Thursday, August 09, 2012

the year of the sexist olympics

Leaving aside a bit of disagreement on how best to handle the foul stench emanating from their groinal areas, we're all pretty much down with the idea of equality for the ladies, right? And what better place to demonstrate how egalitarian and groovy we've all become than at the giant festival of all that's best about the human race, the Olympic Games? Especially with the influx of lady athletes from some of the Middle Eastern states that have previously not allowed them to compete - that's all good, right?

Well, let me just offer a small counterbalance to the warm fuzzy feeling everyone seems to be getting about this. While it's certainly true that there were a couple of female Saudi athletes competing in the games, in both cases they hardly represent your average Saudi woman. The judo contestant Wojdan Shahrkhani's father Ali is a judo referee, and while she grew up in Saudi Arabia she doesn't live there, and 800-metre runner Sarah Attar was born - and lives and studies - in California. It's also fair to say that this development - forced upon the Saudis and others under the threat of exclusion from the Games if they didn't comply - hasn't exactly been trumpeted and celebrated back in the country, nor has it yet resulted in any changes to the way girls and women are discouraged and indeed actively prevented from taking part in physical and sporting activities.

But, hey, at least us enlightened Westerners are all about the equality and the celebrating of sporting achievement regardless of gender. Weeeeeelll, yeah, no. Have a look at the series of bizarre reactions to American gymnast McKayla Maroney's being unable to conceal her disappointment at losing a vault contest she clearly felt she should have won. No-one but herself to blame, as she overcooked the take-off on her last vault, pretty much missed the horse altogether and did a fairly spectacular arse-plant into the mat. She still won the silver medal, but clearly was pretty pissed off about the whole thing, and why not. Clearly female Olympians, and female Olympic gymnasts in particular, aren't really meant to want to win quite so nakedly, though, and should instead stand around smiling winsomely under several inches of slap and glitter and try not to sweat or anything similarly unladylike. I mean, I think there's a case for bringing some sort of prosecution against her and her parents for their egregious mis-spelling of "Michaela" as "McKayla", but that's about my only critcism.

In the spirit of not taking cheap shots at female gymnasts' appearance, I abandoned the link-following activities I was indulging in solely to garner a few cheap laughs about Beth Tweddle's teeth. I must just highlight the snippet that I found in the comments to this YouTube clip, though, as it may just be the greatest typo in the history of the world:
but she has shown that she is a world class qymnast- well done Beth!
I think we'd have to get our heads together and thrash out some clear rules, but the women's quimnastics is something I'd really like to see brought in for Rio 2016, even just as a demonstration event.

Just as a footnote, combine the religious intolerance, quickness to claim "offence", nasty authoritarian streak and general sense that there are ways in which women should behave and being a bit too assertive and shouty really isn't quite the thing and you end up with the situation the members of art-terrorism group Pussy Riot find themselves in in a Moscow courthouse at the moment. I suppose the difference is that while I reluctantly accept that there is an element of devout religious belief (however misguided that is in itself) associated with the restrictions placed on the Middle Eastern athletes, the religious element here is a pretty flimsy smokescreen, Pussy Riot's real crime being criticism of lovable old judo enthusiast and ex-KGB chief Vladimir Putin.

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