Sunday, February 28, 2010

Women and The Olympics

So I'm not actually following the Winter Olympics that much, I'm not super into snow sports, and I've been so occupied lately with other parts of my life that I've just hardly watched very much except for a few snippets here and there.

However, I have always loved the Summer Olympics, and recently I was at my local library and saw the book "Rome, 1960" featured...I had heard of this book before and picked it up. It's about the 1960 Olympics in Rome. It's really fascinating, 1960 was really a seminal Olympics in a lot of ways. I would highly recommend it.

Anyhow, so I'm waking to a luxurious Sunday morning and continued reading...and read that women ran the 800m in the 1928 Olympics, and apparently, the sight of women collapsing at the finish line after such an all-out effort greatly disturbed the powers that be, and they banned 800m races for women because they were too frail to complete it, as evidenced by the 1928 Olympics. Men collapsed at the end of the 800m all the time, but women so fatigued was apparently "too much" for the men to witness and they banned it. The roots of this came from the founder of the modern Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, who was known to be disturbed by the notion of women and sports, according to the book:
He said he was disturbed by the very notion of women competing in sports, often citing how upset he once was to see women whooshing down a snowy hill on sleds.

What in the fuck does that even mean? It doesn't even make sense.

But back to the 800m. So it was reinstated to great controversy in 1960. Apparently in the press box, Don Graham (son of the great great Katherine Graham), overhead a British journalist saying to another journalist:

how it was "unconscionable --- they should never allow women to run so far."

I mean, seriously, when I really think about this stuff, I get so disturbed. 800m? 800m is not far. It's two fucking laps around a track. 6 years olds can run 800m without dying. How could this be the prevailing attitude? What the FUCK? I don't know why I'm so strongly affected by this.

Anyhow, despite all the brouhaha, the momentum had begun, and twelve years later, women were allowed to run the 1500m. Until 1972, people thought women weren't fucking capable of running a distance that is not even quite a fucking mile. Finally, in 1984, women were allowed to run the marathon. 1984? 1984???? That's in my lifetime. Did people seriously think women could not handle marathons until 19-fucking-84? Jesus fucking Christ.

It almost makes me want to run one to show all those fuckers wherever they are that they were full of fucking horseshit. At the very least, I've run more than a couple half marathons, and I'm still alive. In fact, I am fucking awesome.

It's times like this that I remember how recently it was that women were considered weak-ass nothings...and how latent that kind of sentiment could be just bubbling under some surfaces, since it was so recent. We have come a long way (no longer chattel, at least), but there is still a long way to go before everyone thinks of every woman as a strong and legitimate human being capable of anything men are capable of.

If you think about it, 100,000 years ago, there is no way ancient cavemen could have survived if the women, the ones who bore the children couldn't even run fucking 800m. Duh.

Ok, I'll stop ranting now. If you are interested in a less swear-word-laden synposis of women's running in the Olympics, check this out:


Rebecca said...

LOL!!! I love your swear-laden summary. You're right that it's outrageous that women couldn't compete in olympic marathons in our lifetimes, and I couldn't express that exasperation without a good f-bomb or two myself!

That brings a whole new level of inspiration to my running, let me tell you. I am a very slow and piss-poor runner, but dang! I'm just gonna have to remember this whole train-wreck of proscriptive femininity vs. athleticism the next time I feel so tired that I wanna stop.

I read about some controversy about a winter olympic sport -- some variant of ski jumping maybe -- that was of course available for men but too dangerous for the ladiez. So this shit is still happening even today.

Ambivalent Academic said...

I know. This stuff infuriates me.

Women are *still* not allowed to ski jump at the Olympics. It is the only Olympic sport that doesn't include both genders (well, except for something called Nordic-combined, which is only because one of the events is ski jumping). This is in spite of the fact that women's ski jumping has it's own world champion circuit and have petitioned to compete in the Olympics for decades.

There is no good reason for this. Check out this article.

Complete with some douche that represents the US Ski Team who says that nobody's being discriminated against. Makes my blood boil.

PhizzleDizzle said...

man, that ski jumping issue is incredible!! and to think, the world record by any HUMAN is from a woman. take that, suckas!!!! this sort of stuff really makes me both depressed that this even happens, and happy that i at least get to do what i like to do.

ScienceGirl said...

Oh for crying out loud! I just ran 800m while 9 months pregnant (someone, get this kid out of here!), and I am no athlete. I think I am going to have to sign up for a marathon just so I can say that I, a nerdy girl, can do it, and so can any woman that chooses to!