Sexism and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Conservative Article

Sexism and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics – Conservative Article

After a long delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tokyo 2020 Olympics have finally managed to begin. Sadly, however, the event seems to be marred by a series of arguably sexist incidents.

Although these incidents are few, they represent the wider issue of attitudes towards female athletes.

Before Tokyo 2020 even began, the head of the organising committee (Yoshiro Mori) had to publicly apologise for a series of sexist comments he had made whilst head of the Olympics organising committee. Despite initially intending to continue as the head, Yoshiro Mori did step down from the position.

Whilst this happened back in February of this year, it was not a great start for the event. Mr Mori had previously, in 2019, set the goal of increasing the organising committee’s board directors to being at least 40% women. His comments, however, have overshadowed his initial goal.

On top of this, the Norwegian women’s beach handball team have been creating waves by refusing to wear the ‘proper clothing’ to their matches. Essentially, the team have been refusing to wear bikini bottoms. Instead have been wearing shorts that offer them a higher degree of dignity without inhibiting their ability to play. I advise googling the women’s beach handball clothing and then comparing it to that of the Norwegian women’s for an idea of the difference.

The singer Pink has even come out in support of the Norwegian women, openly calling the clothing “sexist” and offering to pay any fines imposed on them. The beach handball team had previously been fined £1,295 at the European Beach Handball Championships for wearing shorts. Whilst I do believe that athletes should follow the regulations they agree to abide by in their respective institutions, that doesn’t mean that I think those regulations shouldn’t be changed.

In this specific example, it is clear that the bikini-esque ‘proper clothing’ does nothing in the way of aiding the women’s performance. Instead, it simply reveals a large degree of their bodies and infringing their dignity.

On the same theme, it appears that lots of people seem to hold unnecessary opinions on the bodies of athletes.

In early July, two Team GB swimmers – Kate Shortman and Izzy Thorpe – came out and said how they have been “trolled and bullied” because of their physiques. People have described them as being too ‘manly’ and ‘muscular’, whilst also commenting on their bodily proportions of certain regions.

The pair have decided to take part in a beauty campaign with the clothing brand Bluebella to fight back against those commenting on their bodies. These Olympic athletes have said that they are proud of their bodies because they have worked hard with their forty hours of training a week to reach the Olympics. Therefore, they do not care if they do not reach others’ beauty standards. This is definitely the right kind of message to send out for aspiring female athletes.

These incidents seem to represent a worse undercurrent theme directed towards female athletes in general. That is, that their bodies can and are freely available to be commented on, amongst other sexist scandals.

An example of this I know well is within Rugby Union. Whether you are watching a grassroots, university level, or the Women’s Six Nations match, there is always somebody more than willing to offer their opinions on the players’ physiques. It is just so unnecessary. The size of a player’s thighs or derriere or breasts does not matter. This applies to all female sports.

It is not fair to comment how a rugby player’s body is not that of standard beauty. Just as it is inappropriate to comment that to a person in the street.

Overall, it appears that the sexism and bullying that female athletes experience is still far from gone. The comments of the former head of the organising committee, Yoshiro Mori, somewhat muddied hype to the Olympics. The story of the Team GB swimmers only makes it worse. The Norwegian women protest the unnecessarily revealing outfits highlights some of the double standards within high-level sports.

There is clearly more work to be done towards female sport. A great place to start (and draw more attention to the Olympics) would be by allowing the Norwegian women’s beach handball team (and all other female competitors who wish to follow suit) to wear shorts and retain their dignity whilst they perform at the highest level for their country. 

Written by Co-Deputy Chief of Conservatives, Peter Pearce

Follow me on Twitter!

Point of Information

Women are more than how they look – A Liberal Response

Peter’s article highlights the unjustified and frustrating difference in how men and women are treated in sport. It is shocking to think that even now, in 2021, female Olympians who are at the very apex of their sport and deserve the utmost respect, are not taken seriously. 65% of sportswomen feel that they have suffered sexism in their sport, and I have my suspicions that this is a rather conservative figure.

The world of sport is undeniably a male-dominated realm. Realistically, it was not that long ago where women were not allowed to take part in certain sports. In 1967, the Boston Marathon saw its first female competitor, for example. Before this monumental event, women were thought to be far too delicate to run such a grueling distance. Consequently, women consistently had to prove their worth in their respective sports. And even now they are still having to fight.

In his article, Peter particularly emphasises the disparity between how the male and female beach handball players are expected to dress. The latter is expected to wear a much skimpier uniform, despite there being no real justification for the lack of fabric. Moreover, it is very common for sportswomen to talk about how their bodies are criticised by the public. Similar conversations around male athletes’ physics are simply non-existent. This is not just an isolated issue for the world of sport either. Politics is just another example of a field in which women are judged by their looks instead of just their character and performance, unlike their male counterparts.

Women are more than how they look. We are talented, skilled and intelligent. Therefore, female athletes should be celebrated for their undeniable accomplishments, not bullied because their bodies do not meet society’s typical ideas of femininity.

It is more than possible to be simultaneously strong and feminine. And this is certainly not something that should need explaining in 2021. We need change.  

Written by Senior Liberal Writer, Beccy Reeves

The policing and adaptation of clothes at the Olympics are not new phenomena – A Labour Response

Just like every other facet of society, sports are not discrimination-free. Unfortunately, sexism is not the only issue that events such as the Olympics have to tackle. Nor is it the only controversy faced by Tokyo 2020.

Racism has also been a prevalent issue in the lead-up to Tokyo. The banning of the Soul Cap, a swimming cap that is designed to better protect natural hair and hairstyles, solely targeted black athletes for the simple reason that it didn’t “follow the natural form of the head”.

However, it is important to note that this is not the first time female athletes have taken a stand when it comes to their clothing. In Rio 2016, Egypt’s first beach volleyball team wore trousers, long sleeves, and hijabs. This didn’t garner nearly the same amount of media attention. It’s not difficult to imagine why.

At the end of the day, all athletes should wear whatever they like. They are the best judges of what might infringe on their athletic capabilities. They certainly are not going to self-sabotage after dedicating their lives to their sports.

I take to heart, however, from the fact that more conversations are happening now than ever before. We must listen to all athletes’ opinions about the matters that affect them, whether that is clothing, mental health, sexism, racism, or anything else. We don’t know better, we’re not the athletes.

Written by Senior Labour Writer, Zoë Olsen-Groome

Follow me on Twitter!

Peter Pearce
Deputy Chief of Conservatives | Website

I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.

Beccy Reeves
Zoë Olsen-Groome
Junior Labour Writer | Website

I have just graduated with a History degree from the University of Exeter and am about to start my Masters there in Conflict, Security, and Development. I will also be taking on the roles of Welfare Officer in the Politics Society and Vice-President for Coppafeel’s Exeter Uni Boob Team.

Leave a Reply