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Asyiah Ozburn

IS 363 01

Gerald Larson & J. Anthony Snorgrass

October 18, 2017

Women competing in the Olympics

The Olympic Games are a big deal, everyone sitting around big television set

with multiple games on with the delicious smell of barbeque coming from the back yard. The

Olympics are a time every four years that gets the whole world's attention from swimming

events, gymnastics, sand and regular volleyball, running, long jump, shotput, discus, and many

more. The Olympic Games have been going on since 776 BC. Although the ancient Games were

staged in Olympia, Greece, from 776 BC through 393 AD, it took 1503 years for the Olympics to

return. The first modern Olympics were held in Athens, Greece, in 1896. There was a belief that

people were using drugs to cheat that is why there were a hold on the Olympic Games for a

while (Kennedy & Hills, 2009, p. 79). But there was a time where not everything was the way it

is today, the first women weren’t able to compete in the Olympics until 1900 (Kuek Ser, 2016). I

believe women competing is important because it lets them be proud of themselves and be able

to do what they love without being told they can not because of their gender. It also gives women

a sense of independence that not only they can do these hard athletic events but that they can do

whatever they set their mind too, and can do it just as good as a man.
For the first time in 1900, women competed in the Games in Paris, France. Only twenty-

two women out of a total of 997 athletes were allowed to compete in five sports: tennis, sailing,

croquet, equestrian and golf. Sailing, croquet, equestrian had both men’s and women’s teams but

golf and tennis had events exclusively for women. Women’s participation in the Olympic games

has steadily increased, the reason for that is because the Games increased the number of sporting

events girls could participate in. For example, in 1908 skating became open to women

(International Olympic Committee. 2017) . Then the Olympic committee added female aquatic

events in 1912. More women events have continued to be added all the way to basketball in

1976. But just because more women were competing didn’t mean that they were being treated

fairly. The television networks weren’t giving them the air time that they deserved.

The Summer Games in Atlanta in 1996 were supposed to be “the Olympics of the

Women,” because they expected more women to be competing than ever before. Eastman and

Billings discovered that even though more women were competing they were not being aired on

network television significantly more.They compared over 20,000 different media opportunities

to mention or show women from the 1994, 1996, 1998 games and they figured out was that

women were not being talked about anymore than before the increase of women athletes

(Eastman & Billings, 1999). “Changes from one producing network to another, separate analyses

of commentary by hosts and venue reporters and of profiles and promotion, comparative

analysis, results demonstrated a drop in women’s overall salience in 1996 and no improvement

over time. The results demonstrate conflicts between official network goals and as well as some

of the ways network discourse creates conspicuous frames for media events to meet commercial

needs (Eastman & Billings, 1999).” Women are finally able to compete in a lot of sports and

compete in the same ones that men are able to compete in but it is not being aired. “Most
women sports achievements and participation in international contests are invisible to the public

because the media don’t take the trouble to cover them regularly” (Markula, 2009. p. 195). All

the influence and positive effects women athletes could have on other women and young girls is

being wasted because network television stations are not talking about it and newspapers are not

writing about it. For some events you would only be able to know that women are competing by

being at the games because media coverage was so unbalanced.

Media coverage is not the only thing that women had trouble with at this time. Women

had to go through many tests and the events had to go through tests as well. From 1968 to 1998,

participants in Olympic women's events had to undergo a test in order to establish if they really

were women. There was a belief that people were using drugs to cheat and compete in women's

events and that is why there was a hold on the women in Olympic Games for a while (Kennedy

and Hills, p. 79). The Olympic Committee were thinking about taking women events out of the

games because they were afraid that men would try to compete as women just to win more gold

medals than they could if they were competing against other men. That is why gender testing

was first introduced at the Olympics in 1968 for the Winter Games in Grenoble. These tests were

to see if a male athlete would pose as a female athlete and have an unfair advantage. “This

practice, referred to as ‘gender verification’, has not escaped criticism from such diverse points

of view as gender studies, ethics and medical science” (Wiederkehr, 2009).

