Friday, February 28, 2014

Women in Sports. Ugh.

My sister brought this up to me last week, after watching a lot of the Olympics (or at least enough to be able to chat about it with clients!) and the more I thought about it, the more it frustrates me.

Did you know that this was the first year that women were allowed to participate in Ski Jumping in the Olympics? And that when a reporter interviewed Lindsay Van (who was allowed to test the jumps for the men in Utah in 2002, but not allowed to compete), they asked her about whether or not she was worried about her vagina falling out? Ugh. Just ugh.

Which got me to thinking...we segregate almost all our sports based on gender. Even the ones where it shouldn't matter one bit whether the competitor is male or female. Curling? Come way it matters what sex you are in that sport. Skeet shooting? Archery? Equestrian events?

I get it when we're talking gymnastics or baseball vs softball, because there are some actual physical differences in the way men's and women's bodies are put together. But Bobsled? Women weren't allowed to participate in 2-man(!) bobsled until 2002, and still can't compete in 4-man. Why?

Is it the legacy of misogyny in sports? Women were definitely ill-received when they began marathoning...
Kathrine Switzer, as the race organizer shouts "Get the hell out of my race and give me those numbers." 

Is it the way the media covers sports, with vastly more time and attention paid to men's sports, even during the Olympics? And I'm not kidding about that vastly. 96% of televised sports are men's events. Women's Olympic gymnastics is one of the most watched sporting events ever, and women are much more likely to watch the Olympics, but still NBC is more likely to show only the events in which women are skimpily clothed, and devote the rest of the coverage to men's sports.

Is it the way we approach sports in general? Rick Paulaus makes an awesome point in the middle of an overall great article titled Why Women Will Never Beat Men in Sports:
Maybe think about it like this: Way back in the day, when James Naismith invented the game of basketball, what if instead of making the height of the baskets 10 feet, he decided to make them 8 feet? In this alternate reality, your favorite team's roster would be composed of entirely different players. Gone would be the crazy high jumpers or 7-foot plus monsters, because height and flight would no longer be as important of an asset. In their place would be... Well, I don't even know. No one really does. I imagine thy would be more muscular and compact athletes, like a rugby players. The fact is, the average height of an NBA player would no longer be nearly a foot higher than the average male because that kind of height wouldn't be necessary. Height would still assist, as it does in just about every competition this side of horseracing, but it wouldn't dominate the proceedings.
Now, multiply that subtle change in game construction by every little bit of difference between how male and female bodies are designed, and you'll get somewhere near our current state of affairs. 
Honestly, I don't know. There are piles more reasons why we, as a society, as a world, relegate women to second-class status in sports (as in so many other things). The solutions are much easier. Sign girls up for sports, encourage girls in sports, watch women's sports, and shut down anyone who dares to ask you about the connection between your vagina and your skiing ability. Because Fuck That Shit.

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