay on the onset of “cuteness” in women’s gymnastics as a response to American Cold War fears about masculinized Russian women athletes. Neil added Reeves Wiedeman’s New Yorker essay about women’s gymnastics noted the sport required an expression of effortlessness from its athletes that undermined the sport’s athleticism.

Think Tanks

The New York Times’ investigation of leading think tanks found that many of them, like the left-leaning Brookings Institution, were beholden to their corporate donors’ agendas. We recommended Jason Stahl’s history of think tanks, Right Moves, along with several essays he has written about think tanks.

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