Friday, February 14, 2014

You can literally see the inequality

Last weekish I wrote about my astonishment that there isn't a 4-women bobsled event and how this speaks to the inequality that still remains in the Olympics in spite of visible and highly touted progress (i.e., the much-belated inclusion of women's ski jumping) because of the lack of equality in the events themselves. Even women's ski jumping has only one event while the men have two (two different sized hills).
Want to see the inequality? Not in a pie graph or nifty infographic (though those are fun); but here in the medal ceremony for the team luge event. This was a new event this year (I think--I had never seen it before) in which a team comprised of a female sledder, a male sledder, and a doubles team relay down the course. When one entity crosses the line, he/she hits a paddle which releases the gate at the top for the next entity.
Each team has 1 woman and three men. Why? Because female lugers only have one event--the singles. Just like the female bobsledders only have the 2-person race. Within sports in where the inequality lies.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

Why adjectives matter: The case of women's sports

I ended yesterday's post with a line about female Olympians, who are the minority gender at the Winter Olympics, receiving a greater piece of spotlight. The caveat (in addition to the fact that it actually might not be true if one does a thorough content analysis of media coverage) is that the spotlight they are under highlights their sexuality, or rather their performance of their (hetero)sexuality/femininity.
Obviously in most other arenas (pun intended) the spotlight on female athletes and women's sports is pretty dim. So much so that the media sometimes forgets altogether that women's sports exist. Because when "women" gets placed in front of "sports" it has some kind of cloaking effect, rendering women's sports invisible to the world.
This phenomenon was on display last year when Andy Murray won Wimbledon, the first Brit to do so since Fred Perry in the 1930s. Except for Dorothy Round Little, Angela Mortimer Barrett, Ann Haydon-Jones, and Virgina Wade (the last, who should get additional props for winning it with just one last name). Some media outlets were able to point out the discrimination within 24 hours, which I guess is a marker of this thing we call "progress."
But the phenomenon emerged again mere days ago when the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl--the first Seattle team to win a title since the Supersonics won the NBA championship in 1979. That news had Seattle Storm star Lauren Jackson more than a little confused (she was pissed!) because she remembers being on two championship-winning teams in 2004 and 2010.
I haven't yet seen any corrections to the misinformation.

Monday, February 03, 2014

My former dreams are shattered

Many women's sports advocates have cheered the greater gender parity that we will see in Sochi next week. Mostly this is over the long-fought and quite visible battle female ski jumpers around the world engaged in over their inclusion in the winter games. (There's even a movie about it--which I haven't seen but would like to get a hold of.)
But of course all is not equal, it's not even equitable. I was pretty sure, and then this article confirmed, that there would be no Nordic combined (jumping and cross-country skiing) event for women.
But, as with the summer games, it's more than just sports, it's events within sports that provide more opportunities for male Olympic athletes than female ones.
The most surprising to me was bobsled. In college, I remember the announcement that women's bobsled would be included in the 2002 games. My three female housemates and I were quite excited that we theoretically (and in theory only) had the possibility of being the first US 4-woman bobsled team. I guess technically we still do because there is no 4-person women's bobsled, only 2-person. I have seen no compelling reason for its absence.
This absence is especially salient this year given the controversy over which American women would go to Sochi. Track star Lolo Jones, who took up bobsled in 2012 after a disappointing and also controversial showing at the London Games, made the team despite her lack of experience. Some in bobsled circles suggest that she is there for publicity with other conspiracy-minded people suggesting that NBC needs a female media darling given Lindsey Vonn's injury-induced absence from the games.
So though there is no parity yet in terms of opportunities, female athletes may have more than their fair share of the spotlight.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Should you watch the Olympics?

Yesterday's NYT had an article about whether gay people were planning on "boycotting" the Sochi Olympics by not watching the games when they begin next week. Some of those interviewed, who noted that they were indeed fans of the Olympics, said they didn't feel right watching feeling that doing so would be a sign of support for Russia's anti-gay policies and sentiments.
But, as Hilary Rosen of CNN and others have noted, not watching the Olympics will not have a direct effect on Russia. Russia will feel the effects, however, if fewer people attend the events and spend money in the country, as has been predicted.
Russia has the games. Despite calls from different sectors to take the games away from Russia (rather unrealistic but at least someone said it), they will occur in the country. The goal, going forward, should be to make sure that such a problematic choice does not happen again.
How to go about this?
Well if we boycott Olympic sponsors like McDonalds and Coke (which we should probably be doing for a plethora of additional reasons anyway) maybe that will send a message. I generally abhor corporate influence, but this might be the time and the place, and it's not as if the bid process has been pure as the driven snow anyway.
Which leads to a second suggestion, how about some transparency about the bid process? How about criteria that include a country's record on social issues? How about countries submitting plans that ensure impoverished peoples are not displaced, or animals killed, or indigenous lands desecrated? And I realize this would probably remove the US from the list of contenders; and I'm ok with that.
Because I really want to watch the Olympics. Even knowing all the wrongs that are committed in the name of these games, which are clearly in violation of the Olympic Movement's own mission statement, I continue to watch. I wish I could be more ideologically consistent; that it wasn't so easy to erase the offenses. Maybe the IOC and the corporate culture that surrounds it is too difficult to change, but we should try.