11 March 2010

The Sexist Olympics

I know, I know. The Olympics are over. But there was a really interesting article in the New Yorker this week, about skiing - and moguls and freestyle and and cross country and aerials and ski jumping. I've gone skiing a dozen times, as an adult, and I hung up my poles when I broke my thumb one day. And the only ski jumping I've done is on the Wii, and honestly, how many people do you know that have ever ski jumped, like for real?

Anyway, I wasn't reading it because of my deep love and understanding of skiing, but because it was one of those echt New Yorker articles - the kind that you read with fascination despite not really caring about the subject, like when John McPhee writes about plate tectonics or shad fishing. I was carrying along merrily, until I sat bolt upright on the train and dog-eared the page: ski jumping is the ONLY male-only sport in the winter Olympics. That in and of itself is bad enough, but there's a theory advanced by a German professor that the reason is that ski jumping is ideally suited to the small and lean - a theory supported by a New York Times article about anorexia in ski jumpers. In other words, women ought to be winning - and by banning women from it, it protects the "virile self-image" of the men who do jump.

Sputter, sputter, sputter.

19 comments:

mayberry said...

Oh, gag.

Sometime before the Olympics I wondered on Twitter why some sports for female athletes were called "Ladies" while others were "Women's." But this, this escaped my notice.

FreshHell said...

Interesting. Well, now you need to begin your ski jumping career and prove that professor right. :)

Harriet said...

There's a ski jump not far from me. Perhaps I should take it up. But anorexic I am not. Oh well.

Anjali said...

I started that article last night, but couldn't really get into it, so I went to bed.

Maybe I'll see you ski-jumping in 2014, then?

Heide said...

Olympic canoeing is also male-only, alas.

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I don't buy it. In my little world of non-professional skiers, the men are admiring of the women -- not Olympian women but local women who ski better than they do. Not to put them on too high a pedestal, I'd say they're kind of abashed but admiring. I think it's only men of a certain age who are threatened by strong women.

Hmm. *Is* there a (non-judged) Olympic sport where the women get better times/heights/distances than the men?

Mary G said...

Heide, I'm not sure you're right. I have a dim memory of Olympic women paddling; but it is dim.
Re the ski jumping. Apparently the Olympic committee that runs it said that the women aren't good enough. The Canadian ski jump women's team tried taking it to court, but whatever they tried didn't work.
Did you know a ski jumper can be disqualified if his suit is too loose on him?
Sometimes sport can be totally crazy.

Kelly said...

I thought I couldn't possibly be right about ski jumping excluding women. I looked it up whilst watching the men jump and I was shocked. The virility theory is interesting. Vancouver claimed they could only accommodate "so many" athletes, so Women's Ski Jumping got sidelined for another Olympics.

Heide said...

Mary G -- There's women's kayaking, but not women's canoeing. I know this because I have a cousin who has won medals at (non-Olympic) world canoeing competitions, but there's Olympic competition only for her male teammates.

Becky said...

Hmm. Interesting. I wonder how many Norwegian women do ski jumping. If anyone would fight for equality, it would be Norwegian women.

Beck said...

That's just gross.

Carol said...

You know, people get all up in arms about this because the media like to point out how the women's teams were not allowed in the Olympics...

but they always forget to mention WHY.

There was no sex discrimination. Just following of basic rules, which apply to EVERY sport.

In order for a division (e.g. Men's speed skating 500 m) to qualify for the Olympics, there need to meet a minimum number of international competitions.

Women's ski jumping simply does not meet that minimum standard. There simply aren't enough women from enough countries competing to qualify for the Olympics. I don't know why there aren't more women ski jumpers. But they aren't.

If it were men's ski jumping that didn't have enough international competitions to qualify, they wouldn't have been allowed in, either.

Funny how those media articles forget to mention that bit, eh?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ski_jumping#Women.27s_ski_jumping

phd in yogurtry said...

Design short little spandex ski-jumper skirts and see if that doesn't change things.

painted maypole said...

is it wrong that there was a part of me that thought "well, at least now girls aren't the only ones starving themselves for an Olympic sport. Are they getting late onset puberty, too, like those female gymnasts?"

Pinky said...

I always thought it had something to do with the breasts interfering with the aerodynamics or something.

Heide said...

Carol -- yes, you're right about all of that. But there's also discrimination involved in what countries field women's teams and how international competitions get scheduled.

YourFireAnt said...

Just for THAT.....!

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

Hey, easy now. Gymnasts like most elite athletes have late puberty from intensity of exercise and psychological stress. That's a quote from the journal of endocrinology...

n said...

This is totally off point, but I love articles on plate tectonics only slightly less than I love articles on rogue waves!

to the point: Um, when I heard the women couldn't jump I figured it was because they could jump farther than the men. in fact I believe one of the ladies fighting for a shot might have broken a record shortly before the O. They are scared.