Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Working out a PhD problem

Now, I know that my supervisor Alan loves to wind me up and challenge everything I write* (to make me write better or take fewer things for granted I hope?). I wrote a short chapter last week about the perceived low value in women's or girl's bodies from a sport point of view (where a masculine, muscular, strong body is valorised) and that this can impact on girls' participation and embodiment in PE and school sport. Alan replied that we only need to look around campus here at uni to see that this is not the case.

That may be, here at a university where sport is central and normal and women have access and opportunity...but on the same level as men? Are women told here that they are equal and on a par with male athletes? Not sure about that. In any case it's difficult to extrapolate this situation to other places, as all the sportswomen come to this university anyway.

But something I'm thinking about, as I should address it, or have a good argument against it, for this is what I'm basing a large part of my rationale on!

* He also said tenpin bowling is not a sport. I didn't answer, as I've been answering that type of comment for years.
I'm not usually into issues of access and opportunity in elite sports for women, but with the Winter Olympics on at the moment I heard about a campaign to get women's ski jumping into the 2014 games, as it is not yet allowed. There's a little video about it here: http://www.wikio.com/video/2833165

Not sure if it's one of those IOC things where they say a sport is too dangerous for women to do, but if so, that's getting tiring in this age. Time magazine's article on the matter says "In 1991, the IOC announced that all future Olympic sports must be open to both genders, but the rule didn't apply to sports that already existed — and as one of the 16 original events in the inaugural 1924 Winter Games, ski jumping was definitely one of them."

Hmm. The article goes on to say that the IOC wants all sports in the Olympics to meet some requirements like having it's own world championships and so on, and assessed women's ski jumping in 2006 when it might not have met the requirements, and the games can only accomodate so many athletes, and the Vancouver schedule was sorted ages ago, and blah blah blah. Sounds like a cop-out to me. But there's more: someone at the IOC says:

The sport "seems not to be appropriate for ladies from a medical point of view."

WTF?! I need no response to this surely.

While there are clearly lots of women who ski jump (good for them), to continue to explicitly or implicitly discrimate against the sport will be a hindrance to more women becoming interested, the sport will remain constructed as for men only and will not be taken seriously, and it goes round and round. But what do we expect from the IOC, or any institutionalised corporate sport machine.