=== Progress toward equality at Olympics, but more needed ===
By Mike Garvey, Olympics Writer
London, England (Sports Network) - It's been pointed out that of the United
States' medals won at the London Olympics, the majority were earned by women.
Of the 104 total medals won by the U.S., women earned 58 of them. They won 29
of the 46 golds.
Those numbers barely even touch upon the remarkable individual performances
that made the numbers possible.
Gabby Douglas became the first woman of color to win an Olympic all-around
gymnastics title, and the soccer team won nailbiter after nailbiter until it
had gold. The women's 400-meter relay team put in a captivating world-record
performance, capped by Carmelita Jeter pointing the baton at the clock, half
out of surprise and half as if to say, "Look what we just did!"
It can be hard to know what to make of the medal totals. A lot of factors
go into who gets what medal, and all you can ask is for athletes to try their
best. In that light, American women -- who outnumbered men on the U.S. team --
These Olympics were billed, in part, as a games of equality. For the first
time, every participating country brought women to the games.
But it's important not to feel satisfied, because for how much progress has
been made, there is so much more to go.
And the fight for progress shouldn't stop until a time when someone like
Douglas isn't criticized for how her hair looked, as she was after she won
And it shouldn't stop until people consider South African Caster Semenya a
runner, full stop, not that it's unfair or strange for her to run with women
because she isn't feminine enough.
Women, like men, come in many shapes and sizes and appearances, and those
women are capable of performing some remarkable feats.
But you might not know that if you watched the much-discussed video from NBC
titled "Bodies in Motion." It intended to show Olympic women in action, but it
was mostly a series of thin women participating in acceptably feminine sports
wearing acceptably feminine outfits.
What it didn't show were boxers, wrestlers, weightlifters, or women with
unconventionally feminine body types. I suppose NBC never heard of Claressa
Shields or Holley Mangold.
And the fight for progress shouldn't stop until people consider all women with
the same esteem. Over and over again, it's been shown that women are not taken
as seriously, as athletes, as men are -- both socially and structurally.
Early on in the games, U.S. wrestler Kelsey Campbell explained that she got
into the sport on a dare. She thought she could handle high school wrestling,
and a few of her guy friends said she couldn't last more than two weeks.
Campbell ended up lasting the whole season, even though she had people betting
against her and a coach who "in the beginning didn't really even want me in
Luckily, the coach changed his mind and told her about a women's state
tournament, where she reached the final with a series of pins.
"I still wasn't really that good. But that was when I realized I have some
potential in this sport," she said. "I could do this. This could be my sport."
But while she found her way to the Olympics, it shouldn't have to be that hard
or circuitous for a woman to get into a sport if she wants to.
But wrestling isn't the only sport where women need to be taken seriously and
supported on equal terms.
In cycling, the large majority of television and news coverage, as well as
sponsorship dollars, go toward men's teams. More than a few cyclists have
spoken about it, including British cyclist Elizabeth Armitstead.
After she took silver in an exciting road race, Armitstead spoke about the
overwhelming and frustrating sexism she's experienced in her career. She's 23.
The progress shouldn't stop until Armitstead doesn't feel the need to do that.
Nor should it stop until Saudi judoka Wojdan Shaherkani, who was told she
couldn't compete while wearing a hijab until a collection of organizations
told her something else, has the option of making that decision on her own.
Women shouldn't be forever compared with men. They shouldn't have to be the
same. They shouldn't have to be anything or do anything in particular, and
that's the point.
With true equality, women would have the same options, conditions for success,
support and respect that every person deserves. They'd have freedom of choice.
It doesn't happen overnight, but it doesn't happen on its own. And that's why,
after the medals were tallied and the curtain fell on the London Games, the
athletes could rest. The rest of us shouldn't.
08/12 19:51:50 ET