Friday, April 10, 2009

Don't forget the female ski jumpers

The rubber could be meeting the road for the ski jumpers who are suing to get a women's event added to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics.

Actress Virginia Madsen's production company is putting together a documentary, Fighting Gravity. The group is slated to have a court date on April 20, a week from Monday.

The subtext seems to be that in sports, there are still certain disciplines which are thought of as a male preserve.

Ski jumping would seem to be that event in the skiing world; the FIS ski jump committee turned down letting women compete a few years ago. However, when it went before the general committee, it was voted in, 114-1. So it goes. This harkens back on a conversation in J-school several years back, that it is notable that women athletes so long as it doesn't threaten male superiority.

The classmate who pointed this out thought it was peculiar that in North America, rugby had taken off as a sports for females instead of tackle football. The latter gets more media coverage by a factor of 1,000, or that instead of baseball, there's fastpitch. In track and field, women were kept from doing the marathon until 1984, while the steeplechase and hammer throw were also sacrosanct.

A Canadian court, along with the International Old Curmudgeons are the ones who need to be convinced, not you or I. It would seem to be eminently qualified, compared to some other events in the Van 2010 programme:
"Eighty-three women from 14 countries are jumping at the elite level. At the same (IOC) meeting, they voted to allow ski cross which had only 35 women from 11 nations competing at that level." -- Deedee Corradini, president, Women's Ski Jumping USA
For that matter, some would say that's on par with hockey (and by the way, anyone who says it's "too soon" to admit females to the Hockey Hall of Fame is being disingenuous and dishonest. It's a Hall of Fame, not a hall of hockey skills; if it was the latter, they would be kicking out pre-First World War players such as Cyclone Taylor and one-eyed Frank McGee.

The ski jumpers' fight and the Madsen doc seems worth a heads-up on a slow news day. The path to justice is a long one.

Incidentally, TSN today aired a commercial for nordic skier Chandra Crawford's fast and female program during the Canada-U.S. game, in between the ads for the ShamWow. The next step is to air one during Sportscentre's time slot on a night when it's the lead-in to a first-round Stanley Cup playoff game, but don't count on it.


Anonymous said...

Western and specifically Canadian women have a warped view on equality. Equality means everyone is treated equally. It does not mean everyone has equal results. In true equality there would not be men ski jumping and women ski jumping, there would only be ski jumping, and the best from each country around the world would compete to see who will represent their country. That means men and women would compete head to head to represent their country. This is REAL and TRUE equality.

The current Olympic set up isn't real equality, since the best from each country are not solely represented, but advantage and entitlement is enforced so women are given a greater chance to represent their country. Can you imagine if we allowed Black only track and field events as well as White only track and field events so White people would be represented in greater numbers at these Olympic events? Would the majority of people consider that racist? Then why is it not sexist that we enforce the same rule on gender? The answer is that it IS sexist, and it must be stopped.

Women's Olympic hockey is about the same level as boy’s midget hockey. Is it equality when women with such a low skill level are permitted to play on the Olympic stage, yet boys with higher skill level are turned away?

What these women are asking for is advantage and entitlement, which have nothing to do with equality. So, if the women ski jumpers want to compete in the Olympics, let them first qualify by earning their spot on the gender neutral ski jumping team. Make all teams and events gender neutral, and let the best compete against the best.

sager said...

Thanks for the feedback, but you are recycling a long-discredited argument. That kind of thinking went out in the '80s.

Any reputable sports scientist knows female and males, on average, have different physical abilities, generally speaking. That's why they each have their own unique events. Also, keep in mind that a lot of men watch women's sports because they appreciate athletic women, so from a business standpoint, your idea is a loser.

My idea of equality is that we acknowledge there are differences between the sexes, since those differences enhance us as a species.

You're also forgetting that sport has a huge business and social element. It's a huge part of the power structure in North American society. Men make business deals on the golf course; they play on teams together with coworkers; sometimes they hire an old hockey buddy for a job, which is fine. However, by denying that to women, you're reinforcing patriarchy.

Maybe you don't see that as a problem, but in a post-industrial society where women are 53% of the population, it can be.

That's why it is important to have women's teams, women's events. Men have tried to keep women out of sports, because they see it as a slippery slope to women taking over, quote-unquote.

The one irony in your so-called argument. Ski jumping might yet prove one event where female performance might compare very favourably with the men. It's almost as if they're afraid to add a women's event because the women might jump farther.

Again, thanks for the feedback. Say hi to your female boss for me.

Ottawa Sports Guy said...


I'm no feminist, but I do subscribe to your version of equality. Women's ski jumping is a perfect example of patriarchal behaviour by a group of men who are well past their due date in terms of relevance in our society.

What exactly is the argument against women's ski jumping? What do the same men have to say about men's figure skating or women's curling being in the Olympics?

Unlike you, I don't particularly enjoy women's hockey and many other women's sports. Meanwhile I do enjoy some women's sports more than the male version, including tennis and figure skating (and no, it's not about the skirts). However, I recognize both genders' right to be in the Olympic Games.

VCVet said...

The argument for excluding any sport from the Olympoics, but in this case women's ski jumping is the same unfortunate reason we don't have American/Canadian football in the Olympics. Not enough participating countries and athletes....yet. Even Rugby isn't in the Olympics and there are probably enough countries with international teams, and a fantastic World Cup championship. Women's ski jumping will be in the Olympics long before football and rugby, so let's not sweat it and make it a gender issue. It's a timing issue.