raven saunders

Olympian Raven Saunders Makes X Protest on the Podium for Intersectionality

Saunders called it "the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet."

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U.S. women’s shot putter Raven Saunders took home the silver medal in Tokyo yesterday, after launching the heavy ball 19.79 meters (nearly 65 feet). China’s Gong Lijiao took home the gold, and New Zealand’s veteran shot putter Valerie Adams won the bronze. Saunders has quickly won fans on the internet thanks to her “Incredible Hulk”-inspired hair and the Marvel and DC face masks she’s been sporting during the competition. Saunders, who calls herself the “Hulk”, channels that alter ego to fuel her incredible throws.

Upon taking the podium, Saunders raised her arms above her head to form an X, making a political statement about intersectionality. Saunders, who is a gay Black woman, said the X represented “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.” The 25-year-old shotputter has also been open about her own mental health struggles, adding that wanted “to be me, to not apologise”.

After competing, Saunders said she wanted “To show younger people that no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you and you can accept it. People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that. But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.” She continued, “people all around the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak up for themselves.”

In addressing intersectionality, Saunders quipped, “I’m part of a lot of communities, God dang.” Like Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, Saunders is deconstructing the stigma around mental health, and the expectation the world places on such high profile athletes. She said, “I feel like the atmosphere around a lot of things, especially when you’re doing so well, is ‘Well, you have everything going for you so you don’t have anything to worry about,’ … Whereas for me, it was like a whirlwind.”

The International Olympic Committee still bans political demonstrations on the podium, but Saunders isn’t worried. She tweeted, “Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim”.

Saunders stole the show yesterday with her jubilant spirit, celebrating her win by sashaying with an American flag, dancing, and twerking. Her joy was contagious, and fans on social media were loving her vibes:

Saunders told reporters, “I really think my generation really don’t care, … Shout out to all my Black people, shout out to all my LBGTQ community, shout out to everybody dealing with mental health. Because at the end of the day, we understand that it’s bigger than us, and it’s bigger than the powers that be.”

(via NPR, image: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

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Author
Chelsea Steiner
Chelsea was born and raised in New Orleans, which explains her affinity for cheesy grits and Britney Spears. An pop culture journalist since 2012, her work has appeared on Autostraddle, AfterEllen, and more. Her beats include queer popular culture, film, television, republican clownery, and the unwavering belief that 'The Long Kiss Goodnight' is the greatest movie ever made. She currently resides in sunny Los Angeles, with her husband, 2 sons, and one poorly behaved rescue dog. She is a former roller derby girl and a black belt in Judo, so she is not to be trifled with. She loves the word “Jewess” and wishes more people used it to describe her.