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Rights of Passage

The Olympics Aren’t Yet Equal Between the Sexes, But They Want to Fix That in Rio

In the Olympic games there are currently 30 more medals available to men than are to women. This Olympic games was a landmark one in that it is the first in history in which all 204 participating nations sent female athletes to compete, but there is still ground left to cover. Which is why we’re so glad that current shadow Olympics minister Tessa Jowell recently announced her intention to lead the campaign to make 2016 Rio “the first gender equal games” in history. 

“Nicola Adams’s face is smiling out of every newspaper front page today. Her gold medal was not just reward for brilliant athleticism, but also another milestone in the long road to gender equality for women in sport,” said Jowell. “In Beijing, she would not have been allowed to compete. Yesterday, she and our other women boxers demonstrated that women boxers can pull in the crowds just like the men.”

Currently, the number of women’s events in the Olympics still does not match the number of events held for men. This proves that, although it’s huge that Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Brunei all came around and allowed women to compete for them in this year’s games, we’re not quite at equality when it comes to the international sporting games yet.

Keep in mind that the International Olympics Committee (or IOC) is not making any promises about the 2016 games in Rio; but they are making a concerted event, and are confident that we will get there eventually. And hopefully sooner rather than later. As an IOC spokesman said, “It comes as it comes, but we will push it as well. I can’t give a firm commitment that we’ll have everything in Rio, but we’re getting very close.”

During the London Olympics about 44% of those competing are women; this is a huge step up from the 1984 Olympics in which that stat was only at 24%.

One blip this plan could encounter is that the IOC knows that it wants to keep the total number of Olympic events the same; for there to be as many events for women as for men, some of the events for men may need to be cancelled to really even it out. This may cause some backlash, but we’d say that when we finally reach that place of equality, it’ll be well worth it.


(via Jezebel, Guardian) (Image via Commercial Appeal)

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  • Natalie Boos

    But there’s more wh

  • Nikki Lincoln

    I’m not sure if eliminating sports for men is the solution to this. It seems really unfair that an athlete can work his whole life training for a sport and then have it eliminated from the Olympics because there isn’t a female counterpart. This happened a lot with Title IX when schools had to cut sports like Men’s Gymnastics, Swimming, Crew and other olympic sports in order to balance between the two genders. The better solution seems to be to add in sports for women. It may take a few olympics for those new events to build up momentum but I’m sure there women who have been training and competing in a male dominated sport that would qualify for these new events (I don’t know what they would be since I don’t know what the men have that the women don’t) just as there were female boxers who were ready to compete when that event was added this year. 

  • Angela Kay Harris

    I agree that it’s not fair to the men to cancel their sports from competition just because there is no current female counterpart. Let’s face it; men just have slightly more interest in sports and wanting to compete than women even in countries and cultures where women are not stigmatized for wanting to be athletic. And if we are going that route toward equality, we should cancel synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics because I don’t see any men doing those, but I’d never go there because those gals work hard at what they do, just like the men who compete in sports without female counterparts.

    Just find another way.

  • Mark Matson

    I don’t know what is normal, but my wife and daughter have watched much more of the Olympics than I have.  I would rather just add the woman’s events, in, though, to avoid the backlash.  Some can be removed in later olympics if need be, in a way that is balanced and doesn’t provide backlash.  (They’d have to drop the same number of male and female competitions if they already had a balance.)

  • Anonymous

    I’m all in favor of adding more sports, roller derby has potential as a sport that meets the requirement for a broad enough base (enough countries is a concern)
    Higher weight classes for lifting and boxing is a quandry.

    on a separate note “Shadow Minister” is awesome job title

  • Mike Perry

    Right now there’s about an 11 medal difference weighted in the favor of the men just because of the aforementioned weight class issue in wrestling (7 for men vs 4 for women), boxing (10 men vs 3 women), and weightlifting (8 men vs 7 women). With the women’s boxing getting some attention, I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a couple more weight classes for that in the future. Also, there’s one more medal from a men’s event that doesn’t exist in women’s (and it’s probably just as well since that event is the 50km race walk). If you axe the race walk and a few of the more boring weight classes, I think you could add events to narrow that gap.

  • Christina Newhall

    I’d personally argue a lot harder for adding men’s synchronized swimming and rhythmic gymnastics if there’s interest than adding weight classes in women’s boxing and weightlifting if there aren’t top-level athletes to fill those spots. Even if this means there are more medals available to men than women. Because I think that’s a richer kind of “equality” than pure medal count.
    Women’s boxing, wrestling, etc may gain more traction over the years, and we may have to add more weight classes to reflect that popularity. But that may not happen by 2016 in Rio, and we should recognize that it’s not a failure of the organizers if there simply aren’t enough qualified 165-200 pound female boxers in 4 years.
    50/50 representation is an admirable goal, but let’s not get too nitpicky about a few medals’ difference here and there, or the sports will suffer. As Nikki Lincoln pointed out, if we’re going for numerical parity, we’ll end up cutting men’s sports that don’t deserve to be cut* (make fun of racewalking all you want, those guys work HARD).
    *Though if FIFA continues to keep top teams out of the Olympics in order to protect the World Cup, maybe men’s soccer could be cut. But that’s getting really political ;)

  • Anonymous

     Why wouldn’t there be a version that women could play/do? Name one sport that by necessity is men only.

  • Claudia

    I don’t think that having the exact number is that important. I personally didn’t notice any women-less event but I don’t watch everything so… I know rhythmic gymnastics and synchronized swimming is women only but otherwise what does a few weight-classes more matter? They should cut sports due to sport-related reasons (not enough athletes) but not because it screws up their gender numbers!! I find that unfair to the athletes, male and females. It’s about their athletic achievements.

  • Claudia

    Roller Derby would be fun! :D

  • Anonymous

    How about abolishing gender-segregated competition altogether and letting women compete alongside the men? There’s only about a second of difference between the fastest recorded male and female 100 metre dash. If we’re making allowances for averages (men being stronger and more powerfully built on average, etc) why not put them in the appropriate weight class? They already have mixed competitions in paragliding and equestrianism.

    I don’t know, the gender segregation of sports always bothered me.

  • Samantha Kowalsky

    I’d say simply a mix of taking down current gender-blocking (while leaving the games themselves in), then adding more NEW gender-neutral games, would be the best solution. Nothing needs to be lost except the boundaries of who can compete in some of the events, as long as perhaps weight classes are considered.

    I still say that video-game competitions, and perhaps various mental-skill games, should be included. Watch this generation eat things like that up! Seriously! Star Craft gaming is already an official sport in Korea, and Major League Gaming can easily be considered a professional group to bud from in U.S.America.

  • Liz Wright

    Instead of removing men’s events, why not just desegregate some? Then you’re simultaneously adding an event women can compete in and technically “removing” one from the all-male category.

  • Nikki Lincoln

    That’s my point – if there are more male events than why don’t we just add in the equivalent for females instead of taking away the events for men like the post suggests.