A few thoughts on the winter Olympics

It feels like the winter Olympics around here, it’s so damn cold. There was rather a lot of frost on the ground this morning, and the roof is still white.

I have to admit I don’t pay a lot of attention to the winter Olympics. I like to watch the snowboarding, and that’s about it. The summer has fencing and equestrian, sports I’m a lot more into. But the Olympics are a big deal, and I think it’s great that they still exist, that the whole world is invited, and that the athletes get to forge cooperation and all that nice stuff as they work together. A friend of mine competed in track and field in 2000, and he said it was an amazing and cool experience.

But I was reading a great article in the Chronicle this morning called “A Woman’s Place,” talking about the gender inequalities in Olympic events. I knew, as an abstract, that some Olympic events were gender restricted, but I wasn’t aware of how many–that men generally run and swim farther, for example, and that women are excluded from ski jumping because: “Don’t forget, it’s like jumping down from, let’s say, about 2 meters on the ground about a thousand times a year, which seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view.” Ah. Of course. Because us ladies have such different anatomy, you see, that we would be medically compromised by jumping from height. We might break an ovary!

Hey man. Sports is hard, physically demanding work. Injuries happen. Several athletes have dealt with some pretty severe injuries during the Turin Olympics, including Zhang Dan, who crushed her knee on the ice during a skating event and bounced right up to finish her event–and get a silver for it. I believe that women are no less equipped to handle extreme sports than men, and so do a lot of sports governing bodies, except apparently the Olympic committee, which appears to be stuck in 1912. Competing on the Olympic level is the ultimate challenge for your body–don’t women deserve the chance to push themselves (and potentially injure themselves, too) as much as men do? It’s a great honor to represent your country in any event, but I imagine it’s kind of humiliating to be participating in an abbreviated version of an event (in women’s hockey, for example, body checks are disallowed, a heinous idea to any hockey fan). I would hope that for the next Olympiad, women are considered full citizens, because it’s really quite silly to go on like this.

It’s amazing to hear people say that the battle for women’s rights is won and that we have full equality when everywhere I look, I see clear evidence of gender inequality not being addressed, and indeed being largely ignored.