Poyer: Let’s talk sexism in the Olympics

Columnist Sarah Poyer discusses the sexism seen in the Olympic Games.

Sarah Poyer

The Olympics are happening right now, providing much-needed entertainment for us all. Growing up, I thought the Olympics were the best thing I could have ever watched. I remember staying up late in my childhood bedroom just so I could watch Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte swim. It was amazing

As I have gotten older, I see more issues with the Olympics, especially in terms of how women are treated. This year, in the 2020 Olympics (happening in 2021, for obvious reasons), we have seen plenty of displays of sexism. From the Norwegian handball team to the female gymnasts’ uniforms, displays of sexism are all around. 

The women’s Norwegian handball team is a prime example of sexism. The women’s handball team was fined for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms to compete. Men can wear tank tops and shorts that reach their knees, while women have been required to wear bikini bottoms that are “no longer than 10 centimeters.” In itself, this rule is very saddening, but the fine is simply outrageous. 

We have decided showing off women’s bodies is more important than their own comfort, and it’s very disturbing. The fine of $1,700 for simply wanting to wear more than something other than a small bikini bottom for one’s own comfort is deeply upsetting. These women should be able to be comfortable when competing as elite athletes. Being comfortable in what you are wearing is an important aspect of daily life, but imagine being forced to not be comfortable while competing on a national level. It sounds horrifying. 

Another sexist aspect of the Olympics is how little we see female gymnasts wearing. Standardly, female gymnasts wear leotards with a bikini cut, but this year, we saw Germany’s female gymnasts wear something different. This difference speaks against the sexism of women, especially in the Olympics.  

The German gymnasts chose to wear full-body unitards instead of the standard leotard as a display of clapping back at the sexism seen in the Olympics for many years. The German Gymnastics Federation even stated these full-body unitards were a statement against sexualization in the field of gymnastics. Standing up against sexualization is important, and this is a step in the right direction for the field of gymnastics. 

The Olympics are a great display of athleticism. The athleticism is beautiful to watch, truly an amazing experience. The Olympics also need an overhaul in terms of how we treat the athletes, particularly women.  

The athletes’ comfort, well-being and mental health should be of utmost priority. By fining the Norwegian women’s handball team and seeing the sheer amount of backlash Simone Biles has received, the Olympics has shown us that athletes are seen as little puppets. 

We, the public, treat the female athletes as puppets that with we can do what we please, and that needs to be changed. The Olympics needs to recognize the athletes’ actual importance, not just its show importance. 

Sexism in the Olympics is a terrifying reality. We need to face this reality and fight it head on.