Women Olympians Face Unique Challenges

This was originally posted at the AWEARNESS blog. 

The only Winter Olympics event in which women cannot compete is ski jumping. Why? Apparently it's because women are "too fragile," along with an outdated system of rules that allow the International Olympic Committee to keep "American Lindsey Van, who holds the world record for the single longest jump by anyone, male or female" from competing for a gold medal. When the IOC tries to explain that women can't compete because there aren't enough women jumping, the conversation circles around to, How can we increase interest and participation if women's ski jumping isn't allowed at the Olympics?

On the ice, at least, we continue to see a few women hockey teams rule. After Canada whipped Slovakia 18-0, buzz started that perhaps women's hockey wasn't up to snuff, that maybe the sport is too lopsided. We've heard this type of talk surrounding women's Oympic events before - about softball (which was cut) and soccer.

In other female Olympian news, we have a pregnant curler! I love, love, love that her team was supportive of her staying on the team and competing in Vancouver.

What we are seeing with all this turmoil is a growing pain in women's sports. Women in the USA have played under Title IX since 1972, less than 40 years. We have seen huge strides made in women and girls' participation in the USA, but we have a ways to go, and many nations have an even steeper uphill climb than we do. I think that for another few Olympic cycles we'll still see a dominance in non-traditional women's sports of a few countries, but some countries are battling social norms. For instance, "People in China think [hockey] is too physical and too rough for girls." In hockey, as with many winter sports, there is also a price-point to get past. Hockey is an expensive sport.

Patience. That's what the IOC needs when it comes to women's sports. Women's sports have a history of having to fight to even be played. For the IOC to put up barriers, like barring the women's ski jump, for sports to be on this big stage is just plain short sighted. Give women's sports a few more years and things will settle down. History has shown that in other sports for both men and women.