It’s been ten days since the Olympics closed out, and most of us (if we tuned in at all) have already forgotten they happened. In two years, we’ll go through this craze all over again, the hype, the big ceremonies, the medal count. We’ll pick up fleeting interest in obscure sports. For two weeks, athletes will be the medium through which we are exposed to other cultures, and the catalyst for commentary on our own. And then it fades away as quickly as it pops up.
It’s been ten days. I’m a little late, but I’m sitting on something. Something that I think really matters.
Maybe you heard the same comments I did. Thank god they still wear bikinis in beach volleyball. // Oh, a tongue piercing- whoring it up for the Olympic village! // Look at the ass on that one. As one of the world’s strongest women rounds the track to move towards the gold in the 200 meter dash, the words picked to describe her years of work, her raw determination, and her unmatched physicality are I’d do her?
Fuck you very much, double standard for female athletes.
I spent fifteen years swimming competitively. Society, you ordered up pointy shoulder-blades and parallel thighs free of inner leg-fat. Swimming, you gave me back muscles and a thick neck. In high school, I skipped meals to make up the difference. I hated what strong looked like, and I hated what weak felt like. Who could tell the difference between strung-out and sexy? Why did I only feel like my accomplishments would make an impact if I weighed less than 130 and had a flat stomach?
Where was this pressure coming from, and why did I have to pick between affirmation from others and respect for myself?
Because, despite the fact that it’s 20-fucking-12, this country can’t tell the difference between a woman’s physical accomplishments and her sex appeal. I don’t think I could differentiate them for you in a ladies swim team locker room. I sure as hell can’t in this shitty sports bar. And as this guy keeps spewing this, it suddenly occurs to me that he still has the power to verify this Olympian just by labeling her 'hot'. Just as easily, he can dismiss her by deciding she's too muscular, too manly. God damn it. This guy just got his genitals all over the sport I was trying to watch and no one batted an eye?
I can’t help but think we can do so much better than that. We can separate bodies from objects. We can watch the beauty of movement that these athletes embody without feeling the need to sexualize it. Really, it’s as easy as taking women in sports seriously. It’s as easy as giving a little respect where it’s sorely deserved. It's choosing to not make the women and men that are competing into sex objects, and it's saying something when someone else does it.
So, we’ve only got about two years ‘til the next opening ceremony. That is just about enough time to make up some real witty come-backs. I'm going to get on that. Spread the word.
(A little diversion from the monthly science topics, which I'll send out again soon! I'll probably be writing on social issues once in a while.)