Women and the Olympics

This was the script for a live-feature for Friday, July 27th. Unfortunately due to time restraints and my poor planning I wasn’t able to get through the entire thing!! Therefore I’m posting it here with links included!!


History of Women in the Olympic the Games:

Participation in the Ancient Olympic Games was limited to male athletes only.

That policy was also followed at the first Olympics of the modern era in 1896.

Women participated for the first time at the 1900 Paris Games.

However women were only able to participate in lawn tennis and golf.

Athletics and gymnastics debuted at the 1928 Olympics.

Brunei, Qatar and Saudi Arabia were the countries without female representation at Beijing in 2008.

This year, the number of women competing in London is at an all-time high of 4,847, with the United States and China sending more women than men. For the US this is the first time in history this has happened.

London 2012 will be the first olympics in history to feature every country sending at least one female.

Muslim Women and London 2012:

Andrew Pillow a contributor to sports blog, the bleacher report brings up a very interesting point in his article entitled “Muslim Women Participation in 2012 London Olympics Is the Start, Not the Goal”. Pillow states, “This is truly a milestone for Muslim women in the Middle East. The traditions and beliefs of the region have kept many women from participating in sports for years, a fact that Saudi runner Sarah Attar hopes to change.

“It’s a huge honor, and I hope that it can really make some big strides for women over there to get more involved in sport,” Attar said.

Attar and the other female athletes have achieved the first step, which was participation. However, the goal seems to be consistent competitiveness; that is still a far-off notion. Many of the Muslim women competing this year failed to qualify for the Olympics through traditional means and were only allowed to participate due to their status as being the first from their country.”

Pillow then outlines 3 scenarios for the 2016 Olympics.

“First, these countries develop an infrastructure for women’s sports and find and train up women athletes to world class status by 2016.
Second, the Olympic Committee continues to allow women from the traditionally male-dominated countries in the region to participate based solely on the cultural significance.
Finally, one or more the countries sending women athletes for the first time in 2012 will fail to send them for a second time in 2016.
The main obstacle is the fact that world class athletes don’t grow on trees. They also tend to be rather difficult to discover when you prohibit them from participating in sports; such is the case in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia bans athletic activity in most girl schools and often prohibits women’s athletic events. Teams do exist, but they are underground. Women are publicly denigrated if they chose to participate.”

So the goal is to develop an infrastructure for women’s sport in countries with a history of gender oppression.

Along the same topic A great documentary dealing with this subject is ‘Shadya” which tells the tale of a 17 year old world karate champion, arab palestinian living in israel. She has some awesome quotes in the documentary including “Nobody will be able to lock Shadya up! They put me in this dress, but will not lock me at home” So check it out cause she’s pretty darn cool.The documentary is presented by Independant Lens, and is an awesome work of muslim feminism, you can check it out more online on pbs.org/independentlens/shadya. Or google Shadya it’ll be the first hit.

Trans and Intersexed Politics in the Olympics:

First some good news, Caster Semenya a South African runner who had her gender questioned at bejing 2008 is the flag bearer for her country at the opening ceremonies this year!

Now lets talk about the various issues with the includsion of trans and intersexed atheletes by the International Olympic Commitee:

from outsports.com’s list of 100 important moments in gay sports history:

In 2004, the IOC has a long  history of insensitive and often unproductive gender tests.
In October 2003 a committee convened in Stockholm, Sweden, to discuss the inclusion of transgender athletes at the following Olympics. On May 17, 2004, the IOC adopted the group’s recommended policy (the Stockholm Consensus) that opened the door for transgender athletes to compete in the upcoming Athens Olympic Games.
The policy has three main requirements for both MTF and FTM trans athletes:

  • They must have had gender reassignment surgery
  • They must have legal recognition of their assigned gender
  • They must have at least two years of hormone therapy

While not perfect (it does not, for example, give insight into intersex issues), this model has become the standard bearer against which many high-level sports organizations have measured themselves. The IOC adoption of the policy gave impetus (and sometimes political cover) for other groups to do the same.

Gender Verification Policy in London 2012:

The IOC has come up with some controversial “regulations on female hyperandrogenism”

stating, “Intersex female athletes with elevated androgen production give rise to a particular concern in the context of competitive sports, which is referred to as ‘female hyperandrogenism,'” the regulations, dated June 22, state. “Androgenic hormones have performance-enhancing effects, particularly on strength, power and speed, which may provide a competitive advantage in sports.”

The IOC also demands that every national Olympic body, prior to the registration of its athletes, look into “any perceived deviation in sex characteristics and keep complete documentation of findings.”

The IOC says that nothing in the regulations “is intended to make any determination of sex.” An expert panel will be appointed to investigate suspected cases of female hyperandrogenism, the regulations indicate. “If, in the opinion of the Expert Panel, the investigated athlete has female androgenism that confers a competitive advantage (because it is functional and the androgen level is in the male range), the investigated athlete may be declared ineligible to compete in the 2012 OG Competitions.”

But Andre Banks, of the international queer advocacy campaign allout.org, reportedly told Gay Star News that the IOC is playing the role of “gender police.”

Banks adds, “We don’t ban people from becoming basketball players for being taller than average or weightlifters for being stronger than average. Athletes are punished for cheating — and the International Olympic Committee already has a battery of tests to maintain the integrity of the Olympic Games.”

He called the new rules an invasion of privacy and a violation of medical ethics, adding that they foster an environment “where if women are too good, they are suspected of cheating.”

The policy is remnicenst of Caster Semenya’s experience, where she endured several months of “gender testing” that endangered her career.
Here I would just like to point out the use of some language things too:
from the world health organization or WHO:
“Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women.
“Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.
And I guess we will finish up with an inspiration moment from Semenya: Stated in an interview with  times of India “she is hoping to draw inspiration from former South African president Nelson Mandela.
“He means a lot to me. He made me believe that I can do this, through thick and thin. Because when I met him he just told me to believe I can do it, (you) just have to be strong, that’s all.”

You can read more on this story on Xtra! Canada’s Gay and Lesbian news at xtra.ca, or at the gaystarnews.com

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