Unlike our own s.o.a.l.g., I’ve never been much of a sports fan, in no small part because of all the sexist crap that swirled around my earliest experiences. As the only girl in the neighborhood, my childhood playmates were, by default, my older brother’s friends, who taught me that to throw “like a girl” was shameful, and that engaging in any sort of competition would inevitably end with me looking and feeling weak, cowardly, and stupid. No thanks. I liked swimming, and competed with some success at that until I was 12 or so, but the machismo of televised sports and the relentless yelling from coaches when I went on to try the city youth soccer league or church basketball team pretty much put the kibosh on my interest in athleticism–my own, and most other peoples’.
Coverage of the recently ended Olympics provided tons of stories about double standards (the Canadian women’s hockey team and their scandalous, scandalous champagne drinking!) and institutionalized sexism (no women’s ski-jumping, lest you unmoor your uterus!) didn’t do much to repair my relationship to the world of sport, though a few stories, like Johnny Weir’s dignified, articulate response to some gaybaiting comments from a few bad apples, gave me hope that change might be possible:
I think masculinity is what you believe it to be. To me, masculinity is all my perception. I think masculinity and femininity is something that’s very old fashioned. There’s a whole new generation of people that aren’t defined by their sex or their race or who they like to sleep with. I think as a person you know what your values are and what you believe in and I that’s the most important thing.
And then I heard about the recent winner of the Profession Bowling League’s biggest competition, Kelly Kulik. Kulik completely spanked the entire field of competititors–all men, as there is no Tournament of Champions for female bowlers–winning the final match by 70 points (265-195). And she did it gracefully, with honor and good sportswomanship. It’s great news, but DO NOT I REPEAT DO NOT attempt to slog through the morass of misogynist muck that is the comment thread at ESPN. Instead, let me sum up the various hateful themes:
-a woman’s triumph over a group men means that the field of competition can no longer be considered a “sport”
-bowling never was a sport, so a woman’s success is meaningless
-Kelly Kulick’s excellence is the exception that proves the rule of women’s physical inferiority
-Kelly Kulick is HOT; or NOT HOT; either of which is far more important than her ability as a bowler
-women would have hissy fits were men allowed to compete in their tournaments; allowing a woman into a man’s event is NOT FAIR
Fortunately, one of our awesome international readers, Ane, posted something to our FB page that has left me with a better taste in my mouth. Ane provided links to a story about world-class Norwegian ski jumper Anette Sagen, who, after having been denied the chance to compete on several occasions (due to questions about whether women are “good enough”: GAAAAAH!), has been given the honor of “breaking in” the new, state-of-the-art Holmenkollen ski jump today, March 3.
I cynically wondered if this was a bone thrown to Sagen, and by extension to all female ski jumpers, rather than a sign of real progress, but Ane seems hopeful, and hoo-doggie, I hope she’s right. The World Ski Championships will be held at Holmenkollen in 2011; I’ll be watching to see if Anette Sagen and her peers will be taking flight. FB has pages (in Norwegian and English) where you can support Anette in particular and female ski-jumpers in general, if that’s the sort of thing you like to do.
Tusen takk (mega-super-ultra-thanks) to Ane for the info and links; it’s timely, it matters, it fits into a broad context, and it’s something that I never would come across as a US-media consumer. Gold star!