Journalist laments lack of femininity at Olympics, but is he alone?
A Turkish journalist caused outrage last week after writing an article -’Womanhood is dying at the Olympics’- in which he suggested that women’s participation in the Games was disfiguring the female form.
He even suggested that the more feminine looking athletes should be rewarded with points.
Making no mention of performance or athleticism, Yüksel Aytuğ has been accused of reducing female Olympians to their anatomy.
Of the women swimmers, he wrote: “Broad-shouldered, flat-chested women with small hips; [they are] totally indistinguishable from men. Their breasts – the symbol of womanhood, motherhood – flattened into stubs as they were seen as mere hindrances to speed.”
This kind of reductive assessment, however, is not news to either female sportswoman, or their commentators.
In a recent BBC documentary, British heptathlete Denise Lewis said: “Women, and women in sport, are judged on what they look like. It’s not right.”
The evidence is overwhelming.
Beth Tweddle, Britain’s first female Olympic medal winner in an individual gymnastics event, gave an almost flawless performance on the uneven bars, whilst an ignorant minority Tweeted about her attractiveness.
Gabrielle Douglas, the US gymnast and double Olympic medal winner, received criticism about her hair after an historic performance in which she became the first black woman to win the individual all-round event.
The 16-year-old responded with insight and maturity, far outweighing that of her critics. “I don’t know where this is coming from. What’s wrong with my hair? …. I just made history and people are focused on my hair?”
Female weightlifter Zoe Smith broke the British clean and jerk record for her weight division at the start of the London Olympics.
Not just silencing her critics in the sporting arena, she also hit back in her blog: “… we don’t lift weights in order to look hot, especially for the likes of men like that”.
She continued, “…… we would rather be attractive to people who aren’t closed-minded and ignorant”.
It is, perhaps, their willingness to respond to critics that marks out Smith and Douglas’s generation of female athletes – refusing to accept scrutiny of anything other than their performance.
Aytuğ has since apologised: “…. to anyone who may have been offended, even through misunderstanding”, including “…. all women, female athletes and everyone who cares about womanhood”.
The problem, however, seems to be that everyone ‘cares about womanhood’, certainly when it comes to stipulating what they think womanhood should be.