Just When You Thought The Olympics Couldn’t Get Anymore Sexist …

Posted on March 1st, 2010 by Katherine Franke

Canadian Women’s hockey team gets called out for drinking to celebrate gold medal, while, hmmm, do you think male athletes drink when they win?

credit: Brad Cran

From a gender justice perspective, this Olympics has been pretty bad.  Let’s review:

– Fifteen women sued the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympics because the Vancouver games are men-only when it comes to ski jumping (indeed ski jumping is the only winter games sport that does not allow women to compete). The women argued that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms bars gender discrimination by government agencies and groups performing government functions.  They lost and the games went ahead with only a male jumpers.

The IOC justified its refusal to allow only men to compete on the ground that there aren’t enough elite women jumpers or countries that could field a women’s team to make it worth it.  Never mind that the ski jumper who holds the distance record on the K95 “normal hill” in Vancouver is a woman. Lindsey Van, 24, of Park City, Utah, has jumped farther than any man on the Olympic hill.

Two ways to right this wrong: 1. if you build it they will come, meaning that if you create a women’s ski jumping division at the Olympics the athletes will emerge; or 2. set up Olympic ski jumping as a sex-neutral sport and let Van compete. There is no good reason why every single sport in the Olympics has to be sex segregated.  What I learned watching the ski jumping this week was that the best jumpers are slight-bodied and have strong legs.  This doesn’t sound like the sort of sport where having men and women compete together would necessarily advantage men – indeed Van suggests just the opposite.  Oh – maybe that’s why they don’t want women jumping.  What if they show up the guys?  Time Magazine has a nice story on the women jumpers lock out here.

– When Georgian luger Nodar Kumaritashvili died in a practice run in Vancouver officials shortened the men’s luge course in order to make it slower and safer.  In fact, they moved the start of the course to the point where the women’s luge competition starts (and then moved the women’s start down 800 feet).  When an NBC correspondent interviewed some of the men’s lugers about the shorter course, one of them remarked that they were now running “the girls’ course” and it was going to be totally boring.  Better dead than girly, I guess.

– Then there was all the hoopla about male skaters crying in the “kiss and cry” area after they finish competing.

– Finally, the final night of the games shored up any gender discomfort anyone might be struggling with.  It closed with the men’s hockey final – an uber butch endnote for the games.  No risk of male athletes crying there – they’d rather bash each other into the boards.  Then the closing ceremonies struck me as an over-the-top effort to rehabilitate gender norm tout corps.   To be sure, the “girls” and the “guys,” now out of their uniforms, wore gender-differentiated clothing.  And NBC featured a bunch of US olympians, with interviews, long-format profiles, and quick cameos as they poured into the stadium – funny how Johnny Weir didn’t seem to make it on camera.


  1. As some of the experts said there there is no much disadvantage between man and woman in this specific sport I think it could be a sex-neutral sport. To date womens have show the ability to surpass men in some sports as it is in this specific sport.

    I think this explains it all:

    “Never mind that the ski jumper who holds the distance record on the K95 “normal hill” in Vancouver is a woman. Lindsey Van, 24, of Park City, Utah, has jumped farther than any man on the Olympic hill.”

    So common give women a chance!!

  2. Just to add to the list: the comments Evgeni Plushenko and his coach made after Evan Lysacek beat him in the men’s figure skating competition. “Without a quadruple [toe-loop] it’s not men’s figure skating.” Also, they made comments insinuating that if the man who does the quad toe-loop/triple toe-loop combo can’t win gold, we might as well make figure skating a “unisex” sport. Oh, the Winter Olympics: so riveting on so many levels!

  3. Wow – missed that. (But then, there’s only so much figure skating I can take!) Thanks Jeannie.

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