I believe this is a ridiculous reason to consider removing female events from the Olympic

Games. Women should not be punished because men are going to extreme lengths just to be able

to win events. If men would go to the length to dress up like a female just to win then we should

be evaluating the males instead of the females. But there are cases that proved men were actually

doing this because it was easier to win. The earliest case is of Stanisława Walasiewicz, also
known as Stella Walsh, who won gold in the women's 100 m at the 1932 Summer Olympics in

LA, and silver in the 100 m at the 1936 Olympics (Wood, 2010). In 1980 she was shot in a

robbery and the autopsy found that even though she looked like a female, she had male body

parts. Another case is athlete Ewa Kłobukowska. In Tokyo 1964 she won gold in the women's

4x100 m relay and was third in the women's 100 m. In 1967 they found out that she had a genetic

condition called XX/XXY mosaicism. Just because she had the extra Y chromosome she was

banned from competing in Olympic and professional sports (Wood, 2010). I believe that people

judge the women and blame it on them so that they do not have to deal with the real issue of men

posing as women. The Olympics do not want to put time, effort, and money into gender testing

so it would have been easy to cut out women’s sports all together.

Even though things were rocky at first, things are getting better in the female aspect of

the Olympic Games. In the year 2020 there is research predicting to have a great increase on the

amount of female athletic events. During the summer Olympics in Tokyo, there is expected to be

female athletes are expected to make up 48.8% of the total athletes compared to 2012 in London

there were only 44.2% women and in Rio in 2016 even less with 45.6% of female participants.

There is also research predicting that the number of mixed race events to go from 10 in Rio in

2016 to 18 in Tokyo in 2020 (Halperin, 2017). This is a giant change from 100 years ago when

women could only compete in six or seven events. I believe this is a huge step in the right

direction for making it possible for women to not only have more events to participate in but to

also be able to eventually compete with and against male athletes in sports other than the

equestrian ones.

I believe that the female struggle in the olympics is due to generations being scared that

women can do anything they put their mind to and can do what men do. Including jobs, income,
games, sports and I believe they don’t want to face the fact that women are strong and

independent. This is why they have fewer events to compete in, why they had to prove they are

actually female, and why the media doesn’t cover their events as much as they do the events of

men. I believe that getting more women competing in the Olympic Games and getting them more

coverage in the media is important because it shows little girls all over the world that you can do

and be whatever you set your goal for. It shows that women have equal rights to have fun and

play the sport they want to. They can also to be a role model to little girls all over the world.

They are watching the television, without a care in the world, being able to escape from what is

really going on around them and are able to see that they can do anything they want. This is why

I also think that media should cover and air more than they do on women sports. They air it when

they have a slot available while men games are not going on but that does not make it equal or

better for women. Women watch sports too. Network television act as if males make up most of

the population in the world when female are 50% of it. We care about what is going on in

softball, basketball, swimming, and track and field and we would like to watch it more if only the

media would show more coverage.


Bibliography

Eastman, S. T., & Billings, A. C. (1999). Gender Parity in the Olympics. Journal of Sport and

Social Issues, 23(2), 140-170.

Halperin, R. (2017, June 22). Huffington Post Video: The Olympics Are Inching Closer To

Gender Parity. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/

olympics-gender-equality-gender-gap_us_594acb16e4b0312cfb611f57

International Olympic Committee. (2017, May 09). Key dates in the history of women in the

Olympic Movement. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from https://www.olympic.org/

women-in-sport/background/key-dates

Kennedy, E., & Hills, L. (2009). Sport, media and society. p. 79 Oxford: Berg.

Kennedy, E., & Hills, L. (2009). Sport, media and society. p. 87 Oxford: Berg.

Kuek Ser, K. K. (2016, August 17). See 120 years of struggle for gender equality at the

Olympics. Retrieved October 20, 2017, from

https://www.pri.org/stories/2016-08-17/see-120-years-struggle-gender-equality-olympics

Markula, P. (2009). Olympic women and the media: international perspectives. Basingstoke:

Palgrave Macmillan.

Wiederkehr, S. (2009). ‘We Shall Never Know the Exact Number of Men who Have Competed

in the Olympics Posing as Women’: Sport, Gender Verification and the Cold War. The
International Journal of the History of Sport, 26(4), 556-572. Retrieved October 20,

2017.

Wood, R. (2010). Top End Sports: Gender testing at the Olympic Games. Retrieved October 20,

2017, from http://www.topendsports.com/events/summer/gender-testing.htm

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