Women's heptathlon, 100m hurdles, Tatyana Chernova, Sara Aerts, Jessica Ennis, Hyleas Fountain
Photo by Steve Fair
All over the world, and particularly in the UK, the world is suffering from an Olympics hangover. No longer can I turn on the TV and watch the world’s best athletes compete in sports that previously I hadn't cared about – some of them I hadn’t even heard of before this summer! Even better, this was the first Olympic Games where every country fielded at least one female athlete and female athletes could enter every event (although men still couldn’t enter synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics).
In such a historic year for female athletes, it was heartening to see women do so well. On the US team, women won more medals than men. Female athletes from every nation proved that women are capable of greatness in sport; even if that greatness was having bravery and perseverance just to make it there.
On Twitter we celebrated Olympic Girls: women who excel in their sport, particularly young women. Many of these I’m pleased to say did extremely well, winning eighteen gold medals, six silver, and four bronze. In the medal table this would put them in fifth place! As well as medals, records were broken: Jessica Ennis set a new hurdles record in the heptathlon and Zoe Smith broke the British weightlifting record.
Despite these amazing achievements, there were still, unfortunately, some problems with commentary on female athletes. Many news articles still focused on female athlete’s bodies in a way that they didn’t for men. This can be seen in this article, highlighting the absurdity of how photography at the Beach Volleyball captured the athlete’s bodies in action compared to other sports. Andrew Brown in The Telegraph wrote about how shocking he found watching women’s judo. “I couldn't help wondering about their soft limbs battered black and blue with bruises,” he says, although he is at least able to recognise that this “will probably sound appallingly sexist” (that’s because it is, Andrew). Worst of all, whilst the Olympic Stadium cheered female competitors from Saudi Arabia, in their own country, some branded them as “prostitutes of the Olympics.”
Although great gains have been made this year for female competitors, there is clearly still a long way to go in terms of reporting women and sport. Let’s hope that despite this poor reporting, young girls can still find athletes like Gabby Douglas, Jessica Ennis, and Sarah Attar to be a source of inspiration in their own lives.
Girl Museum Inc.